Inside the curriculum, my first and last commitment as an academic is to create a safe space for unsafe thoughts, to explore different sides of difficult issues, to let heresies and orthodoxies walk hand in hand, to open up conversations wherever possible, to problematize and perturb. And to try, however I can, to make room at the table for all sorts of identities, all sorts of ways of seeing and being, while trying to make sure that everyone has to deal with their share of challenges and doubts.
The primary task of a useful teacher is to teach his students to recognize ‘inconvenient’ facts—I mean facts that are inconvenient for their party opinions. And for every party opinion there are facts that are extremely inconvenient, for my own opinion no less than for others. I believe the teacher accomplishes more than a mere intellectual task if he compels his audience to accustom itself to the existence of such facts. I would be so immodest as even to apply the expression ‘moral achievement,’ though perhaps this may sound too grandiose for something that should go without saying.
Thus far I have spoken only of practical reasons for avoiding the imposition of a personal point of view. But these are not the only reasons. The impossibility of ‘scientifically’ pleading for practical and interested stands except in discussing the means for a firmly given and presupposed end—rests upon reasons that lie far deeper.
‘Scientific’ pleading is meaningless in principle because the various value spheres of the world stand in irreconcilable conflict with each other. The elder Mill, whose philosophy I will not praise otherwise, was on this point right when he said If one proceeds from pure experience, one arrives at polytheism. This is shallow formulation and sounds paradoxical, and yet there is truth in it. ….
We live as did the ancients when their world was not yet disenchanted of its gods and demons, only we live in a different sense."