Advanced Search

Is convincing a person they are wrong not a form of indoctrination? After all,

Is convincing a person they are wrong not a form of indoctrination? After all, it involves changing the way people think such that it conforms with one's own views. Is it not censorship? Since putting opinions in the wrong clearly prevents them from being expressed.

Let's suppose you say to me "How's your brother Paul?" I say "My brother is fine, but actually his name is Peter." Most likely that will be enough to convince you. And unless your reactions are rather unusual, you're likely just to ay something like "Oh. Yes. Guess I got mixed up." It would be really odd to call this indoctrination.

Or suppose I've been working on a budget and I send you the figures. You tell me that the total is off by $2,000. I don't believe you, so you work through the math with me, pointing out where I made a mistake. And I end up agreeing. Still nothing that seems like indoctrination.

However, those may not be the sorts of cases you have in mind, so try this one.

Suppose George thinks that women shouldn't be allowed to run for public office. Mary asks why. George gives his reasons, which reflect false beliefs about women's intelligence, emotions and so on. Mary engages him in a long, calm discussion, after which George agrees that his views reflected various kinds of prejudice and misinformation. George reconsiders his view and no longer says that women shouldn't be allowed to run for office. Still doesn't seem like indoctrination. Mary has persuaded George to change his mind by offering him reasons. She hasn't coerced him and she hasn't manipulated him. She also hasn't "prevented" him from expressing his former view except insofar as she's helped him see that it wasn't a well-thought out view to begin with.

If I enter into a discussion with you to try to persuade you of my view, then so long as I'm offering serious arguments and reasons, the word "indoctrination" seems very odd. The hallmark of indoctrination is intellectual manipulation that gets in the way of being moved by facts and reasons. And to censor someone is to prevent them from expressing a view that they actually want to express. If I've given up a view because I've come to see that it's mistaken, I haven't been censored; I don't want to express the view anymore.

Indoctrination and rational persuasion have something in common: when they succeed, someone's views change. But they also differ. Indoctrination doesn't show respect for the person it's practiced on; it simply manipulates them. Likewise, censorship and rational persuasion have something in common: when they succeed, some view that might have been expressed isn't. But they differ too. Censorship goes against the will of the person censored; rational persuasion engages their will.

All of which suggests some obvious final thoughts: if this seems reasonable to you, then you may no longer hold the view you started out with. But if it seems reasonable, I hope that's because it stands up to reflection. And if it doesn't, you're more than free to say so and say why.

Studying philosophy is always done from a certain perspective, with certain

Studying philosophy is always done from a certain perspective, with certain assumptions in mind. (Every century teaches philosophy in a different way). So, if I am interested in philosophy, but do not wish to adhere to a specific set of beliefs - what do I do?

Just an addition to Nicholas Smith's suggestion that in order to avoid adhering to a specific philosophical viewpoint, one adopt a standpoint of 'epistemic humility', which I don't think is that easily achieved. (I, for what it's worth, don't think that one can up and decide to epistemically humble.) Historical, contextual, study of the history of philosophy can help to lead one to take such a position. As one sees the extent to which philosophical questions and answers are deeply bound up with contingent historical circumstances, circumstances which vary greatly from our own, we can come to see not only that philosophical positions developed by 'the mighty dead' were deeply contingent, but also that our own cherished positions themselves are deeply contingent, and may well be bound up with contingent historical circumstances. Reflection on the extent to which philosophy is contextual in this way may well lead one to begin to question the assumptions that we take for granted and that underwrite the philosophical common sense of our day (assuming that it even makes sense to speak of such a thing), and can thereby lead to new ways of conceiving of philosophical problems. And that, to my mind, constitutes at least one form of philosophical progress!!

If I desire to be a logician what should I do to become that?

If I desire to be a logician what should I do to become that?

Study logic. Then study more logic. And then...study a lot more logic.

And then hope that the world (and job market) somehow gives you the opportunity to study and do logic for a living (because if you are distracted with other things, you will never be as good a logician as you could be with logic as your vocation and avocation, which is how muct academics feel about their subjects.

