Ed note: This is the conclusion of the discussion of the inaugural speech of President Carter, except for comments readers may wish to make. Please use ‘comments’ at the bottom of this piece below the fold 5:59am PST DS
Discussion (1):
Seeking Interpretations

Dean Swart has asked that I provide some editorial remarks.  Ask and you shall receive.

Now first– Dean Swart has also commented that he’s not sure that my interpretation of Carter,   would have been his.

To which my immediate thought is,  I’m not sure I’ve revealed any interpretation.   I hope not.  I distrust interpretation.  I’ve spend most of my life,  working in traditions,   which suggest that the only possible interpretation is something like interpretation against interpretation,   or interpretation that works against itself.

Oddly,  I think if you look closely,  you’ll see that Mr. Carter’s text,  may be caught up in this dynamic.  But of course I’m not sure.

Equally– in the sense of Satterthwaite’s voyages– just don’t look,  stare.  You might learn something.  So– stare hard at what Carter says.

All too often,  I think we have a tendency to a rather superficial and “vague” interpretation,   in which we skim over some material from a period distant in space and time,  apply our current understanding of things and terms,   and conveniently deceive ourselves that we’ve done something.

Not only is there no rigor in such an approach;  it’s also not all all clear to me,  that what happens in the many Colleges and Universities of the United States today,  even at the level of graduate studies,  and even at Williams College,  is much more that this exercise of writing our interpretive prejudices onto the text.

What I’m also saying is that this series,  as framed so far,  strikes me as rather superficial,   and rather pointless.  And that any serious study of Mr. Carter,  even a cursory one–  requires both a different format,  Ed note: break added at 9:18PM PST DSand more <i>time</i>.

And thus I will continue to present things from Carter’s speech for the class to stare at,  and such,  though I intend to stand back and allow Prof. Spero and others ample time to present what they wish– and to listen,   as well.

All that said– perhaps I should take a few stabs at what might be called,  pre-interpretation.   I hope all members of the class received my note to steal as many shakers of salt from the Dining Halls as they could carry,   and are now prepared to shake them.

It seems to me,  first,  that Carter’s vision describes a collective and moral vision,  as Mr. Soskin put it,  which cannot be reduced to some of the religious or ontological statements which Carter makes.   Though in light of his sources and references,  we might to well to compare the vision,  to something like the traditions of Christian Democracy in Germany.  (Otherwise,  I say no more).

Equally,  as we talk about the student-teacher relationship,  and the nature of interactions and ‘affections’ in that relationship,  and the place of the alumni and the relationship of the College to them–  you cannot unlink all these things,  from President Carter’s greater moral and historical vision.

Finally– I think it worth taking very seriously,  that if Mr. Carter and his contemporaries were able to look at the state of the College today,  they would in no way be pleased,  rather aghast,  at the state of it and of the society which they laboured to Found;   and that if we look and think hard,  their dismay would not be from the narrow religious grounds which we moderns do often like to use to dismiss their thoughts and concerns,  but from deep opposition,  to exactly what the College has become,  and to what American society has become.

And if you read Mr. Carter’s examples,   his advocacy of love as a rationale,   his logic in framing the relationship between student and professor–  well,  he’s a little overblown,  but it’s very similar to the political and religious logic which unfold’s in Plato,   considering Sokrates–


This is one part in a Series.

Series Introduction
Reading Questions (1)

Passages(1)
Passages (2)

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