The wisdom of being positively supportive

March 24, 2011

Frank Furedi evokes the Aristotelian notion of phronesis, as interpreted by Hannah Arendt, in support of his claim that "Our job is to judge" (17 March). In a classic non sequitur, he then expresses concern that new lecturers are encouraged to be "supportive" and "positive" in the criticism they make of their students.

Why does he think that being "supportive" and "positive" is incompatible with the practical wisdom that Arendt, following Aristotle, advocated? Judgement, for Arendt, is always an ongoing deliberative process, the endpoint of which is mutual recognition and shared understanding. It is, in other words, supportive of and positive towards the flourishing of that which is judged.

Arendt may have been a tough lady, but students such as Jerome Kohn and Elisabeth Young-Bruehl who attended her 1969 class in politics at The New School in New York testify to the boundless support and positive encouragement her students received from her. Arendt cannot be so easily co-opted on to Furedi's platform of well-rehearsed prejudices.

Jon Nixon, Cumbria

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