If you could recommend one novel for high school students about the subject of

If you could recommend one novel for high school students about the subject of philosophy what would it be? I'm looking for a work that is readable, entertaining and raises important philosophical issues as they relate to the Theory of Knowledge. Many people online have recommended Life of Pi or Tuesdays with Morrie. Any other suggestions? Much thanks in advance.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainance might fit the bill, though it is a bit more oriented to metaphysics than epistemology / the theory of knowledge. I am not sure it is super entertaining, but C.S. Lewis's book Until We Have Faces is terrific; it is a re-telling of an ancient myth. You might also like novels by Hermann Hesse like Sidartha --it is a re-telling of the tale of Buddha's enlightenment, and is quite moving and rich for stimulating philosophical reflection. There is a new book: Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy, raising all sorts of great puzzles (including epistemological ones) and that could be read alongside of reading Lewis Carroll's classics. You might also check out the Ultimate Harry Potter and Philosophy book, which unearths interesting philosophy in connection with Rowling's work. Although not out yet, there is a forthcoming Sherlock Holmes and Philosophy book which might be great to read along side short stories and novels about Holmes. Here is another radical idea: you might try writing some short stories of your own that take up questions / arguments that arise from the Theory of Knowledge. You could begin: George was in the tenth grade in a humanities course when he first encountered Descartes' worry that all our perceptions might be false. He still could not shake the worry when the bell rang and he ran into Chris who had unshakable confidence in his views of the world......

I want to major in philosophy because I love everything about it,, I am not

I want to major in philosophy because I love everything about it,, I am not interested in the physical matter of things. Rather , I am intrested in the morals of it, why is it created, how does it affect us, what is the value of it, is it right or wrong. I am so into these things, however, what am I gonna dowith this major in the future ? what is my future with it ?. When I tell my parents that I want to major in philosophy, they will go like what there is no future being a philosopher and so on. I need to know what is my future as a philosopher ? what can I work at, how am I going to use philosophy to gain money and support my family ? I need to know to convince myself about it , and to make my family appreciate philosophy and allow me to major in it. Please help me.

Although philosophy, like most of the 'liberal arts', does not directly prepare one for any career, majoring in philosophy does equip one with 'portable' skills--the ability to read carefully and to think and write clearly--that are useful in many careers. Surveys have shown that philosophy majors are among the top scorers on LSAT exams; I have heard that Wall Street firms like philosophy majors, because they have good analytic skills. I myself think that a Philosophy major is good preparation for almost any career that does not require specialized knowledge, so you should not worry about your future!! (Information on this topic is also available from the American Philosophical Association website, which I urge you to check out.)

What books would serve as a comprehensive overview of philosophical and

What books would serve as a comprehensive overview of philosophical and mathematical logic?

These are very large fields, so I'm not sure a comprehensive overview is really possible. (Though there is the umpteen volume Handbook of Philosophical Logic.) That said, there is a new book out quite recently, by John Burgess, titled Philosophical Logic, that gives a good introduction to that area. For mathematical logic, I like Peter Hinman's Foundations of Mathematical Logic, as it covers a fairly wide range of material.

Why is philosophy not taught in high school?

Why is philosophy not taught in high school? I have heard some arguments against it, but they all seem pretty poor such as: "parents would not like their children questioning their views". It seems like philosophy has a lot to give in a high school setting, at the very least classes like Critical Thinking would give students tools for assessing arguments. I could understand if most people went on to college, but many don't and it seems like some of the skills which philosophy bestows could greatly benefit our society. I really don't see why professional philosophy has not ventured down this route. I would be very thankful for any insight on this topic. Thanks, William P.

As others have noted, some schools do offer classes in philosophy. And with the current budget cuts going on, philosophy is not the only subject that is being ignored. Philosophically speaking we should also come to grips with the arguments of the likes of Aristotle and Plato who contended that the study of philosophy is not for children or teenagers but should instead be taken up at about 40!

Why do parents have the right to decide anything about a child's upbringing, or

Why do parents have the right to decide anything about a child's upbringing, or their moral, social, political and spiritual education? Young children are trusting when it comes to their parents, and may even believe falsehoods if their parents are the ones who are repeating these falsehoods. So why do we recognize a unilateral right for parents to teach their children whatever they want, and to withhold whatever information from their children that they deem appropriate? Why do we let parents pull their children out of sex ed class, or teach them a religion as a unilateral source of truth? Shouldn't parents have responsabilities, instead of rights? Surely shaping a child's mind, personality and outlook is not the "reward" parents get for feeding and clothing them! Is this just a practical issue ("There's nobody in a better position to take care of the kids, and there's no way we can stop people from teaching them whatever they want")? Or is there some fundamental moral reason parents have the...

