Monday, May 9, 2016

Either Philosophy or Indoctrination

A teaching and learning environment is either philosophical or indoctrinational.  To be philosophical is to follow the argument wherever it leads, to be prepared to question and challenge one's basic assumptions and to have a spirit of unbridled inquiry.  Motto of the Philosopher: Question everything including that you should question everything!  (Or do you disagree?)

With indoctrination there is no serious debate. Many questions are off the table.  There is a received body of (at least alleged) knowledge or wisdom--the dogma--to be learned by repetition, rote memory, or unquestioned methodology.

A teacher can, of course, be both a philosopher and a dogmatist (in the sense of someone who indoctrinates) depending on the subject and the purpose of the discourse.  One can switch back and forth.  Some scientists, for instance, are more philosophical than others.  No one is purely philosophical though many are mostly dogmatic.

There's nothing wrong with dogmatism and indoctrination, per se.  We'd be lost without it.  Most disciplines at the university are dogmatic and most students learn by indoctrination.  Biology, Chemistry, Math, Greek, Latin, Computer Science---all are mostly dogmatic.  There's little to no serious debate in a course in how to read and write Latin.  You learn paradigms and memorize words.  A biology class might veer off into philosophical speculation on whether science is compatible with the book of Genesis, but biology qua the science of biology passes on a received body of knowledge through textbooks, lecture, and methods of tried and true experimentation.

Where there is a great deal of rational disagreement and uncertainty is where one typically finds philosophy; and where there is a topic of wide disagreement discussed in a university is where one should find philosophy.  Religion, politics, death, taxes, justice, (social "justice")...all should be approached philosophically, at least for part of the time, that is, if one thinks that where there is rational disagreement one should not treat the issue dogmatically.

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