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Should a brief history of the principles of the world religions and philosophers

Should a brief history of the principles of the world religions and philosophers be part of public school curriculum?

I believe that if one's education in public school did not include some attention the world religions (a study of their history, teachings), then one's education would be profoundly incomplete. I think that it would be impossible to claim to be well educated in the history of Europe, the near and middle East, Asia, the Americas, Africa without some knowledge of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. One might be well educated in math, physics, chemistry, biology without such a background, but once one comes to terms with history, culture, art, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, psychology, medicine... I propose that it would be very difficult to avoid "a brief history of the principles [and history] of the world religions." You asked about the principles of philosophers as well as religion and, on that point, I also think it would be hard to claim to be well educated without some exposure to the philosophical principles that underlie a culture's history and governance. In my country, the United States, being self-aware about the history of the USA would, I believe, require understanding the philosophical principles behind the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the causes behind the Civil War, and so on.

I believe that if one's education in public school did not include some attention the world religions (a study of their history, teachings), then one's education would be profoundly incomplete. I think that it would be impossible to claim to be well educated in the history of Europe, the near and middle East, Asia, the Americas, Africa without some knowledge of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. One might be well educated in math, physics, chemistry, biology without such a background, but once one comes to terms with history, culture, art, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, psychology, medicine... I propose that it would be very difficult to avoid "a brief history of the principles [and history] of the world religions." You asked about the principles of philosophers as well as religion and, on that point, I also think it would be hard to claim to be well educated without some exposure to the philosophical principles that underlie a culture's history and governance. In my country,...

When reading a philosophy book, what is your method for understanding and

When reading a philosophy book, what is your method for understanding and remembering the content? Tips for when one is presented with a massive philosophy book with many subtle points (e.g. Plantinga's "Warranted Christian Belief")?

Excellent question. I have found it extremely helpful either to type out or to write out by hand key claims and arguments. For almost 40 years I have carried around 5 by 7 inch cards in which I have written out parts of different texts that I update and go over continuously. I regularly cull the cards as I approach new texts or arguments, on top of which I keep journals of philosophical ideas. I also suggest sometimes re-reading multiple times parts of philosophical texts almost to the point of memorization. I still remember vividly the first text that I felt I "mastered" or practically memorized, and that was Richard Taylor's book Metaphysics, especially the chapter on God. I found (and still find) his writing lucid and engaging. On the assumption that you might still use old fashioned hard copies of books, I recommend marking them up, filling the margins with comments, counter-points, and the like.

I hope some of this might be helpful.

Excellent question. I have found it extremely helpful either to type out or to write out by hand key claims and arguments. For almost 40 years I have carried around 5 by 7 inch cards in which I have written out parts of different texts that I update and go over continuously. I regularly cull the cards as I approach new texts or arguments, on top of which I keep journals of philosophical ideas. I also suggest sometimes re-reading multiple times parts of philosophical texts almost to the point of memorization. I still remember vividly the first text that I felt I "mastered" or practically memorized, and that was Richard Taylor's book Metaphysics, especially the chapter on God. I found (and still find) his writing lucid and engaging. On the assumption that you might still use old fashioned hard copies of books, I recommend marking them up, filling the margins with comments, counter-points, and the like. I hope some of this might be helpful.

I will be taking my first philosophy class soon although my major is not

I will be taking my first philosophy class soon although my major is not philosophy. I already know the basics of philosophy and the philosophical positions of my professor so I can anticipate what kind of essays I will be writing. I know for a fact that my philosophical views are radically different from both his and society in general so should I just argue for the sake of arguing or should I take the safe route and agree with what I think his views are so that I can be judged to lesser standard and get a higher mark? Just how biased are philosopher professors really?

Addressing your last question first: Although some of my colleagues will probably disagree, I think that on the whole philosophers tend to be (by training and disposition) quite adept at distancing themselves from their own convictions and are pretty good (sometimes excellent, sometimes just so-so) at seeing any given issue from multiple points of view. No philosopher can possibly only work from the standpoint of her or his preferred position (argument or framework) because, historically and today, we all know that (for example) a Kantian approach to ethics or metaphysics is not the only viable alternative or that Wittgenstein has said the last word on philosophical methodology or .... There are some exceptions to the vast majority of philosophy professors who are aware the diversity of reasonable positions worthy of deep consideration on almost every topic. I met a recent graduate from a Ph.D. program who roared with self-confident laughter when I mentioned the possibility that human persons have free agency (libertarian freedom). This is highly unusual. Most philosophers realize that there are reasonable determinists, reasonable compatabilists, etc... I have heaps of philosophical convictions but I do not think any of them are obviously right, nor do I think that those who disagree are unreasonable (or deserve derisive laughter!). In my own classes, I tend to give extra-credit to those who disagree with what they think is my position insofar as they display independence of thought and insightful criticism.

