I am passionate about teaching philosophy to a diverse community of learners because our discipline is the best framework to ask ultimate questions about life, humans, the world, about our future, our beliefs and our desires. Learners of philosophy in my classes also inquire the possible answers and create new ways of analyzing, thinking, arguing, and grounding existing knowledge. At the beginning of my classes I present philosophy as an art of ‘thinking about thinking’. I also emphasize that philosophy is a reflection about ‘good life’ and ways to make the world a better place. Philosophy opens our minds to reflect about the best ways of reasoning, living, and acting. When I teach philosophy of science, I emphasize that philosophy is the foundation upon which for many other disciplines: law, psychology, natural sciences, social sciences, etc. are built. It essentially shapes our ideas of freedom, individual choice, and social responsibility. Operating at a deeper level, its results are not always obvious and it rarely, if ever, provides definite answers. A robust instruction in philosophy enhances cultural and social progress of individuals, as well as of communities.
Philosophy, humanities and the Liberal Arts in the 21st century
Given all these amazing advantages of philosophy, what can be more important to the intellectual progress of a student in the 21st century, than liberal arts and especially philosophy? These domains aim to create human excellence. Philosophy teaches us how to excel on a personal level and on a communal, social or political level. We are all lifelong learners: teachers in the liberal arts departments and philosophers in particular are able to convey the idea of continuous learning. We teach students to take risks and to deal with the uncertainty of life. In many ways philosophy enriches sciences and the arts, but the most important one is by building bridges, but connecting ideas and theories beyond disciplinary boundaries. This is ultimately the best form of creativity: connecting the dots from different area and create a larger, more inclusive framework of thinking. We all realize that teaching philosophy in this new decade is not easy. The demographics, the expectations, the outcome and the landscape are constantly changing. I have the experience of teaching in diverse environments in the USA, UK, and Romania. In my experience, the key is to critically engage all students’ own beliefs into the process of learning. In teaching I endeavor to fulfill these ideals: active participatory learning, engaging all students irrespective of their background, constructive skepticism, and intellectual humbleness. Philosophy is a broad topic: courses in philosophy should be communal and dialectical to a greater extent than those in other disciplines. Personalized and active interaction with students are keys to success in my classes. The interaction during lectures, tutorials, seminars or office hours is irreplaceable: first generation college students need a special accommodation and attention. I set high standards of academic conduct and clearly state expectations in the syllabus: there is no room for plagiarism and mediocrity. The ultimate accomplishments of a class are the lifetime gain from learning and social and intellectual experience of the class, and not grades. Encouraging initiative, creativity and individual interpretation should prevail over grades, rules and requirements. Students can excel only in an atmosphere of unvarying respect and trust in which merit and value reign.