I think you are right to claim that parents have responsibilities towards their children, and do not have the right to raise them "any way they want." Children are not property. The larger moral concern, however, is that the state will decide what children are to learn, and in American society, we are most fearful of that (because of our history with totalitarianism and communism). The law protects the rights of individuals. So parents have a legal right to withdraw their children from state-sponsered education. They also have a legal right to teach them rubbish. However, I would argue that they do not have a moral right to teach them rubbish, particularly if it is rubbish that is harmful (Santa Claus probably does not fall into that category; but Abstinence is harmful rubbish).

What schools have the best undergraduate philosophy departments in the US? By

What schools have the best undergraduate philosophy departments in the US? By "best", I mean most academically rigorous, most qualified faculty, and most extensive course offerings. I've been trying to research this online but every opinion I can find on the subject seems to come from one website - philosophicalgourmet.com - and I have no idea what this site's credentials are. If anyone has an opinion based on their own research or personal experience, I am eager to hear it.

The remarks on the topic at the Philosophical Gourmet website seem to me to be generally on target. (For those remarks, click here.)

Generally, I think that liberal arts colleges (such as Amherst, Williams, Oberlin, or the Claremont Colleges), or universities that do not have graduate students (e.g., Dartmouth), are better places not only for undergraduates interested in studying philosophy, but for undergraduates generally. (Full disclosure: I attended Amherst College as an undergraduate, and did my graduate work at Harvard, before moving on to Johns Hopkins and am now at UC Irvine.) I have been associated with a number of different kinds of institutions, from a small college, to a largish research university, to a small research university, to a very large research university. While I think that in principle, it is possible for an undergraduate to get a good education in philosophy--or any subject, for that matter--at any school. However, at a large research university, the student may have relatively little direct contact with faculty members, unless s/he makes an effort to meet with faculty members during their office hours, and even then, iwhat sort of experience the student will have largely depends on the faculty member's commitment to undergraduate education. In schools without graduate programs--even schools that have demanding research obligations as part of the requirements for tenure--faculty are, as a rule, more interested in undergraduate education, and so undergraduates will find it much easier to engage with faculty members at such institutions. In terms of range of classes, of course, there will be a broader range of courses offered, at a greater variety of levels--i.e., from introductory courses to graduate seminars--at a university with a graduate program. (Advanced undergraduates often do take graduate seminars.)

I myself think that when choosing an undergraduate institution one should try to go to the very best institution that one can. If one knows that one is already interested in academia, then one might do well to consider attending a small liberal arts college, although depending on one's character, one may be able to have a similar experience at a university with graduate students. For example, Princeton University, although a university with top-ranked graduate departments in various disciplines in the humanities, has a commitment to undergraduate education that I believe rivals that of small colleges; by contrast, Johns Hopkins, despite the fact that courses in the humanities, especially at the mid-and higher-levels, are no larger than those at a small liberal arts college, is--at least in my experience, and throughout the humanities--definitely oriented more towards research and graduate teaching and less attention tends to be given to undergraduates. Of course, some professors at either of these last-mentioned institutions may be exceptions to the general rule that I just advanced.

My recommendation is this: in considering where to apply, you should look at the Philosophy Department offerings and try to get a sense for their range--one clue is just to see how many different courses have been offered in the past few years; once you have been accepted at some schools, then you should try to get in touch with undergraduates at those schools--maybe even philosophy majors--in order to find out what their academic experience has been like.

Why do so many Anglo-American philosophy departments still prefer to teach ideas

Why do so many Anglo-American philosophy departments still prefer to teach ideas that depend on symbolic logic? Or in another light, why is so much contemporary philosophy in America still dedicated to analysis and ideals of "clarity" that depend on "higher order" languages?

I'm not sure what is meant by "prefer to teach ideas that depend on symbolic logic". Most departments teach e.g. aesthetics, political philosophy, the history of early modern philosophy, the philosophy of mind, and so on and so forth -- and symbolic logic features little if at all in those courses. (When did you last see a quantifier when discussing how it is that we can apply emotion terms to music, or discussing whether we can justify more than a minimal state, etc., etc.?)

And a concern for clarity has little to do with symbolic logic (and nothing at all to do with 'higher order' languages). Clarity matters because we want to seek the truth co-operating with other enquirers. And we can't co-operate with other enquirers by together subjecting our conjectures to stern test and criticism and proposing revisions if we can't manage to make ourselves very plainly understood to each other.

Of course there are always intellectual pseuds who get off on talking to themselves with willful obscurity -- but do you really want to go in for that kind of intellectual masturbation?

Pages