I encourage you to be true to your convictions and argue the points you deem most convincing. When you refer to "arguing for the sake of arguing," I suppose you might have to use some practical wisdom. In a class in which no student challenges a professor you might be facing a rather boring enterprise, but you will need to use your own judgment about when you or others are only "arguing for the sake of arguing" or you and your peers are raising important objections and counter-arguments.

As to the worry about whether marks or grades will be a function of a student's agreement with the professor's point of view, I suggest you send your professor a link to our exchange on askphilosopher and ask him or her for a response. After all, the submission of your question / issue is anonymous, and the professor will not have any way of knowing it was you who submitted the question. If you do this, I would be fascinated to get an email from you on your professor's response.

Addressing your last question first: Although some of my colleagues will probably disagree, I think that on the whole philosophers tend to be (by training and disposition) quite adept at distancing themselves from their own convictions and are pretty good (sometimes excellent, sometimes just so-so) at seeing any given issue from multiple points of view. No philosopher can possibly only work from the standpoint of her or his preferred position (argument or framework) because, historically and today, we all know that (for example) a Kantian approach to ethics or metaphysics is not the only viable alternative or that Wittgenstein has said the last word on philosophical methodology or .... There are some exceptions to the vast majority of philosophy professors who are aware the diversity of reasonable positions worthy of deep consideration on almost every topic. I met a recent graduate from a Ph.D. program who roared with self-confident laughter when I mentioned the possibility that human persons have...

For a philosophy student, what is the best language to learn? Particulary, a

For a philosophy student, what is the best language to learn? Particulary, a student interested in moral and political philosophy, and epistemology too. I think is english, and that's why I'm already learning it. If I'm right, what is the best after english? I'm a spanish native speaker.

Great question! Your choice of language may depend on your philosophical interests. If you are interested in Greco-Roman and philosophy in late Antiquity and Medieval philosophy, then Greek and Latin would be excellent. If you are interested in Indian or Hindu philosophy sanscrit would be best. Your Spanish will be good for reading a very fine, dynamic Spanish philosopher and essayist, Jose Ortega Y Gasset. Spanish philosophy (that is, philosophy in Spain, not just in Spanish) experienced hard times after the defeat of democracy in 1939, but after the restoration of democracy in 1978, Spain has been a place of multiple, alternative philosophical debates. Two outstanding philosophers to consider (AFTER you have read some Ortega, who is fabulous), I suggest you consult J.L. Lopez Aranguren and J.M. Valverde.

I think your pursuit of English is a great choice. I could be wrong, but I believe that probably the most number of philosophical works available today are accessible in English, more than any other single language. This is not just do to the works that are first published in English, but due to the wide ranging works that have been and are being translated into English. English is also more easy to learn than, say, Chinese in terms of numbers of characters and punctuation. When I was in graduate school (long, long ago...), after English the languages of choice were French and German. Because life is short, and in mastering English and reading current Spanish speaking philosophy (which also is flourishing in Mexico, Central and South America; on this, see Latin American Philosophy Today, edited by Jorge J. E. Garcia), I suggest choosing French or German, depending on your interests. If you want to read Heidegger in the original, go with German, if you want to read Sartre in the original, I suggest you go with French.

Great question! Your choice of language may depend on your philosophical interests. If you are interested in Greco-Roman and philosophy in late Antiquity and Medieval philosophy, then Greek and Latin would be excellent. If you are interested in Indian or Hindu philosophy sanscrit would be best. Your Spanish will be good for reading a very fine, dynamic Spanish philosopher and essayist, Jose Ortega Y Gasset. Spanish philosophy (that is, philosophy in Spain, not just in Spanish) experienced hard times after the defeat of democracy in 1939, but after the restoration of democracy in 1978, Spain has been a place of multiple, alternative philosophical debates. Two outstanding philosophers to consider (AFTER you have read some Ortega, who is fabulous), I suggest you consult J.L. Lopez Aranguren and J.M. Valverde. I think your pursuit of English is a great choice. I could be wrong, but I believe that probably the most number of philosophical works available today are accessible in English, more...

I'm starting a philosophy club at my university and I need a good name! Get

I'm starting a philosophy club at my university and I need a good name! Get creative and let me know what cool names you guys can give me for this club. Hope to hear from you.

I will try. Sometime philosophers have taken up names based on location or convictions. In the former, there was in the 20th century the Vienna Circle and in the 17th century there was Cambridge Platonism. In terms of convictions there have been movements and societies that employ names (like Platonism) or ideas (Ordinary Philosophy, British Idealism) or references to groups (e.g. the art and philosophy reading group) or exchanges (e.g. the Science Conversation) or to the ways in which a club might carry out its philosophical activity (e.g. 'the philosophy forum'). You can find a list of societies recognized by the American Philosophical Association and one or another term or name might seem attractive.

