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Ask “Why?” Not “What?”

Citizen Philosophers: Teaching Justice In Brazil

The official rationale for the 2008 [Brazilian] law is that philosophy is necessary for the exercise of citizenship. The law”the world“s largest-scale attempt to bring philosophy into the public sphere”thus represents an experiment in democracy. Among teachers at least, many share Ribeiro“s hope that philosophy will provide a path to greater civic participation and equality.

Here’s a crazy proposal: How about not teaching plate tectonics and evolution in schools, but instead SOLID logic and reasoning, the difference between data and theory as well as the scientific and Socratic methods. It is the lack of decent interrogation skills as well as field experience that leads otherwise reasonable humans to deny evolution, tectonics and climate change, and to make social policy from this state of ignorance. Yes, students need introduction to these concepts and “specifics to go in exercises/modules/problem-sets.” What I propose is a geology class that begins with a primer in logical fallacies rather than the Mohs hardness scale.

Human progress will come from “Why?” not “What?” We seem to have worked ourselves and our kids into a corner of the outdated latter.

Related: Geology and Genesis: how Noah“s flood shaped ideas but not landscapes

3 comments… add one
  • Anita August 26, 2012, 9:38 PM

    Excellent point–rock solid! Beginning, perhaps with Aristotle, academic disciplines peeled off to become specialties in their own right rather than part of philosophy,which they were at their inception. Unfortunately, specificity was prioritized and these studies left ‘pure philosophy’ behind with the result that, rather than all of math and hard science beginning with philosophy, today philosophy is lumped with the humanities and considered a soft, virtually optional, subject. This is obviously wrong.

  • Blair August 27, 2012, 7:11 AM


  • Clay August 28, 2012, 11:07 AM

    So, I’m fiddling around with Coastal Restoration research and looking at some old technical journal articles.

    You know what, if you want to hide great information, the best place is in a technical journal article. NOBODY WILL EVER SEE IT.

    That is all.

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