Hello philosophers. I have a question I was hoping I could get some insight on. Do teachers have obligations to develop the talents of their students as much as possible? And if they don't, are they in the wrong? If someone who could have been a great pianist becomes an alcoholic, and fails to develop her potential, people sometimes regard that as a tragedy; but is the situation so different to a promising student falling in with a bad teacher, and for that reason failing to develop her potential?

Great question(s). I am in agreement with those philosophers (including Kant) who believe that persons do have a duty to develop their talents, sometimes called a duty of self-cultivation. If musical works are good, and the way to bring about musical works is by cultivating musicians, then the latter is a fitting, good act. Of course complicated issues emerge when, for example, one cannot cultivate all (and in some cases most) talents of persons. The teacher-student relationship may also have complications, depending on time, resources, and the receptivity to learning and growing on behalf of the student. One might also wonder whether the duty to self-cultivation is entirely grounded in the goods that such cultivation will produce or is it also supported by self-interest or a duty to other people, e.g. perhaps I have a duty to be educated because I have a duty to be part of a democratic society and being educated is essential for me to play that part. Your use of the term "talent" also brings to mind that the word comes from the English translation of the New Testament when Jesus calls on persons to develop the talents they have, when "talent" was a unit of money. So, on top of all the above "issues," we might also see a duty to develop talents within the realm of religious ethics.

Taking the term "philosophy" to mean "the love of wisdom" (literal meaning of "philo" and "sophia") I think a wise professor of philosophy will seek to contribute to as many students as she can that are in her care in developing talents, such as the ability to think and act wisely, the virtues of humility in the pursuit of other virtues (integrity, justice...) and that failing to do so on her part, just as the failing of students that might occur when they are unresponsive and unwilling to grow ethically and intellectually, would be like your example of a promising, great pianist who loses her or himself in a disabling, life-destroying addiction.

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