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A Review
Chapter I
Boris Sidis'
Philistine and Genius
by Doug Renselle

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Chapter I
The Problem with Education: It is very unGreek.

©Quantonics' contrived chapter title.


(Most quotes verbatim Boris Sidis, some paraphrased.)

(Relevant to Pirsig, William James Sidis, and Quantonics Thinking Modes.)
1 "I address myself to you, fathers and mothers, and to you, open-minded readers. I take it for granted that your lifework is with you a serious matter and that you put forth all your efforts to do your best in the walk of life which you have chosen. I assume that you want to develop your energies to the highest efficiency and bring out the best there is in you. I assume that you earnestly wish and strive to bring out and develop to the highest efficiency the faculties not only of your children, but also those of your friends and co-workers with whom you associate" (Our bold emphasis.)

"in your daily vocation, and that you are deeply interested in the education of your countrymen and their children, who share with you the duties, rights and privileges of citizenship. I also assume that as men and women of liberal education you are not limited to the narrow interests of one particular subject, to the exclusion of all else. I assume that you are especially interested in the development of personality as a whole, the true aim of education. I also assume that you realize that what is requisite is not some more routine, not more desiccated, quasi-scientific methods of educational psychology, not the sawdust of college-pseudagogics [Boris uses both pseuda- and pseudo- apparently inconsistently as prefixes. He is playing word games with pedagogues vis-à-vis pseudagogues. Doug 3May2000.] and philistine [A person who is smug, ignorant, conventional, parochial, provincial, and culturally Value insensitive. Doug.], normal school-training, but more light on the problems of life. What you want is not the training of philistines, but the education of genius.

"We need more light, more information"

(Our bold and color emphasis. Our bracketed notes.)

"on 'the problems of life.' Is it not too big a phrase to employ? On a second thought, however, I must say that your problems are the problems of life. For the problems of education are fundamental, they are at the bottom of all vital problems. The ancient Greeks were aware of it and paid special attention to education. In rearing his revolutionary, utopian edifice, Plato insists on education as the foundation of a new social, moral and intellectual life. [Plato: 427-327 bc. Pupil and friend of Socrates. Mentor of Aristotle. A rationalist who believed in pre-existing ideal and immutable forms. Socrates was a sophist (this is a controversial statement with which some disagree). He was executed for his sophism, for his apparent agnosticism, for his apparent 'corruption' of Alcibiades (manifested pluralist/sophist behaviors), Critias (a sophist) and other Athenian youth.] Plato in his Republic makes Socrates tell his interlocutor, Adeimantus:

'Then you are aware that in every work. the beginning is the most important part, especially in dealing with anything young and tender? For that is the time when any impression which one may desire to communicate is most readily stamped and taken.'

"We may say that all man's struggles,"

(Our bold, red and green emphasis. Our bracketed notes. Our formatting.)
4 "religious, moral and economical, all the combats and conflicts that fill the history of mankind, can be traced finally to the nature and vigor of the desires, beliefs and strivings which have been cultivated by the social environment in the early life of the individual. The character of a nation is moulded by the nature of its education. The character of society depends on the early training of its constituent units. The fatalism, the submissiveness of the Oriental; the æstheticism, the independence, love of innovations and inquisitiveness of the ancient Greek [Parmenides, Plato, and Aristotle parented absolute-truth-centric Western culture whose anti-quantum bane still infects occidental thought. Boris Sidis, unfortunately was infected too. It spawned a great chasm twixt him and his son William James Sidis. Despite that enormous negative, much of what Boris says here contains much relevance to child education and tutelage in Millennium III. Doug - 3May2000.]; the ruggedness, sturdiness, harshness and conservatism of the ancient Roman; the emotionalism, the religious fervor of the ancient Hebrew; the commercialism, restlessness, speculation and scientific spirit of modern times, are all the results of the nature of the early education the individual" (Our bold emphasis. Our bracketed notes.)

Commented interrelationship to William James Sidis.

"gets in his respective social environment. We may say that the education of early life forms the very foundation of the social structure.

"Like clay in the hands of the potter, so is man in the hands of his community. Society fashions the beliefs, the desires, the aims, the strivings, the knowledge, the ideals, the character, the minds, the very selves of its constituent units. Who has the control of this vital function of moulding minds? Fathers and mothers, the child is under your control. To your hands, to your care is entrusted the fate of young generations, the fate of the future community, which, consciously or unconsciously, you fashion according to the accepted standards and traditions with which you have been imbued in your own education.

"It is related, I think, in Plutarch's [46-120 ad. Wrote The Parallel Lives, comparing bios of famous Greeks and Romans.]"

(Our bold emphasis. Our bracketed notes.)

Sad state of affairs in our US educational system today belies what communities' hands are doing.

It is worth your while to ponder some alternatives here. Boris describes Society (the State) as fashioning people. Now savor some memetic mixtures:

  • State makes people (Fascism, Totalitarianism, etc.)
  • States make people
  • People make the state (Hitler)
  • People make states (Republics, Democracies, etc.)
  • People make people
  • Individuals make people
  • People make individuals
  • Individual makes people
  • People make the individual
  • Individual makes self (pre-Socratic aretê)

Clearly there are other potential entries possible, but using just our list, which single one is most important, in your view, for nurturing geniuses vis-à-vis philistines?

Which two together? Do we need more than two?

If this meme fascinates you, and you wonder, in Millennium III, how importantly memes of nation, state, nation as state, state as nation, culture as nation, nation as culture, perimeter as culture, culture as perimeter, etc. will continue to weigh in humanity's individual dealings in countless multiversal and increasing many-versal experiences, then consider reading Clifford Geertz' Available Light. You may want to take a look at our review of it too. Search there for 'Hesse,' 'nation,' 'state,' 'Gestalt,' 'disassembly,' 'free,' 'free will,' 'hegemon,' etc.

Near end of our review of AL's Chapter VIII, we write, "Individuality, we intuit: respect's optimal increment."

To us, and to Geertz, nations and states appear to be in a process of "disassembly." Individualism, with its own unlimited and bountiful interrelationships, appears in an ascendancy.

Boris would have liked that, we intuit. Imagine Earth's peoples thus, then fathom William James Sidis' outcomes therein.

Doug - 1Aug2002.


"[The Parallel] Lives, of Themistocles [525-460 bc. Athenian statesman quoted often and by Plutarch. Recommended Athens build a navy. Athenians defeated Persia as a result.] telling with the ironical frankness characteristic of the Greek temperament that his son possessed the greatest power in Greece:

'For the Athenians command the rest of Greece, I command the Athenians, his mother commands me, and he commands his mother.'

This bit of Greek irony is not without its significance. The mind of the growing generation controls the future of nations. The boy is father to the man, as the proverb has it; he controls the future. But who controls the boy? The home, the mother and father, the guides of the child's early life. For it is in early life that the foundation of our mental edifice is laid. All that is good, valid and solid in man's mental structure depends on the breadth, width, depth, and solidity of that foundation."

(Our bold emphasis. Our bracketed notes. Our formatting.)

Boris goes right to bottom line: Our nation's evolutionary stability depends on how well we educate and raise our children.
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To contact Quantonics write to or call:

Doug Renselle
Quantonics, Inc.
Suite 18 #368 1950 East Greyhound Pass
Carmel, INdiana 46033-7730

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