1. Similarly, education has abstract features such as imparting information, structuring information to be learned, and structuring the learning process. These abstract features can take concrete forms of hands-on apprenticeship or classroom learning in isolated schools. It can take place in group projects or in isolated, memorization exercises. The abstract, general characteristics of education do not dictate which concrete form will occur. Other considerations, such as social needs or educational theories determine this.
Certain concrete forms of education may actually weaken abstract education. Education in the form of some propaganda misinforms people and detracts from learning knowledge and advancing thinking processes such as analytical and critical reasoning. Similarly, simplistic, rote, dry teaching methods, and assignments can erode students’ interest and leave them with fragmentary, superficial, unusable knowledge without creativity, insight, or reasoning. Many universities authorize as part of the educational experience, raucous music bands that play ear-splitting and music during lunch time. This is touted as making education fun. But it interferes with education within earshot of the music.
2. In the same way, abstract education as transmitting and learning information can only be maximized in concrete forms. It cannot be maximized through abstract pronouncements about information processing such as “pay attention,” “communicate clearly,” “make the material understandable and interesting.”
3. For the philosophically minded reader, it is instructive to explain the philosophy of Begriff because it orients my presentation of cooperation. My definition of Concept follows Hegel’s. He explained that Concept has an objective sense: The concept expresses the essential, true, objective nature of a thing—such as cooperation. The goal of knowledge is to apprehend objective concepts of real things. These concepts then guide human action to deal with things objectively, as they really are, to realize human purposes. If we want to build a house, we must have a concept of what a house is, what its requirements are to be constructed solidly, and what we must do in order to construct a solid house that will support us. The same holds for cooperation: we must conceptually apprehend what cooperation is, and what is necessary to implement it fully, so that we can practice cooperation and gain the support and stimulation it can provide.
Hegel is saying that things have objective features which require certain actions to utilize those features. The concept of the thing directs action about how to do so. To build a house you must have a firm, stable foundation. If the ground is unstable you must make it stable, through drainage, or adding stabilizing materials, or other means.
This shows that the objective concept is the key to freedom. If we know the requirement to have a stable foundation for a house, then we are free to build houses on unstable ground if we first make them conform to the requirement of stability. “The Concept is the principle of freedom” (Hegel 1817/1965, p. 287). If we misunderstand the true essence of things, we can never realize our purposes, because we will not know how to act with respect to the object. Freedom thus depends upon recognizing necessity/reality/objectivity (ibid., pp. 282–283).
The objective sense of concept means that it is “the truth of being and essence,” (ibid,. p. 283).
A concept is subjective in the sense that it is an ideal phenomenon that is only apprehended by human subjectivity through diligent thinking about essential, ideal properties that can be achieved. Concept is also subjective in that once it is understood, it animates our perceptions, cognitions, memory, emotions, motivation, and self-concept to pursue the objective properties of the phenomenon. The concept is the operating mechanism of subjectivity. Thus, once we apprehend the Concept of cooperation, we have guidance for implementing it by understanding its requirements.
Hegel says that the Concept is apprehended by people gradually, historically. It is only apprehended after numerous incomplete, inadequate attempts. “The concept is what contains all earlier categories of thought merged in it” (ibid., p. 287). People learn from their mistakes about cooperation and they come to appreciate the true Concept.
This is what I hope to achieve in this book. I examine historical concepts of cooperation and I identify their misconceptions, and from this I develop a hopefully more adequate—real, objective, exemplary, perfect, true—concept of what cooperation is, i.e. can be, that will guide us to implementing it fully for our benefit and liberation.