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Friday, August 22, 2014

A New Batch of Philosophers

Alice C. Linsley

In Introduction to Philosophy students select a philosopher to role play in class forums and they write their final paper for the semester on the philosopher they have chosen to portray. The present class has only 5 students very sharp students so the forums promise to be very energetic!

This semester the philosophers are:
Elizabeth Anscombe
Soren Kierkegaard
Friedrich Nietzsche

This is a year-long introduction to philosophy course. Each unit is a survey of key questions from archaic communities, antiquity, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Modern Age, Post-Modern to the present. Here is how the class works:

After a brief introduction to Aesthetics, Epistemology, Ethics, Logic, Metaphysics, and Ontology, the students select a philosopher from a list of philosophers who have made significant contributions in these areas. They focus on that philosopher for the whole semester. In the fall semester, we delve mainly into Metaphysics and Epistemology and we wrap up each unit of study by having a "forum" called "The Meeting of the Great Minds." In these forums the students must respond to 3 questions as if they were their chosen philosopher, including quotes from their writings and staying in the role. They wear hats they have designed to represent their philosopher while in the forum. If they wish to express their own view, they must remove the hat.

The students have chosen Plato, Aristotle, Elizabeth Anscombe, Nietzsche, and Kierkegaard for the first semester. After only one week they already are fairly well informed about these philosophers. I act as Socrates and welcome guests to the forums (parents, administrators and other faculty sometimes attend), review the rules for engagement, and pose the 3 questions. The questions are worded so that the students must integrate the learning. It often takes two class periods to complete the forum. I try not to cut the discussions short because the students benefit from them so much.

In the spring semester, they select different philosophers when we go into Ontology, Logic and Ethics. They will be encouraged to select from Descartes, David Hume, Kant, Heidegger, Derrida, Rand, and J.B. Rawls. The forums are always very interesting and an excellent way to review the information and integrate learning.

I have an especially sharp group of students in the class. This promises to be a great year!

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