PhiloMadrid - Pub Philosophy Meetings in Madrid

Thursday, February 12, 2015

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: What is success?

Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: What is success?

Way back in September 2008 we discussed "Do we learn from our success or
do we learn from our mistakes?"

And although I have to read my short essay again, I wrote my few lines
below before checking if we discussed the topic before, this time round
we are very lucky to have an essay written by Ruel for us; details
below. I also realise that I am going through a philosophical rebellious
phase so in my very few lines on the topic today I try to question the
underlying thinking society has of success, especially is that
fundamental activity, education.

Hello Lawrence,
Here is the link to my essay on Sunday's PhiloMadrid topic:
Thank you very much.
All the best,

Success can mean two things; things we achieve based on our criteria and
objectives and things we achieve by the criteria of others or society.
We can define the necessary and sufficient condition beforehand for what
we qualify as success (successful exercise). Or society, including
others, establishes these criteria for us.

There is also a hazy difference based on the very subjective nature of
what we understand by success: someone's considered success might very
well be someone else's criteria for failure. This subjectivity might
very well be motivated by the elation and emotional high we feel when we
are successful at something. And it is this emotional kick that makes
the concept and even the language of success so positive and sought
after. Thus, this euphoria of success can harnessed to achieve positive
things that might otherwise seem beyond our capacity or too arduous and
thus not very attractive as a personal goal.

Even still, the concept of success has its dark side. The criteria for
success established by others can be abused to control or exploit
others. For example, success can be based on conformity or elitism
instead of merit and achievement.

Thus, creating an education system based on ability to pay, as if we
were buying a super duper sports car, means that any academic
achievements are obtained first and foremost by privilege rather than
merit. This, of course, is not to say that the individual, usually a
young person who has no idea of the value of money, is not bright and
hard working; but then again money gives people this opportunity.
However, for our discussion it does mean that being given the
opportunity to succeed is a pre condition for success. And it is this
pre condition of being given an opportunity that maybe be used to
manipulate people. Our emotional need to succeed maybe used to gain our
loyalty and obedience that can easily blur the line between the moral
and the legal and the immoral and the illegal.

But there are other subtle ways of exploiting this very human need of an
emotional kick. We can design books and teaching material to feed on
this emotional kick that success gives us. We can design material that
creates an addiction to this emotional kick by feeding us small doses of

By having an emotional kick every time we get a small problem in an
exercise book correct we get addicted to this methodology, and, thus not
only ensuring the sale of such material but also the big picture
programme. This approach is usually justified because it encourages us
to learn; if a methodology was ever Pavlovian this must be it.

In reality we know that the best way to learn is to create a sense of
curiosity and motivation in the student and then the actual learning
happens explaining the nature of their mistakes. The irony is that the
nature and reaction to mistakes by the student are a much better
barometer of what they know rather than a balance sheet of emotional
kicks. But creating curiosity and motivation in students, especially
young people, is a very difficult task indeed. It's much easier to whip
them into conformity like a circus chimpanzees. In any case, curiosity
and motivation are very dangerous traits to have in a conformist
society; it might give individuals a sense of freedom and achievement.

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813 <>
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao
Open Tertulia in English every
From: January 15 at Triskel in c/San Vicente Ferrer 3.
Time: from 19:30 to 21h

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: What is success?

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