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Akademie, Kloster, Handwerk

Pekka Himanen

The Hacker Ethic and the Spirit of the Information Age

Die Fußnoten zu Platon (OSP)

Socratic dialogues are examples of this criti­cal dialogue; in them, Socrates often makes remarks about the need for critical dialogue. For example, in Crito, Socrates says, "Let us examine the question together, my dear friend, and if you make any objection while I am speaking, make it and I will listen to you" (48e). In Phaedo, he incites his interlocutor to criticize him by ask­ing, "Do you think there is something lacking in my argument?" and in Euthydemus he remarks similarly: "There is nothing I would like better than to be refuted on these points" (295a). In Theaetetus and Clitophon, Socrates explains why the process of critique is always beneficial: "Either we shall find what we are going out after; or we shall be less inclined to think we know things which we don't know at all—and even that would be a reward we could not fairly be dissatisfied with" (187b–c); and, "Once I know my good and bad points, I will make it my practice to pursue and develop the former while ridding myself of the latter to the extent that I am able" (407a). For this reason, in academic discussion one should present a critique frankly and not try to please anyone (cf. Euthyphro, 14e; Protagoras, 319b, 336e; Republic, 336e).

11.Plato describes the idea of midwifery through the mouth of Socrates, whom he has say in one of his dialogues: one thing which I have in common with the ordinary midwives is that I myself am barren of wisdom. The common reproach against me is that I am always asking questions of other peo­ple but never express my own views about anything, because there is no wisdom in me; and that is true enough. And the reason of it is this, that God compels me to attend the travail of others, but has forbidden me to procreate. So that I am not in any sense a wise man; I cannot claim as the child of my own soul any discovery worth the name of wisdom. But with those who associate with me it is different. At first some of them may give the impression of being ignorant and stupid; but as time goes on and our association continues, all whom God permits are seen to make progress—a progress which is amazing both to other people and to themselves. And yet it is clear that this is not due to anything they have learned from me; it is that they discover within themselves a multitude of beautiful things, which they bring forth into the light. (Plato, Theaetetus, 150c–d) Plutarch sums up: "Socrates was not engaged in teaching any-thing, but by exciting perplexities as if inducing the inception of labour-pains in young men he would arouse and quicken and help to deliver their innate conceptions; and his name for this was obstetric skill, since it does not, as other men pretend to do, implant in those who come upon it intelligence from without but shows that they have it native within themselves but undeveloped and confused and in need of nurture and stabilization" (Platonic Questions, 1000e). The Socratic idea is that the purpose of teaching is to help some-one learn to learn, to be able to pose questions. A precondition for that is puzzlement. In the dialogue Meno, the title character de-scribes the Socratic teacher's effect: Socrates, before I even met you I used to hear that you are al-ways in a state of perplexity and that you bring others to the same state, and now I think you are bewitching and beguiling me, simply putting me under a spell, so that I am quite per­plexed. Indeed, if a joke is in order, you seem, in appearance and in every other way, to be like the electric ray, for it too makes anyone who comes close and touches it feel numb, and you now seem to have had that kind of effect on me, for both my mind and my tongue are numb, and I have no answer to give you. (80a–b) But this state of perplexity is ultimately for the better, as Socrates explains: SOCRATES: Have we done him any harm by making him per­plexed and numb as the torpedo fish does? MENo: I do not think so. SOCRATES: Indeed, we have probably achieved something relevant to finding out how matters stand, for now, as he does not know, he would be glad to find out, whereas before he thought he could easily make many fine speeches to large au­diences about the square of double size and said that it must have a base twice as long. MENO: So it seems. SOCRATES: Do you think that before he would have tried to find out that which he thought he knew though he did not, before he fell into perplexity and realized he did not know and longed to know? (84a–c; see also Alcibiades, 106d)

20. The reason the Socratic teacher was also called a matchmaker was that it was his task to join people into giving birth together (Xenophon, Symposium, 3). Socrates describes his method: "With the best will in the world I undertake the business of match-making; and I think I am good enough—God willing—at guessing with whom they might profitably keep company. Many of them I have given away to Prodicus; and a great number also to other wise and inspired persons" (Plato, Theaetetus, 151b). Compare this to: "Someone asked Aristippus [a disciple of Socrates] how Socrates had helped him. He replied, `He enabled me to find for myself sat­isfying fellow-students of philosophy' " (Philodemus, Rhetoric, 1, 342.13). 21.The third Academy metaphor was that of the teacher as master of ceremonies (the symposiarkhos) at banquets. These took place in the evenings, and in conjunction with the dialogues of the day they were an essential learning experience. The purpose of these banquets was quite serious and intellectually ambitious—for example, the discussion of some heavyweight philosophical subject—but they were, in addition, powerfully experiential events. (Two great de­scriptions are the symposia of Plato and Xenophon.) The symposiarch was responsible for the success of the banquets in two ways: first, from his elevated position he made sure that the intellectual goals of dialogue were attained; second, it was also his responsibility to ensure that none of the participants remained too stiff. To this latter end, he had two means at his disposal. First, he had the right to order the excessively stiff participants to drink more wine. If this did not work, the symposiarch could order the partici­pant to remove his clothes and dance! The symposiarch used any means necessary to catalyze passionate contributions (cf. Plato, Symposium, 213e-14a).

