Philosophy. High school requirement in France: à quoi bon?

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Philosophy. High school requirement in France: à quoi bon?

Postby johann » Mon Apr 07, 2014 11:58 pm

* à quoi bon? = Is it any use? What good is it?

I just learned that philosophy is a required - not optional - subject in the French High School curriculum. My first reaction was admiration; then my native mistrust and cynicism came back. What do the members think? Does the widespread teaching of philosophy at the secondary level really have any pragmatic benefit - besides laying the groundwork for making a few more scholars, who then go on to teach philosophy?

De-construct, if you will, the state of post-Derrida and post-Foucault France - admittedly no worse, but not much better than its (mostly) beleaguered neighbours e.g. Spain. Perhaps philosophy might enable the French to react to these bad times with more equanimity - a Gallic shrug or even stoicism, perhaps? Not much chance! Unrest, demonstrations - the whole nine yards, not that I'm saying it's all unjustified. Philosophy just doesn't seem to make things better -- but has it, ever?

Greece is a beggar-nation, with a dire financial prognosis. It's also the cradle of Western philosophy - a discipline of questions for the past 2,500 years. So far, I feel it has yet to answer many or most of its questions from Day 1.

One benefit, certainly. Learning philosophy is a vocabulary builder, par excellence. Study it and you'll talk a better game... but maybe that's as good as it gets. I'm glad science isn't in the same fragmented, speculative state, or we'd have phlogiston-theorists and alchemists arguing why a nuclear bomb -- oops, I mean power-plant, could never be built.

It's easy to say "philosophy is good because it'll teach you how to think." No it won't - any more than reading Art History books will make you a painter.

Anybody?

Johann
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Re: Philosophy. High school requirement in France: à quoi bo

Postby hierophant » Sun Dec 27, 2015 4:27 pm

johann wrote:
I just learned that philosophy is a required - not optional - subject in the French High School curriculum. My first reaction was admiration; then my native mistrust and cynicism came back.


Skepticism is a philosophical attitude, I'd say.

What do the members think? Does the widespread teaching of philosophy at the secondary level really have any pragmatic benefit - besides laying the groundwork for making a few more scholars, who then go on to teach philosophy?


As a philosophy graduate, I'd say 'yes', of course it has pragmatic benefits.

At the very least, philosophy trains students to ask questions, to try to clarify and better understand the fundamental concepts and presuppositions that most people use unthinkingly. What is 'truth' and how might it be known? What are 'causes' and how can people, including scientists, recognize them? What are 'justice', 'right', 'wrong' and 'democracy'? What does 'liberalism' mean? Is there such a thing as 'the scientific method'? What are 'laws of nature'? Even if students don't arrive at final answers to these kind of questions, they start to appreciate the difficulties lurking within many of our seeming certainties.

Philosophy is usually where logic is taught, particularly informal logic and how to spot fallacious patterns of reasoning. Here in the United States, universities often require beginning undergraduates to take a 'critical thinking' class, which is often basically a class in informal logic taught by the philosophers.

The history of philosophy is useful too, since it informs students about the intellectual history that gave rise to modern assumptions, providing modern ideas with their necessary context.

And philosophy classes typically require lots of expository writing, assignments in which students must learn to focus and organize their thoughts and produce cogent arguments.

De-construct, if you will, the state of post-Derrida and post-Foucault France


That's a problem. Philosophy in France is currently something of a disaster area, dominated by quasi-literary social alienation more than by the kind of intellectual analysis that I just described. So I'll say that while it would probably benefit secondary students to learn some philosophy, I'm not convinced that learning French philosophy would be of very much help to them.

Philosophy just doesn't seem to make things better -- but has it, ever?


Intellectual curiosity and the philosophizing that arises from constantly asking questions is natural and unavoidable for everyone whose intellectual awareness and concerns extend beyond creature comforts and making money.
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