Friday, September 23, 2011

Reader of Philosophy

Reading about the word 'Doctor' on Wikipedia, I come across this: (highlighted in red, mine)
The Ph.D. was originally a degree granted by a university to learned individuals who had achieved the approval of their peers and who had demonstrated a long and productive career in the field of philosophy. The appellation of "Doctor" (from Latin: teacher) was usually awarded only when the individual was in middle age. It indicated a life dedicated to learning, to knowledge, and to the spread of knowledge.
Notice the words in red. As many things borrowed by India from the west, 'Ph.D.' is also a borrowed concept. From sheer observation, one thing can easily be inferred: the Doctors of Philosophy (the majority of them) out here haven't necessarily had a life dedicated to learning, to knowledge, and to the spread of knowledge. Quality of universities conferring Ph.D.s is largely suspect. The one function they really do well is 'confer the Doctorate' and thereby ensure that the 'Doctor' bags a job.

Also, the absolute number of peers has definitely increased. A learned person's view is subject to scrutiny among a greater number of peers than it was some decades back. In the Indian context, couple this with a lack of quality and there is good potential for academic hoaxes all around.

Ph.D. was once symbolic of great rigor. Rigor was always bigger than the symbol that stood for it. But like many other symbols, this symbol seems to have taken an existence of its own and seems to have given job-seekers a short-cut to bypass the rigor. 

My solution: have 'extent of reading' as a dominant measure of 'a life dedicated to learning, to knowledge, and to the spread of knowledge'. For quality of teaching is, to a great extent, a function how well-read the teacher is. Ph.R. seems more appealing. Would I want to converse with and learn from a person who's gone through like 1000 books? Definitely. Am I likely to 'enjoy' learning in company of such a person? You bet.