Essay 8: “Aletheia:” Unhiding Dimensions of Life as Part of a Deep Education

Greek thinkers of antiquity had a deep concept of “unhiding or rescuing truths from oblivion” and this is captured in the Greek word “aletheia” which means reversing Lethe (i.e., forgetfulness).

We claim here that “aletheia” (i.e., “unforgetting”) is in fact a pillar of real education which has a commitment to every kind of holism. The basic truths of a life are indeed part of the whole education. The student needs to see “all of it” from the start.

The Danish thinker Kierkegaard (1813-1855) says in his essay “Repetition” that any person who never at some point “circumnavigates what life is will never really have a life.”

In other words, real education would mean a circumnavigation of what life is with a circumnavigation of what knowledge is in a kind of “double helix.”

Without confronting these circumnavigations from the beginning, one is simply stumbling along in a grades-driven fear-fog.

Hannah Arendt, the German-American thinker who died in 1975, warns us about living a life “like a leaf in the whirlwind of time.”

Henry David Thoreau tells us in Walden he wants to “front” (i.e., confront or face up to) life itself and not come to the end of his life and realize he had not lived.

In the classic American novel, John Marquand’s The Late George Apley, the protagonist realizes when it’s too late that he was brought up to become who he is and was and never really reflected on himself or his life and never really understood anything. He never “saw” anything.

We claim in this educational remediation book that a university education cannot just be a frantic stint in a modern “knowledge factory” with its conveyor belt of grades, semesters, course contents forgotten three days after the course.

Stanley Cavell, the recently deceased Harvard philosopher, in his masterful memoir, Little Did I Know: Excerpts from Memory, he gives us in its title a sense of what must happen (i.e., the insight that I knew little)—if students are not apprised of these deeper dimensions of life right from Day 1, in a process of “unhiding” the whole story and aletheia.