OK, so you want something "cool." This probably means something better that Yhposolihp Bulc which is 'Philosophy Club" spelled backwards (though if you really are going backwards probably Bulc Yhposolihp might be more apt). So, setting aside the lame and the ridiculous..... Sometimes something that seems not-cool can become cool. Here might be an example of a name that may (or may not) catch attention for its oddity...

The "Excuse me, but I am not sure what you mean. Let's talk." Philosophy Club

Or:

The "let's do some anti-boring philosophy" club

Or, you could borrow a technical "cool" term from another area. For example, pilots have a term for ideal flying condition: Ceiling And Visibility Unlimited, abbreviated CAVU. You could go with something like:

The CAVU Philosophy Club

which would hint that it is a club that seeks to do philosophy under ideal conditions.

OK, I feel like I have failed you, but I tried.... But at least I did not come up with something corny like: The Philosophy Club; Loving wisdom since 399 BCE

399 BCE, being the date we believe Socrates was executed...

I will try. Sometime philosophers have taken up names based on location or convictions. In the former, there was in the 20th century the Vienna Circle and in the 17th century there was Cambridge Platonism. In terms of convictions there have been movements and societies that employ names (like Platonism) or ideas (Ordinary Philosophy, British Idealism) or references to groups (e.g. the art and philosophy reading group) or exchanges (e.g. the Science Conversation) or to the ways in which a club might carry out its philosophical activity (e.g. 'the philosophy forum'). You can find a list of societies recognized by the American Philosophical Association and one or another term or name might seem attractive. OK, so you want something "cool." This probably means something better that Yhposolihp Bulc which is 'Philosophy Club" spelled backwards (though if you really are going backwards probably Bulc Yhposolihp might be more apt). So, setting aside the lame and the ridiculous..... Sometimes...

What would you say is the best resource for learning philosophy at the level of

What would you say is the best resource for learning philosophy at the level of an absolute beginner? I have tried MIT OCW, reading articles on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and taking out books from the library -- none of it makes total sense to me. Usually I get the general idea, but I feel like I'm missing something. Should I continue using the Stanford Encyclopedia/will I gain enough from it for it to be effective? Are there other, better ways? Thanks for replying ^_^

My favorite for beginners (although the author is somewhat out of favor with some professional philosophers these days) is Thomas Nagel's What Does It All Mean?: A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy. It raises all of the interesting questions in a readable fashion, but leaves the answers to the reader.

(And the author of The Story of Philosophy, by the way, spelled his name "Will Durant".)

Thank you for this request for connections or routes into philosophy as a practice! The first thing I suggest is engaging in philosophy with a friend --whether this is someone who is just starting out or someone who has been practicing philosophy for many years (either on their own or professionally or in connection with others, whether this involves a formal institution like a university or not). If you do connect with another person on this entryway you may only shift in your question or request from "I have tried..." and "I get..." and "I'm missing..." to "We have tried..." and "We get.." and "We're missing..." but the practice of philosophy is (I suggest) enhanced when it involves more than one person (unless the other person is immensely arrogant and closed minded!). Dialogue, after all, was the format of the majority of Plato's work, and today most philosophers (professional or otherwise) see themselves as part of a community of inquiry. Perhaps a "community" that includes both the living...

As I am taking Philosophy at higher level and the specified approach focused on

As I am taking Philosophy at higher level and the specified approach focused on doing philosophy...what would you suggest about reading to get an understanding of philosophy as a discipline. What does it mean to study philosophy? Am I suppose to start with a question/concept?

Terrific question(s). You may indeed begin studying philosophy with questions. Kant once observed that there were three foundational questions: what can I know? What should I do? What may I hope for? But you can expand these to include: who or what am I? What is the meaning of life? What is the best form of government? Do I have duties of gratitude to my parents? When (if ever) is it justified to go to war? and so on. And if we follow the practice of Aristotle, one good way to begin reflecting on these questions is first to consider how others have tried to answer such questions, and then begin working out which answer you are drawn to and why. Probably the best historian of philosophy by a living philosopher is Anthony Kenney. You can do a search on Amazon for either his single volume history of philosophy or his multi-volume undertaking. If you would prefer not to undertake an historical approach, an easy introduction to the practice of philosophy is T.V. Morris's Philosophy for Dummies. I am sorry that it has such a silly (and slightly insulting) title, but it is a good read, clear, and reliable. As I believe philosophy is best done in dialogue with others, I suggest you might find a friend who is also interested in philosophy and perhaps work out a series of conversations on different topics. The publisher Rowman and Littlefield has published a series of dialogues in philosophy under the general editor Dale Jacquette. You might pick up one or more of them on topics of interest to get a feel for how an engaging philosophical dialogue can be both fun and insightful.

