Most students find that their first experience formally studying Philosophy is in my class. Many will enter the class having some misconceptions about the subject. Some may view Philosophy as so theoretical and impractical that only a select few can (or would want to) study it. Viewing Philosophy in this way, some may conclude that Philosophy is an extravagance not relevant to daily life. However, Philosophy, whether we know it or not, permeates our lives and most of our important real world decisions are based on some concepts that are examined in Philosophy, i.e. our view of the world, who we are, and what is worthwhile. However, these critical beliefs and ideas that guide us are all too often unexamined. To function more successfully in the world we all need to be philosophers – we all need to view the world, other people, and ourselves with more thought, depth, and understanding by critically examining our own beliefs and ideas as well as those of others.
Looking at Philosophy in this light, one can begin to realize that Philosophy is not just a set of ideas – it is an activity. The study of Philosophy is not just a passive chore involving memorization of names and dates, it is a dynamic endeavor that involves doing Philosophy – it requires students to become active participants. As such I try to maintain a lively and interactive classroom that is not simply about lecturing, but is about presenting ideas to students in a way that they can integrate these ideas into their own life. I try to accomplish this not only in my presentations, but also in the questions that structure classroom discussions. In all of my classes I emphasize critical evaluation and real-world applications of the concepts and issues that we study.
My goal for each class is that by the end of the semester students will not only be more familiar with many of the most significant concepts in Philosophy, but also will have a greater ability to examine and formulate their own beliefs and ideas.
"A philosopher who is not taking part in discussions is like a boxer who never goes into the ring. "