Philosophy … as relevant as the iPhone

Using three philosophers as examples, Nicholas Kristof explains we cannot dismiss the humanities. “These three philosophers influence the way I think about politics, immigration, inequality; they even affect what I eat. It’s also worth pointing out that these three philosophers are recent ones. To adapt to a changing world, we need new software for our cellphones; we also need new ideas. The same goes for literature, for architecture, languages and theology.”

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Plato and football

Should we teach Plato in gym class?  Yes, according to Mark Edmundson. “We’ve got to entertain the idea that the hunger for glory and even for supremacy is part of every individual. In some people it’s nearly as strong as the hunger for food. All of us, but athletes and warriors in particular, have to understand how to deal with that hunger. As Plato told us, the spirit needs education just as much as the mind.”

Psychologists investigate the Socratic method?

Confusion may be better for learning than clarity. Why do philosophers have to disagree with everything that anyone says? Whatever their motivation, one result is that the Socratic method of generating confusion is better for learning. As this article explains …

“Common wisdom holds that confusion should be avoided during learning and rapidly resolved if and when it arises,” wrote a team of researchers in a paper published earlier this year. While this might be true when it comes to superficial tasks such as memorizing facts and figures, “Confusion is likely to promote learning at deeper levels of comprehension under appropriate conditions.”

In other words: If teachers want students to learn the really important stuff, like comprehending difficult texts and modeling complex systems, they should put their students in confusing situations.