Terrific question(s). You may indeed begin studying philosophy with questions. Kant once observed that there were three foundational questions: what can I know? What should I do? What may I hope for? But you can expand these to include: who or what am I? What is the meaning of life? What is the best form of government? Do I have duties of gratitude to my parents? When (if ever) is it justified to go to war? and so on. And if we follow the practice of Aristotle, one good way to begin reflecting on these questions is first to consider how others have tried to answer such questions, and then begin working out which answer you are drawn to and why. Probably the best historian of philosophy by a living philosopher is Anthony Kenney. You can do a search on Amazon for either his single volume history of philosophy or his multi-volume undertaking. If you would prefer not to undertake an historical approach, an easy introduction to the practice of philosophy is T.V. Morris's Philosophy for Dummies. ...

I am a first year Philosophy teacher at a private high school. Do you have any

I am a first year Philosophy teacher at a private high school. Do you have any suggestions for where I can find age-appropriate excercises and activities? I teach high school juniors and seniors.

Great question! The journal Teaching Philosophy has been publishing for decades on different ways to best teach philosophy, and that journal might be a gold mine for you in terms of creative ideas. One of the latest developments is that a great deal of philosophers have been bringing philosophy into play with popular culture. William Irwin had done a great deal on this with Blackwell (now Wiley-Blackwell publishers) and he has an edited volume that brings together some of the best work on all this. I am not sure whether specific exercises are employed, but the major series he edits, and similar series with Open Court Publishers and the University Press of Kentucky might be excellent resources. OneWord Press (UK) has one, probably two books that offer philosophical puzzles to ponder: approximate title, Why is it wrong to eat people? Ted Honderich has a textbook on thought experiments with great questions for students. And you might even check out Gareth Matthews work on philosophy for children. I...

Could you suggest an introductory book on metaphysics. thank you

Could you suggest an introductory book on metaphysics. thank you

I think the best introductory book on metaphysics published in the last 40 years is: Metaphysics by Richard Taylor. I think it is outstanding in its clarity and structure. For slightly more challenging, but more recent books, check out the books on metaphysics by E.J. Lowe (a British philosophy at the University of Durham) and Michael Loux (an American philosopher at the University of Notre Dame).

I think the best introductory book on metaphysics published in the last 40 years is: Metaphysics by Richard Taylor. I think it is outstanding in its clarity and structure. For slightly more challenging, but more recent books, check out the books on metaphysics by E.J. Lowe (a British philosophy at the University of Durham) and Michael Loux (an American philosopher at the University of Notre Dame).

Is it fair to force someone to learn even if it is for their own good?

Is it fair to force someone to learn even if it is for their own good?

Well, in many countries attending school up to a given age is not voluntary; penalties are in the offing for not doing so. The justification is often articulated in terms of the good of the person who is forced to learn --such education will enable her or him to work, make a living, make decisions for themselves, the education might help the person not to be exploited, and so on. But the justification is sometimes more in terms of the good of a society at large. In a healthy democracy, for example, it is good to have citizens who are sufficiently educated who can understand political, economic, and social policies and vote in light of an informed, reasonable evaluation of the alternatives. I personally think that this practice and enforced education is defensible, but your question raises interesting further questions. How far can a nation state go in terms of imposing instructions? In the USA and the UK, it seems that the state is virtually compelling tobacco users to learn that smoking causes cancer. Again, I am inclined to think this is good or at least permissible, but I am not sure how far this can or should extend. If someone buys a lot of alcohol, should they have to listen to three lectures on the dangers of abuse? How long can or should a nation state compel students to remain in school? Until they can read and write or until they know the law and history of their society? Maybe each citizen should learn some world history? Also, most fundamental question of all: can one really force a person to learn something, if they do not wish to learn it or actively resist the instruction? I certainly do not have all the answers, let alone suggestions here, but I hope that raising these additional questions might help one to see the terrain better and what needs to be addressed.

Well, in many countries attending school up to a given age is not voluntary; penalties are in the offing for not doing so. The justification is often articulated in terms of the good of the person who is forced to learn --such education will enable her or him to work, make a living, make decisions for themselves, the education might help the person not to be exploited, and so on. But the justification is sometimes more in terms of the good of a society at large. In a healthy democracy, for example, it is good to have citizens who are sufficiently educated who can understand political, economic, and social policies and vote in light of an informed, reasonable evaluation of the alternatives. I personally think that this practice and enforced education is defensible, but your question raises interesting further questions. How far can a nation state go in terms of imposing instructions? In the USA and the UK, it seems that the state is virtually compelling tobacco users to learn that smoking...

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