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现代教育没教的无用知识 能造就新视野

  無用的知識 造就新視野   In October 1939, as Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin were plunging the world into war, an American educational reformer named Abraham Flexner published an essay in Harper's Magazine under the marvelous title, “The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge.”   1939年10月,當希特勒、墨索里尼和史達林讓全世界陷入戰爭時,一位名叫亞伯拉罕.弗萊斯納的美國教育改革家,在哈潑雜誌發表一篇論述文章,絕妙的標題為「無用知識的用處」。   Noting the way in which the concerns of modern education increasingly turned toward worldly problems and practical vocations, Flexner made a plea for “the cultivation of curiosity” for its own sake.   弗萊斯納指出,現代教育日益將注意力轉向世俗問題和實用職業,他呼籲應著力於「培養好奇心」,而且是基於這件事本身的價值。   “Now I sometimes wonder,” he wrote, “whether there would be sufficient opportunity for a full life if the world were emptied of some of the useless things that give it spiritual significance; in other words, whether our conception of what is useful may not have become too narrow to be adequate to the roaming and capricious possibilities of the human spirit.”   他寫道:「現在我不時會這麼問,假如這世界將一些賦予它精神意義的無用事物去除,要過個充實的人生是否還有足夠機會。換言之,我們對於有用與否的概念,是否尚未狹隘到不足以讓人類心靈自由馳騁的地步。」   I thought of Flexner’s essay while following the New Horizons flyby of minor planet 2014 MU69, better known as Ultima Thule.   我在關注新視野號飛越小行星2014MU69(更常見的名字是「終極遠境」)的消息時,想到弗萊斯納的這篇文章。   This comes right on the heels of NASA’s Osiris-Rex probe entering into orbit around the asteroid Bennu, barely a month after the InSight lander touched down on Mars, and not six months since the Parker Solar Probe began its trip toward the sun.   這個消息傳來的時間,緊接在美國太空總署的歐西里斯號探測器進入環繞小行星101955「貝努」軌道之後,距洞察號探測器在火星著陸不到一個月,距帕克號太陽探測器開始朝太陽飛行也不到六個月。   You don’t have to be a space geek to appreciate the awe and wonder involved in these missions: New Horizons’ stunning close-ups of Pluto and its moons; the breathtaking ambition of Osiris-Rex to collect rocks and dust from Bennu’s surface and return them to earth.   即使你不是太空控,也會讚賞這些任務令人敬畏與驚異之處:新視野號傳回冥王星及其衛星令人驚艷的近距離照片,以及歐西里斯號自貝努表面蒐集岩石和塵土、並送回地球那教人屏息的雄心壯志。   The marriage of disinterested science and technological wizardry on the farthest-flung adventures of the human race is what John Adams had in mind when he wrote that he had to “study Politicks and War that my sons may have the liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy.” It is among the greatest fulfillments of the American dream.   在人類衝向極遠之境的這些冒險中,客觀的科學和科技魔法的結合,正是美國開國元勛約翰.亞當斯當年心中所想的,他寫道,他必須「研究政治和戰爭,如此我的兒子才可能有研究數學和哲學的自由。」這正是美國夢最棒的實現方式之一。   It is not, however, among the most commonly understood ones. Typically, we think of the American dream in materialistic terms — a well-paid job; a half-acre lot; children with better opportunities than our own. Or we think of it in political terms, as an ever-expanding domain of ever-greater freedom and equality.   然而,這並非最廣為人們理解的方式之一。通常我們都從物質面來看美國夢:一份薪水高的工作,一塊半英畝大的地,孩子比起我們有更好的機會。或者我們會想到政治面,像是不斷擴大的領域,裡面有越來越多的自由和平等。   But prosperity, freedom, equality for what? The deep critique of the liberal society is that it refuses on principle to supply an answer: Each of us lives in pursuit of a notion of happiness that is utterly subjective, generally acquisitive and almost inevitably out of reach — what psychologists call the “hedonic treadmill.”   然而,繁榮、自由和平等是為了什麼?自由社會深受批判之處,在於它拒絕按照原則提供一個答案:我們每個人活著都在追求一種快樂的概念,而那卻是全然主觀、大體而言貪得無厭,而且幾乎必然得不到的-心理學家稱之為「享樂跑步機」。   Religious cults and authoritarian systems work differently: Purposes are given, answers supplied, questions discouraged or forbidden, and the burdens of individual choice and moral agency largely lifted. They are dictatorships of meaning.   宗教狂熱和威權體制以不同的方式運作:目的被給予,答案被提供,提問不被鼓勵或被禁止,而個人抉擇和道德責任的負擔大多被移除。這就是在意義這件事上的獨裁。

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