The Faith of a Liberal: Selected Essays by Morris R. Cohen

By Morris R. Cohen | Go to book overview

34
ON TEACHING PHILOSOPHY

THE PROBLEM for discussion at this meeting is not only one of serious importance for the teacher of philosophy but also one that touches more or less directly the problem of the nature of liberal civilization. I am not ready to offer a set of definitive answers to the issues thus raised. Perhaps a few indications of the course of my own limited experience may be suggestive and helpful to others dealing with the problems under discussion.

During the years when I was employed in teaching elementary mathematics, I often asked Professor Woodbridge to lend his influence towards having the American Philosophical Association devote a special meeting to the problems of the teaching of philosophy, its aims and methods; but he always put me off with the remark that the business of philosophy is to philosophize and that the problems of teaching should be left to the pedagogues. Woodbridge called himself a traditionalist, and I attributed his attitude to his unwillingness to change any feature of the traditional program of the American Philosophical Association.

I confess that at first I was inclined to accept his attitude. The word "pedagogue" carried the suggestion of low intellectual virility. With a few notable exceptions that could be counted on one's fingers, I knew of no pedagogues who belonged in the forefront of philosophy. Moreover, I could not share the popular faith in the omnipotence of education. The idea that all

____________________
A paper read at a meeting of the New York Philosophy Club, October 1943, as part of a symposium on the teaching of philosophy.

-292-

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