Saturday, April 7, 2018

Literary paths to philosophy, for young people

In a recent article in The Daily Nous entitled "Making a Case for Pre-College Philosophy", Justin Weinberg advocates teaching philosophy to young people, presents evidence of its value, and argues for the importance of that evidence to professional philosophy...

I disagree. 

When I consider the phrase "Philosophy for Children" my best response is: "The Greek Myths."  I am thinking something along the lines of, "
I take it Greek thought and action are deeply connected. Ergo, Heracles and Theseus represent to children models of thoughtful action."

In any event, I disagree with teaching "Philosophical Problems"; that is, the sorts of "Philosophical Problems" that occupy university philosophers, which are not problems so much as thy are artifacts of the power and food chains created by the academic context... and anyway are not appropriate considerations of what I consider to be "important" philosophical matters. 

The "philosophy" young people need is taught in stories and a handful of political documents, as follows:

The Bible
"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" - Irving
"The Purloined Letter" - Poe
"The Gold Bug" - Poe
"Young Goodman Brown"  - Hawthorne
"Sinners in the Hands of a Just and Angry God" - Edwards
"A discourse concerning the unlimited submission and non-resistance to the high powers" -Mayhew (highlights.. teachers could re-tell)
"Areopagitica" . . . (Perhaps an impossible task for most teachers, but re-telling the main points is more than worth it)
Paradise Lost (another impossible task, but I've had luck re-telling some of the highlights, albeit with college students)
The Scarlet LetterMoby-Dick (if it's possible to get them to read it, and if their teachers can understand it, which I doubt)
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Declaration of Independence
The U.S. Constitution
"The Virginia Act of Religious Freedom"
Julius Caesar
Hamlet
Frankenstein
Animal Farm

1984
"Politics and the English Language"
Brave New WorldA Clockwork Orange
Lolita - Nabokov
Pale Fire
- Nabokov
Bend Sinister
- Nabokov
UBIK -
Philip K. Dick
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch -
Philip K. Dick
The Transmigration of Timothy Archer -
Philip K. Dick
Selections from Swift
Aristophanes' The Clouds, and if they can handle that, show them some Lucian: "The Sale of Philosophies"
Oedipus Rex - Sophocles
The Oresteia - Aeschylus
Anabasis / The Persian Expedition - Xenophon  And, returning to my original "theme" of representing thoughtful action to young people, I'll conclude by saying, "What Xenophon thinks--ah, and what Xenophon does!



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