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The Point

March 11, 2010

Here’s this nice response to our question earlier in the week about the relevance of philosophy, from Harry Brighouse:

If I were in the position of having to justify my own department’s existence, and was unconstrained by the comments of my colleagues, I would focus on the service we do to students for whom the course they take from us is the only Philosophy course they take. For many Business majors taking an ethics requirement, this is the only course in their upper years that they will write a paper, and for most it is one of very few courses in which retaining information will be less important than exercising higher order cognition, facing up to questions to which the answers are not known with certainty by anyone. We serve ethics requirements for many majors, and what we do in those courses is NOT tell them what they ought to think about ethical issues, but introduce them to intellectual resources which, when used by people of good will, will help them to get closer to the truth concerning the hard ethical questions they will face as citizens, professionals, and in their personal lives. Like most Philosophy departments we have an informal logic/critical reasoning course, which teaches students how to identify various kinds of fallacious reasoning, and targets instruction to contexts which the students are likely to find themselves in in the course of their lives. We teach aesthetics, environmental ethics, and philosophy of religion, all of which courses attract students with other majors who want to think at a higher level of abstraction than their regular courses allow about what they are doing in their major.

Yes, you read that correctly, students o’ mine: “Facing up to questions to which the answers are not known with certainty by anyone.” Turns out, that is how we roll in philosophy.

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