By Nathan Bierma

Content & Context

The Books & Culture Weblog

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  • "The future of philosophy has been a concern for philosophy ever since its inception," wrote Claire Elise Katz in the Winter 2004 issue of CrossCurrents. And it still is. After seeing a Reader's Digest joke that majoring in philosophy teaches you to ask the questions, 'What is existence?' 'What is the essence of things?', and, 'Do you want fries with that?', Katz says "it is difficult to imagine presently that an educational theory that promotes philosophy as part of the curriculum would be taken seriously, much less a political philosophy whose primary aim is the flourishing of philosophy and philosophers." But to make it happen Katz says, philosophy must return to Socrates' mandate—"Know thyself"—or, better yet, to Plato's modest elaboration on it: "Know thyself, mortal." "This expansion of the phrase … appears to command one to know one's boundaries and limitations; one ought to know who one is, and more importantly, who one is not." The command extends to thinking critically about texts, including Hebrew ones, as Katz explains. After a reflection on the intersection between philosophy and religion, Katz concludes, "I often vacillate in my belief that philosophy is elitist. In one sense, it is elitist; not everyone can do it nor can everyone do it well." And yet, "I do believe that it is a 'good thing' for everyone to be exposed to it." And so Katz concludes, "I suggest that the future of philosophy means a return to one of its original objectives: to know thyself. I propose that philosophy's future be thought in terms of negotiating the tension between its appeal to the elite (and therefore its apparent exclusivity) and its usefulness to the ordinary citizen. We would create the habits of thinking and reflecting that would become an integral part of every person's life."
  • How can this happen? You could start with Calvin Seerveld's guidelines on how to teach a Christian course on introduction to philosophy, from the archives of Dordt College's publication Pro Rege, posted earlier this year by philosophy professor Gideon Strauss. Seerveld explains how he set up his intro course at Trinity Christian College in 1959:
Philosophy 101 was conceived to give a Christian philosophical orientation … to stretch [students'] vision for serving Jesus Christ in any and all of their impending studies—school-teaching, law, laboratory science, nursing, artistry, medicine, or home-making. After facing them with Bertrand Russell's tract Why I am not a Christian, we examined why thinking, even scientific thinking, cannot be neutral with respect to a human being's fundamental stance (pou sto) on where the buck ultimately stops, what everything means, and what kind of world we inhabit. Near the end of this Philosophy 101 first-year first-semester course (3 hours) we held "modal" seminars on how different specialized studies in mathematics, biology, psychology, sociology, economics, political science, theology or educational theory were shaped by different philosophies. Profs from these various fields joined in the modal seminars with their prospective majors in trying to figure out questions like these: Why are there Bayesian and non-Bayesian statistical theories? What difference does Pavlov's psychology make next to Freud's for treating neuroses? Is a Capitalistic macro-economics theory more normative than a Socialist economics? How significant is the difference between John Dewey's theory of schooling and a Thomist one? The seminar was a lot of fun because we were discovering things we didn't quite know the answers for, and knew it was important for being a follower of Jesus Christ in the world around us." Link


Bush, Marx and reality (see 7th paragraph), from Slate
My reflections on the examined life at my personal notebook blog
Philosophy weblogs worth reading; more here (2nd paragraph) and here
From the Chronicle of Higher Education:
Do philosophers respect the history of their field?
American vs. British philosophy
Boxing and philosophy
Beyond poststructuralism in cultural studies (more)


From the New York Times :

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