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Hello philosophers. I have a question I was hoping I could get some insight on. Do teachers have obligations to develop the talents of their students as much as possible? And if they don't, are they in the wrong? If someone who could have been a great pianist becomes an alcoholic, and fails to develop her potential, people sometimes regard that as a tragedy; but is the situation so different to a promising student falling in with a bad teacher, and for that reason failing to develop her potential?

Great question(s). I am in agreement with those philosophers (including Kant) who believe that persons do have a duty to develop their talents, sometimes called a duty of self-cultivation. If musical works are good, and the way to bring about musical works is by cultivating musicians, then the latter is a fitting, good act. Of course complicated issues emerge when, for example, one cannot cultivate all (and in some cases most) talents of persons. The teacher-student relationship may also have complications, depending on time, resources, and the receptivity to learning and growing on behalf of the student. One might also wonder whether the duty to self-cultivation is entirely grounded in the goods that such cultivation will produce or is it also supported by self-interest or a duty to other people, e.g. perhaps I have a duty to be educated because I have a duty to be part of a democratic society and being educated is essential for me to play that part. Your use of the term "talent" also brings to mind...

hi. if you be as a student (moral philosophy) in a country like Iran and you wont to wrote thesis (tendency: applied ethics), which issue you choice?

Greetings. I have been to Iran and practiced philosophy there at a conference and two of your universities. I am not clear, however, about the limits on free speech and protected (or prohibited) research projects, if any. If you are a student, I suggest you work up a proposed project in applied ethics --this might involve medical ethics, environmental ethics, military ethics, professional ethics or investigating some area of moral and social life involving the economy (looking into business ethics or into the adequacy of market systems --contrasting free markets with socialist societies, for example), religious practices, matters of gender, family structures, and so on. I would then suggest you contact a professional philosopher at the nearest university to ask her or him about resources and the direction of your work. The American Philosophical Association (of which I am a member) strongly supports uncensored, free inquiry in all parts of the world. Even though the APA would probably be...

Should a brief history of the principles of the world religions and philosophers be part of public school curriculum?

I believe that if one's education in public school did not include some attention the world religions (a study of their history, teachings), then one's education would be profoundly incomplete. I think that it would be impossible to claim to be well educated in the history of Europe, the near and middle East, Asia, the Americas, Africa without some knowledge of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. One might be well educated in math, physics, chemistry, biology without such a background, but once one comes to terms with history, culture, art, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, psychology, medicine... I propose that it would be very difficult to avoid "a brief history of the principles [and history] of the world religions." You asked about the principles of philosophers as well as religion and, on that point, I also think it would be hard to claim to be well educated without some exposure to the philosophical principles that underlie a culture's history and governance. In my country,...

When reading a philosophy book, what is your method for understanding and remembering the content? Tips for when one is presented with a massive philosophy book with many subtle points (e.g. Plantinga's "Warranted Christian Belief")?

Excellent question. I have found it extremely helpful either to type out or to write out by hand key claims and arguments. For almost 40 years I have carried around 5 by 7 inch cards in which I have written out parts of different texts that I update and go over continuously. I regularly cull the cards as I approach new texts or arguments, on top of which I keep journals of philosophical ideas. I also suggest sometimes re-reading multiple times parts of philosophical texts almost to the point of memorization. I still remember vividly the first text that I felt I "mastered" or practically memorized, and that was Richard Taylor's book Metaphysics, especially the chapter on God. I found (and still find) his writing lucid and engaging. On the assumption that you might still use old fashioned hard copies of books, I recommend marking them up, filling the margins with comments, counter-points, and the like. I hope some of this might be helpful.

I will be taking my first philosophy class soon although my major is not philosophy. I already know the basics of philosophy and the philosophical positions of my professor so I can anticipate what kind of essays I will be writing. I know for a fact that my philosophical views are radically different from both his and society in general so should I just argue for the sake of arguing or should I take the safe route and agree with what I think his views are so that I can be judged to lesser standard and get a higher mark? Just how biased are philosopher professors really?

Addressing your last question first: Although some of my colleagues will probably disagree, I think that on the whole philosophers tend to be (by training and disposition) quite adept at distancing themselves from their own convictions and are pretty good (sometimes excellent, sometimes just so-so) at seeing any given issue from multiple points of view. No philosopher can possibly only work from the standpoint of her or his preferred position (argument or framework) because, historically and today, we all know that (for example) a Kantian approach to ethics or metaphysics is not the only viable alternative or that Wittgenstein has said the last word on philosophical methodology or .... There are some exceptions to the vast majority of philosophy professors who are aware the diversity of reasonable positions worthy of deep consideration on almost every topic. I met a recent graduate from a Ph.D. program who roared with self-confident laughter when I mentioned the possibility that human persons have...

For a philosophy student, what is the best language to learn? Particulary, a student interested in moral and political philosophy, and epistemology too. I think is english, and that's why I'm already learning it. If I'm right, what is the best after english? I'm a spanish native speaker.

