Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Why don't more people enjoy philosophy in an academic setting?

I wish I knew. I've found that when people who are out of school find out I'm a philosophy professor they are either really excited and tell me how much they love philosophy or else they tell me how boring it was and how much they hate it.

I had already read a lot of "philosophy" before I started studying philosophy in the classroom. I'm not sure what my sense of it would have been if I'd first encountered it in a required course.

Recently, I've been using the idea of hedonism as a "hook" into philosophy. Now, lest that sound too heterodox, I should note I stole the idea from Aristotle.

At the beginning of the Metaphysics, Aristotle says that everyone by nature desires to know and the proof is in the pleasure we take in what we see. I've started playing this idea with my students: let's say you just want to be happy. I'm not going to judge you or tell you that's stupid --- I agree --- what I'll do instead is help you see that we need to think about how best to be happy and to see that exploring our curiosity is an integral part of our happiness.

I remember asking my freshman "Why do you like going on the facebook." "To find out what my friends are doing." "Why do you want to know what your friends are doing?" "Because it's fun."

That's the point.

Ask me anything

1 comment:

Free Lunch said...

I'll take a stab at it. Most people who are being introduced to philosophy in college are learning what other people thought, not how to think for themselves. Being told what to think is boring and pointless, even if the thinkers you are supposed to learn about are great thinkers.

Someone once drew the distinction between doing philosophy and learning philosophy as it is taught in too many places as the difference between music and musicology. Sure, some people want to learn all about music without actually doing it, but, as it goes in The Goodbye Girl:

Oliver Fry: Would you be interested in a movie?
Elliot Garfield: You mean making one?
Oliver Fry: Or we could go to one, but I think working is much more fun.

Creating your own defensible philosophical claim, even if someone else has done so in the past, is more fun than trying to read what someone else wrote, often in unfortunate style.