Richard Sennett

Volume 55, Number 16 · October 23, 2008 Back to Basics

By Julian Bell

The Craftsman by Richard Sennett Yale University Press, 326 pp., $27.50

The Craftsman, Richard Sennett's new book, is a far-roving intellectual adventure. Touching here on the cooking of poulet à la d'Albufera and there on the construction of tunnels, here on Hesiod and there on evolutionary psychology, Sennett's curiosity races across disparate fields of expertise much as an eclipse might sweep over the globe, slicing an unfamiliar path from Brazil, via Egypt, to Mongolia. In part Sennett's project is to draw some conclusions from a polymathic career. To his intimate knowledge of haute cuisine and of cello playing he can add over thirty years as a sociologist known for his influential reinterpretations of class relations, of Western cultural history, and of urban life. At the same time, Sennett in his mid-sixties—now, by his own description, one of the "elderly"—is attentive to immediate contemporary concerns. Early in his argument's trajectory, the ongoing debates over Wikipedia fall within its penumbra. Is the wildfire expansion of that nonprofit reference Web site a trend to celebrate, or does it show that knowledge acquisition is succumbing to "part anarchy, part mob rule"[1]? Does the incessant shuttle of volunteers' entries and editorial alterations amount to nothing more than an "online multiplayer irreality game,"[2] as a onetime editor of the Encyclopædia Britannica has alleged?

Sennett notes that Wikipedia has problems with the quality of its input, but the drift of his thinking comes to the Web site's support. For in principle, at least, it is an "open source" project, one that encourages its users to act as its codevelopers and that publically reveals, rather than conceals, the constant evolution of its content. As with the Linux operating system for computers, the trailblazer for "open source" models in software development, Wikipedia trusts to the good sense and goodwill of interested parties at large. The kernel of the Linux code "can be employed and adapted by anyone; people donate time to improve it."

That is the type of institutional model that Sennett, who inclines to some form of socialism, tends to favor. The foil he sets against it in this context is the Microsoft Corporation, with its secretive, proprietary approach to product development. By contrast, those engaged in "open source" projects such as Wikipedia put considerations of ownership behind them. Their signatures are not on display. Concentrating on the identification of problems and the exploration of fresh possibilities, their online chat is terse and content-packed. A "blunt impersonality turns people outward." And in such a light Sennett, with a characteristically bold sweep of the hand, associates these networkers with the nameless potters, smiths, and weavers that Hesiod celebrated in archaic Greece, when he composed a hymn to their master god Hephaestus. "Open source" participants form a community of craftsmen to whom the ancient appellation demioergoi [literally, "public producers"] can be applied. It is focused on achieving quality, on doing good work, which is the craftsman's primordial mark of identity.

For Sennett, then, the "craftsman" across the ages has been a person who knows how to do "good work." What is good work? Answers to that question are what he constantly tries to find on his book's rarely beaten and sometimes rugged track of argument. He wishes to close in on a certain quality of activity, rather than on the particular social role that his chosen title might seem to denote.

The Craftsman by Richard Sennett

Reviewed by Roger Scruton

Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman continues an argument begun in the 19th century, when writers such as John Ruskin and William Morris extolled the crafts remembered in our surnames (Smith, Cartwright, Thatcher, Mason, Fletcher) while lamenting the mind-numbing and soul-destroying labour of the industrial process which was replacing them. A long line of thinkers, from Hegel and Marx to Sennett’s teacher Hannah Arendt, have sympathised with the argument. But Sennett does not think that craftsmanship has vanished from our world. On the contrary: it has merely migrated to other regions of human enterprise, so that the delicate form of skilled cooperation that once produced a cathedral now produces the Linux software system. Linux, for Sennett, is the work of a community of craftsmen “who embody some of the elements first celebrated in the (Homeric) Hymn to Hephaestus”.

The quotation illustrates the range and boldness of this book. Sennett defines craftmanship as “an enduring, basic human impulse, the desire to do a job well for its own sake”.

Wie der Wirtschaftsethiker Ulrich Thielemann (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 29.2.08) sagt: „Nicht das Geldverdienen sollte die Hand führen, sondern der Wille, gute Arbeit zu verrichten“, verfolgt der amerikanische Soziologe Sennett die These, dass ein zentrales menschliches Bestreben sei, „seine Arbeit um ihrer selbst willen gut zu machen“. Das ist nun durchaus nicht immer ganz einfach, und eine Quelle der Unzufriedenheit kann das Fehlen dieser Möglichkeit auch bei hohem Einkommen sein. So berichtet Sennett von zahlreichen Linux-Programmierern, die es leid waren, für weitaus mehr Geld mittelmäßige Programme für eine größere Softwarefirma zu schreiben, die ihre Produkte beim Verbraucher testet. Sie entschieden sich, lieber auf Teile ihres Gehalts zu verzichten, aber die Chance zu haben, gute Arbeit zu machen, unter anderem dadurch, dass sie in der open-source-community mit anderen Programmierern kooperieren konnten, statt überwiegend in Konkurrenz zu anderen Leuten ihres Fachs zu stehen. Auch an anderer Stelle waren solche Firmen im Vorteil, die z.B. bei der Entwicklung neuer Produkte auf Kooperation statt auf Konkurrenz setzten, denn ihre Produkte waren besser oder die Entwicklung verlief schneller. Gute Arbeit entsteht auch dadurch, dass die Entscheider alle wichtigen Informationen erhalten. Wenn in einem Unternehmen die Beschäftigten zwar Freundlichkeit und Teamarbeit simulieren, aber dabei wichtige Informationen zurückhalten, gerät es in Nachteil zu einem solchen, in dem bei allem Respekt vor dem Vorgesetzten in aller Deutlichkeit Kritik vorgetragen und auch gestritten wird, wie dies Sennett von einer Reihe japanischer Unternehmen darstellt. Paul B. Schmidt, Berlin OSC 15 (2008)

Perlentauscher | Sennett: Handwerk | The Guardian, Review | Kostis Velonis

frei versus offen

zurück zu Open Source Philosophie (Vorlesung Hrachovec, Winter 2008)