Monday, 15 January 2018

Introduction to Philosophy Using My Dog Jocone

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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).

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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.
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  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Thanks for this. I have also been mixing it up when teaching introductory philosophy.

    - Body and Mind: Nozick, Philosophical Investigations, modal realism.

    - Sex and the body: Simone de Bauvoir, Roland Barthes, Slavoj Zizek, Derek Parfit

    - Mathematics (week 3): 2 + 2 = 4, metatheory, Robinson Arithmetic, Plato, Benaceraff.

    - Arch Enemies: Robert Duvall, Strawson.

    - General Studies: My mum, my dad, the stars, astronomy, and my ideas about transubstatiation (it's all - Frankfurtian - bullshit).

    - Pop Culture And Philosophy. Readings of Culture.

    - Logical Argumentation. On When A Follows From B.

    - Fashion and sex: people have been changing for ever, what are some of the best looks they have had?

    A script will be read out at each lecture, with a sketch composed by local comedians. A bit book will come out of the ground and the students will be invited to "feel" the vibes coming out of the book. That's when the philosophy goes into them - the readings are just a little bit of salt and pepper in my opinion. I'm on a quest to turn philosophy into a vibrant, fun activity.

    I guess you could say it's been a success! Seriously though, Jocone is AMAZING. Really enjoy that small dog.

  3. This makes me so angry. Who cares about your dog? This is professionally reprehensible. You sit there talking to all these young impressionable minds about your stupid dog, meanwhile we don't even know the answers to some of the greatest philosophical questions that have ever been found. You're playing with your dog while Rome stagnates? Go to hell.

  4. I think that the children who make up my philosophy course can be treated as a set of points, with some idealisation. I then try to "convert" these to another set using various closure operations and matrices. If we define the operation as a success function, then the path from learning to understanding tends toward nil. Oil up those babies, I say.

    - Veal

  5. The problem with your argument is that you can't *introduce* these kids to philosophy. They're in there all the time, talking about the deepest subjects that animate our lives. I remember becoming a student with a red parasol in my hand, lining up for my enrolment forms. 'A big road lies ahead!', I marvelled. This is the type of experience I want to create for my kids now. Thanks for this.

  6. Proposal For An Introduction of Philosophy Based on Social Logic

    I would like to call everyone I know to a conference in which we will explore, in a word, social logic. What is this discipline? We all know ontology - the study of being qua being. And social ontology studies social structures, and has interesting ties to metaethics and metaphysics. But the logic of social structures has yet to be explored. Please collaborate on this with me! Send a CV and three letters of recommendation to 22 Arms Road, Farmhaven. My University has given me an email address which I will disclose once I have disclosed the breakdown of the conference. I have a series of notes made on different days about different parts of the discipline of social logic:

    - Non-contradiction. Questioning the boundaries.Social logic represents reciprocity and relations of personal import in a framework which can facilitate inferences and sustain action. The connection with motivation and belief is what makes this subtopic such a werewolf in this area.

    - Ex quodiblet. Creating new structures. When you are allowed to infer anything in the social world, order collapses. How can we "patch" a societal fix whereby we enjoy mediated reciprocal relations which benefit the common weal equitably. This is the problem of moral chance. I was once wearing a dagger and hammer and chain, and I bought a pair of tongs to go with it. That is why the metaphysics of social kinds was artful and yet to come.

  7. Speaking of introductions, allow me to introduce myself. I'm a small liberal arts teacher, long time lurker first time commenter!

    Really love the site! I like your dog Joxone as well - firm, but fair. Seriously though, he is a really great dog.