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They could argue with me about anything. If it were a good argument I would take it seriously.


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See if you can change my mind. It teaches them to be self-critical, to look at their own opinions and see what the weak spots are. The other thing is to get them to think about moral views. Kids have a natural egotistical morality. Yes, they feel a certain sense of entitlement, but what is special about them?

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What gives them such a strong sense of fairness? They so much want to be like everybody else. It makes me so happy! Because I was seen as a hard-core analytic philosopher, and when I first began to write novels people thought, Oh, and we thought she was serious! People take literature seriously, especially in moral philosophy, as thought experiments.

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A lot of the most developed and effective thought experiments come from novels. Right—a recent study shows how reading literature leads to increased compassion. A lot of women philosophers have brought this into the conversation. Martha Nussbaum really led the way in this. She claimed that literature was philosophically important in many different ways. This is a real change from when I was in school and it was only theory. For example: In philosophy, unlike in other areas of study, an ancient historical figure like Plato is just as relevant today.

You hear this quite often. There is, among some scientists, a real anti-philosophical bias. The sense that philosophy will eventually disappear. We incorporate philosophical progress into our own way of viewing the world. Plato would be constantly surprised by what we know. And not only what we know scientifically, or by our technology, but what we know ethically.

We take a lot for granted. That would never have occurred to him.


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He makes an argument in The Republic that you need to treat all Greeks in the same way. It never occurs to him that you would treat barbarians non-Greeks the same way. And it takes more, it takes a movement, and activism, and emotions, to affect real social change. It starts with an argument, but then it becomes obvious. The arguments against slavery, against cruel and unusual punishment, against unjust wars, against treating children cruelly—these all took arguments. Which philosophical arguments have you seen shifting our national conversation, changing what we once thought was obvious?

About 30 years ago, the philosopher Peter Singer started to argue about the way animals are treated in our factory farms. Everybody thought he was nuts. It has to become emotional. You have to draw empathy into it. But here it is, right in our time—a philosopher making the argument, everyone dismissing it, but then people start discussing it. This is what we have to teach our children. Even things that go against their intuition they need to take seriously. We are very inertial creatures.

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And certainly the people in power never want to wonder whether they should hold power. So it really takes hard, hard work to overcome that. My style is such that that happens very rarely. The more they challenge me, the more successful I feel as a teacher.

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It has to be very active. Plato used the metaphor that in teaching philosophy, there needs to be a fire in the teacher, and the sheer heat will help the fire grow in the student. A good philosophy professor needs to be very aware of the different personalities in her class.

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They needed a lot of handholding. Some came from very religious backgrounds, and just the questioning sent them into a free-fall. We made our way through. Some of them ended up being my strongest students. Two of them are very successful professional philosophers.

Why Study Philosophy? 'To Challenge Your Own Point of View' - The Atlantic

But they required a lot of extra time because they felt it so deeply. And when you see that the ground is not very firm, it can distance you from your own family, your upbringing. I went through this. My own philosophical journey distanced me from my family, the people I loved most. I have taken the challenge and thrown caution to the wind to go after the calling on my life. This season is one of preparation, a spiritual boot camp if you will. Am I crazy? There are certain prayers I say to get me through the day, and minute sometimes.

Let me share them with you for one of your days…. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. God, give me the strength for this. No weapon formed against me shall prosper. God what you started you will finish. Protect me, shield me, guide me. You are my co-founder Jesus.

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You started this ministry through me and I need you to take on this project, this funding, this, this, this. Give me discernment Holy Spirit to follow your strategic plan. I have the spirit of self control and the fruit of kindness.