One of the concepts that I discussed toward the end of my Marhaba week talk was the idea of technê, a classical Greek term encompasses the ideas of “applied science,” “art,” “craft,” “expertise,” and “skill.” Aristotle, whose writings were translated into Arabic in the 7th Century CE and represent an important point of contact between the Western and Islamic intellectual traditions, described technê as “the capacity to make, involving true reasoning.” I suggested that each of us has come to Abu Dhabi to develop technê in particular fields of learning and also to develop technê in our ability to convey that expertise to others. You achieve mastery over an idea only once you are able to convey it effectively to someone else.
Continuing my discussion of fallibilism, I suggested that the development of technê requires us to embrace the possibility — indeed, the inevitability — of error. Like Franklin, we need to proofread our texts and correct our errors, whether our text is an essay or (thinking metaphorically) our lives.
I mentioned two ongoing NYUAD projects that are designed to promote the idea of technê: the first was The ARC (Academic Resource Center), currently a writing and tutoring center but ultimately (I hope) something much, much more: a 21st-century version of a writing center that will coordinate and support curricular, co-curricular, and extracurricular activities that are generally conceived as separate enterprises at most US colleges and universities. These include mentoring by faculty, peer academic coaching, expository writing, foreign language training and acquisition, debating, the public presentation of ideas, and training in the effective use of visual and digital media. I’m planning to put together a working group shortly of students, faculty, and administrators to think about what the ARC might eventually be.
The second program I mentioned was the Campus Forum, conceived and directed by Professor Ramesh Jagannathan. Here’s how it’s described in the NYUAD Course Bulletin:
The Campus Forum gathers the entire campus community for a year-long series of exchanges with prominent thinkers, entrepreneurs, innovators, scientists, and artists. The goal of the Campus Forum is to stimulate the students’ imagination and broaden their horizons by learning from the real life experiences of leaders in their fields, as they share their journey to their respective heights. This access to people of great accomplishment will demystify for students the process of reaching those heights and expands the experiential learning context. The Forum exposes students to different realms of intellectual endeavor. Students see how different disciplines interact and engage in the natural and technological world, and how passion and education provide the foundation for making a difference in society. Students are encouraged to prepare for the lecture by reading and discussing the writings of the visiting luminary and preparing questions for discussion following the lecture.
This fall the Forum will be bringing to campus Michael Gazzaniga, a pioneer of split-brain research and author of The Ethical Brain: The Science of Our Moral Dilemmas, and Garth Fagan, a pioneer of modern dance.
Stay tuned for further developments.