|Monroe County Community College|
This week I'll begin my 13th year of teaching philosophy at Monroe County Community College. I'll teach three classes - two sections of Introduction to Logic, and one section of Philosophy of Religion. At this stage of my life I am able to walk into these classes, without notes or preparation, and teach, with enthusiasm. Yet, because I love philosophy, I never stop studying it. Here are a few thoughts I have today about my classes.
- Most students today lack critical thinking skills.
- The ability to think logically helps in any field. In law, e.g., to be able to intuit the claim of inference from premises to a conclusion is necessary.
- Logic is about evaluating arguments and formulating arguments. In logic, an "argument" is: one or more premises that, if true, make a claim of inference to a conclusion. Premises and conclusions are "statements." A "statement" is a sentence that describes a state of affairs that obtains. Or, a statement is a sentence that is either true or false.
- I'm going to do my best to make this intrinsically boring class interesting for my students. One way I do this is to present arguments that are relevant and, I think, fun. For example, tomorrow in my first class I'll argue for the conclusion Dogs are smarter than cats. In another class I will argue for the conclusion We are alone in the universe (using Ward and Brownlee's Rare Earth theory). Later in the semester I may present philosopher Francis Beckwith's logical argument against abortion. This is a particularly good argument to give in a logic class, since in logic emotive arguing adds nothing to an argument. I really enjoy presenting these arguments as exemplary of logical thinking.
- Because most students are postmodernists without knowing it they will have a hard time grasping the idea that: If a statement is true it is true for everyone, and if a statement is false is it false for everyone. The DNA of today's adolescent is relativistic. In logic, subjective and collective relativism is irrational (illogical).
- I am personal interested in Daniel Kahneman's thesis that there are, basically, two kinds of "thinking"; viz., "thinking fast" and "thinking slow." Most thinking is of the first kind; critical thinking (logic) is of the second kind. I'll be teaching my student to "slow-think."
Philosophy of Religion
- I love teaching this class! Over the years most students seem captivated by the material.
- We'll never escape metaphysical, "Big Questions" thinking. Most students (nearly all, in my experience) want someone to dialogue with about these questions.
- I'm going to do my best to release students from the mental bondage of Facebook-reasoning. None of the arguments Facebook atheists and theists use are used by scholars to defend their worldviews, whether atheistic or theistic. OK, I'll back off that statement a bit. But not much. The real discussion is found in the academic literature. Here, e.g., is the standard philosophy of religion textbook I use in my class - Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings.
- This course is not only about introducing students to philosophy of religion issues, but is also an extended exercise in critical thinking and logic.