Great question! Your choice of language may depend on your philosophical interests. If you are interested in Greco-Roman and philosophy in late Antiquity and Medieval philosophy, then Greek and Latin would be excellent. If you are interested in Indian or Hindu philosophy sanscrit would be best. Your Spanish will be good for reading a very fine, dynamic Spanish philosopher and essayist, Jose Ortega Y Gasset. Spanish philosophy (that is, philosophy in Spain, not just in Spanish) experienced hard times after the defeat of democracy in 1939, but after the restoration of democracy in 1978, Spain has been a place of multiple, alternative philosophical debates. Two outstanding philosophers to consider (AFTER you have read some Ortega, who is fabulous), I suggest you consult J.L. Lopez Aranguren and J.M. Valverde. I think your pursuit of English is a great choice. I could be wrong, but I believe that probably the most number of philosophical works available today are accessible in English, more...

I'm starting a philosophy club at my university and I need a good name! Get creative and let me know what cool names you guys can give me for this club. Hope to hear from you.

I will try. Sometime philosophers have taken up names based on location or convictions. In the former, there was in the 20th century the Vienna Circle and in the 17th century there was Cambridge Platonism. In terms of convictions there have been movements and societies that employ names (like Platonism) or ideas (Ordinary Philosophy, British Idealism) or references to groups (e.g. the art and philosophy reading group) or exchanges (e.g. the Science Conversation) or to the ways in which a club might carry out its philosophical activity (e.g. 'the philosophy forum'). You can find a list of societies recognized by the American Philosophical Association and one or another term or name might seem attractive. OK, so you want something "cool." This probably means something better that Yhposolihp Bulc which is 'Philosophy Club" spelled backwards (though if you really are going backwards probably Bulc Yhposolihp might be more apt). So, setting aside the lame and the ridiculous..... Sometimes...

What would you say is the best resource for learning philosophy at the level of an absolute beginner? I have tried MIT OCW, reading articles on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and taking out books from the library -- none of it makes total sense to me. Usually I get the general idea, but I feel like I'm missing something. Should I continue using the Stanford Encyclopedia/will I gain enough from it for it to be effective? Are there other, better ways? Thanks for replying ^_^

Thank you for this request for connections or routes into philosophy as a practice! The first thing I suggest is engaging in philosophy with a friend --whether this is someone who is just starting out or someone who has been practicing philosophy for many years (either on their own or professionally or in connection with others, whether this involves a formal institution like a university or not). If you do connect with another person on this entryway you may only shift in your question or request from "I have tried..." and "I get..." and "I'm missing..." to "We have tried..." and "We get.." and "We're missing..." but the practice of philosophy is (I suggest) enhanced when it involves more than one person (unless the other person is immensely arrogant and closed minded!). Dialogue, after all, was the format of the majority of Plato's work, and today most philosophers (professional or otherwise) see themselves as part of a community of inquiry. Perhaps a "community" that includes both the living...

As I am taking Philosophy at higher level and the specified approach focused on doing philosophy...what would you suggest about reading to get an understanding of philosophy as a discipline. What does it mean to study philosophy? Am I suppose to start with a question/concept?

Terrific question(s). You may indeed begin studying philosophy with questions. Kant once observed that there were three foundational questions: what can I know? What should I do? What may I hope for? But you can expand these to include: who or what am I? What is the meaning of life? What is the best form of government? Do I have duties of gratitude to my parents? When (if ever) is it justified to go to war? and so on. And if we follow the practice of Aristotle, one good way to begin reflecting on these questions is first to consider how others have tried to answer such questions, and then begin working out which answer you are drawn to and why. Probably the best historian of philosophy by a living philosopher is Anthony Kenney. You can do a search on Amazon for either his single volume history of philosophy or his multi-volume undertaking. If you would prefer not to undertake an historical approach, an easy introduction to the practice of philosophy is T.V. Morris's Philosophy for Dummies. ...

I am a first year Philosophy teacher at a private high school. Do you have any suggestions for where I can find age-appropriate excercises and activities? I teach high school juniors and seniors.

Great question! The journal Teaching Philosophy has been publishing for decades on different ways to best teach philosophy, and that journal might be a gold mine for you in terms of creative ideas. One of the latest developments is that a great deal of philosophers have been bringing philosophy into play with popular culture. William Irwin had done a great deal on this with Blackwell (now Wiley-Blackwell publishers) and he has an edited volume that brings together some of the best work on all this. I am not sure whether specific exercises are employed, but the major series he edits, and similar series with Open Court Publishers and the University Press of Kentucky might be excellent resources. OneWord Press (UK) has one, probably two books that offer philosophical puzzles to ponder: approximate title, Why is it wrong to eat people? Ted Honderich has a textbook on thought experiments with great questions for students. And you might even check out Gareth Matthews work on philosophy for children. I...

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