8/6/2023 13:54

Jacob Freud

I know, Jacob Freud is an odd topic. The real topic is not Jacob as a person so much as the autodidact attribute associated with Sigmund's parent. Autodidact is not a word we use commonly and so I looked it up to make sure there were no major implicit, non-etymological connotations hidden in the term.

Nope. In actual reality it means just what it says.

Which does make you wonder why a classically based combining form was ever needed for English speakers to say self taught. Why didn't they just say Jacob was self taught when that is what they are saying? Was the intent to imply that Jacob knew some Latin without having had any Latineducation? (Or Greek, perhaps, given that the article which set me off on this quixotic ramble was about Sigmund visiting the High City of Athens ... the Acropolis.)

Beyond mere vocabulary my personal reaction was that autodidacticism is an odd behavior. Why wouldn't you make use of trained teachers and professors in pursuing your self education? Then I began to examine my own educational history more closely.

I found languages intimidating so I used the high school Latin teacher and the college classics professor to help me to get past the foreign language requirements imposed by those powers who doubted that any person, at least no one under the age of 27, would invest in their own curiosity and desire for mastery. This must be a poor example, however, as my primary intent was not to learn Latin but to evade requirements. (I accomplished both however.)

Mathematics was a required course in school. You had to take the class to get the diploma and thus admission into the higher opportunities of employment and social acceptance. I was generally considered a good student but I did not much like the classes. I spent a large chunk of 10th grae geometry working out the basics of combinatorics and by 12th grade my friend and I were given the textbook, an empty classroom, and the instruction to stay at least 2 weeks ahead of the class.

As for computer programming, which gave its life to supporting me with the minimum of actual work, the very first time I saw a relevant class was the day I stood up to teach it at the technical college. On my own I had learned FORTRAN, IBM 1620 and 1130 absolute machine code, COBOL, the PDP/11 system, and that bizarre semi-language which attempted to emulate the plugboard programming of IBM 403 accounting machines.

Then there was theological education, an interestingly mixed story. I began at around age 13 by reading the Bible through (Genesis to Revelation, so I could keep track) in one translation after another. This is not to say I had spurned the amateurs who served as Sunday School teachers. I do not think I even noticed I was engaging in autodidacticism; given the prominence reading enjoyed in my family one natually would be reading something and adolescent obsessions are both common and inexplicable.

In college I utilized official courses in Religious Studies. I also made heavy use of the professors but a large portion of that was in informal conversation in their offices. By middle age I planned to return to school for master's degree level coursework but I lasted a little less than 2 hours as a formal student and continued instead as an auditor (but one who wrote the papers and took the tests whenever I felt like it). I did not stop reading either: "De Caritate" and "De Spe" in Quaestiones disputatae and The Guide of the Perplexed and John Wycliffe's Trialogus for examples spanning a few decades.

I would be loath to name myself an autodidact but that is more from a worry over confusion with being an autocrat than from any concern about inaccuracy.