December 09 2014

Finding Philosophy

Here is my piece for The Chronicle of Higher Education.  It's behind a pay wall, alas.  I conclude,

I worry that philosophy—and the humanities more generally—is often taught to students as if the endgame were for them to become professionals in the discipline. We should be wary of what passes for philosophy but is really sophism. How are we going to mount a good defense of the humanities against crass economic logic when we teach our classes, particularly introductory classes, as if we were preparing students for academic jobs?

Sure, it’s important that we produce some well-trained scholars and thinkers. It’s even more crucial that we initiate students into strong forms of thinking, reading, and writing. But the reason we should support the humanities in a general education isn’t so students can produce slick essays; it’s so they can lead examined lives. Philosophy should be able to speak to a mom in tears.

Where is philosophy? I’m quite sure that the spirit of Socrates pays regular visits to community colleges. But I don’t want to snub our elite institutions. Who knows? It might be possible to find philosophy there, too.

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