|Philosophy is boring|
I recently decided/realised that philosophy is boring. At least I now think it's boring. Long dead old men talking about one and the many, body and the mind, appearance and reality. It's just one long old dream, and now I've made a whole lifestyle out of it and am forced to teach eager undergraduates who don't even understand much of what I'm saying to them half the time.
So I came up with what I think is an exciting pedagogical initiative. I've crafted an Introduction to Philosophy. But it's not just any phil intro course. It's all based around my dog Jocone. This has really sparked up my interest again and the students are responding as well as ever. I have begun incorporating photos of Jocone and anecdotes about some of his funnier antics into my teaching. This is a rich area and I'm only just starting to really explore it in front of the students, but just as an "initial sample", here are some of the ways I've taken dry stolid old empty philosophy topics and put a twist on to them:
Mind and body dualism: so Jocone loves his treats. I sometimes wonder if we took away his body, would you still know that your treats were there Jocone? If yes, there must be some "Jocone spirit" animating his little furry body. (Descartes said animals were mere automata; he'd obviously never met anyone like Jocone. Sometimes I hold up Jocone (I can't very well kick him like Dr Johnson - I'm sorry for even mentioning that) and say "I refute him thus!" (meaning Descartes).
Ethics: This is a big one - if I train Jocone well, he knows how to sit and when to be quiet. But is this all instinct, or is there a real "objective truth" to how a dog should behave? Am I just doing what I was trained to do, or is there something deeper going on here? This is a fascinating subject that has a lot to it, but by using Jocone we can at least begin to get under the service.
Modal realism: What if I make copies of Jocone? Is that even possible? Or are they just counterpart dogs in other worlds? (What is a world?) This only gets deeper the more I have to think about it.
Logic and rationality: When Jocone sees me coming, he wags his tail. If someone scary comes in, he runs away. Is there some deep truth underlying this response? Logic says it is. There is literally a structure to every argument I have with Jocone, and we can analyze it carefully to make sure we have a better relationship in future. So even something as dry as boring as logic can actually help us to figure out better ways to be. And Jocone is still wagging that little tail of his!
I have a few more classes to teach, and a few more subjects to cover, so I might follow this post up with more ideas about teaching IntroPhil in this insightful new way. (Then again, I might not! Such is the life of Feel free to experiment yourself and to leave your comments below. Please don't say any false statements, or mislead me.