We need to teach everyday philosophy

Allow young minds to practice philosophical approaches to ordinary problems rather than force-feeding abstract ideas.

In America we think of philosophy as something foreign, like Mexicans and Moslems, to be barred at the border. It should come as no surprise that our best known contribution to the field is the work of Henry James on pragmatism. Philosophy doesn’t make things, people don’t pay for it and no one who studies it finds employment other than teaching philosophy (which leads us to a loop, like Ouroboros eating his tail.)[1]

Americans live by Emerson’s maxim: “Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

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Image Credits: Marie-Lan Nguyen, Plato’s Academy,Naples National Archaeological Museum; Levan Ramishvili, Portrait of Kurt Gödel)

American students believe the perfect form can be answered online in three clicks.

The only professor who asked us to apply philsophy to everyday problems was Jesuit. Which meant the only problems we tackled involved ethics.[3] We never discussed the role of phenomenology in workplace politics or the art of deconstructing an office memo. Or, more important to me, the sexual politics of “just being friends.”

  • What conditions would determine the boundaries of friendship?
  • Should we take her at her word, or recognize that all communication is coded?
  • How can we ethically engage this woman as a friend when we remain motivated by sexual desire?
  • Is our continued association truly friendship or subterfuge?
  • Is it truly pragmatic to promise to call—postponing the inevtable discussion in which you admit you only wanted to get into her pants which will occur after she texts you three times an hour—or would it not be better—both ethically and to avoid prolonged agony on her part—to say: “I doubt you’ll hear from me again. Ever.”?(?)[4]
  • Should we devote more time to extracurricular activity or the rote learning exercises required for a class?
  • How seriously should we apply ourselves to classes which seem to have no relevance to the future we imagine?
  • Should we follow a school policy which we know to be unjust?[5]

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Living metaphor. Follow me @stephens_pt.

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