Dr. David O’Connor discusses “Gratitude and Envy”
The academic world tends to regard irony and satire as the highest expressions of wit. It is worthwhile to push against this belief, substituting gratitude and appreciation as the central cognitive accomplishments. In Plato’s Timaeus, he has the speaker of the same name declare that the demiurge made the world completely without envy, and that this freedom he possessed from selfish attachment to the fruits of his labor was a mark of his goodness. We must ask ourselves, “Is our emphasis on irony and satire a sign that we, unlike the demiurge, are envious makers, fixated on demonstrating the superiority of our work to that of others? Do we fail to remember that it is only because we have learned from others that we are ever able to produce great work of our own?” A helpful exercise to shift the emphasis from criticism to gratitude is to have students write short response papers in which they explain ways in which they benefitted from the material they have been assigned to read.
David K. O’Connor is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame.