I have the questions for all of your answers

Years ago (gosh, at least ten years, how shocking to realise), I ended up moderating a public Philosophy forum.  It’s long gone now but I am still friends with many of my fellow moderators including the wonderful Andrew Jeffrey, who really has not done much with his Academia.edu profile!  Everybody who used the forum had a user name (typically not our ‘real’ names), and we were able to add a tagline which would be appended to all of our posts.  My handle was Diotima and my tagline was “We are not thinking frogs”,1 which is from Nietzsche’s Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft (not meaning to be pretentious, but the best English translation of  this as The Gay Science just doesn’t do it for me); Andy’s handle was Didymus and his tagline was “I have the questions for all of your answers”, which I believe is an original thought, not a quotation.

Anyway, when Dave Cormier asked me in the unhangout last Thursday how we could teach uncertainty I was reminded of Andy’s tagline and I cheatingly stole it (well, I acknowledged that it had come from a friend, so thanks, Andy!).  For me that is an interesting type of uncertainty – I don’t think that I’m a post-anything type of philosopher but I never know what I’ll be inspired to think about next, or end up doing as a job, and it’s that sort of uncertainty that can be unsettling but is also exciting.  I also think, given the uncertainty of life in general, that this is an important life skill to teach our students.  There’s a lot of emphasis put on employability and graduate attributes at the University of Glasgow, and I don’t think we’re unusual in this.  However, one comment that has stayed with me over the years is one made by Katie Grant.  As she pointed out the real skills that she had learnt were not the ones that made her employable, but the ones that helped her to cope during her periods of unemployment.  So true.

1. I love frogs. I  grew up in the Peak District in a village called Froggatt, and it began there.

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7 Responses to I have the questions for all of your answers

  1. francesbell says:

    Great post Sarah. I would have been sweating and lurking on that forum. I wonder if the skills Katie learned when unemployed would also have been helpful in stressful periods of employment.
    Love Froggatt Edge – let me share my frog story. We have loads of frogs in our garden. 2 years ago (after the mating season and after we had carefully piped all tadpoles to second pond) we filled in a pond near the house and built patio next to where it had been. Last year, come the mating season, the frogs came in force as usual and looked as though they would spawn in puddles on new patio. I had visions of me transporting spawn but fortunately they sorted themselves out, and the double decker frogs made it to Pond no 2 -phew!

  2. Aaron says:

    I took a class with Wendell Kisner (http://mais.athabascau.ca/faculty/wkisner/) when I returned to school and it was essentially readings in philosophy and critical theory though I didn’t know it when I signed up – my undergraduate philosophy courses had been dreadful so I’d have never taken it, but Wendell’s whole thing was about asking good questions – he had the class take turns writing responses (an answer) to the readings and then everyone else had to ask “a good question.” Which raised lots of discussions about what a good question was. It was one of the most exciting courses I’d ever taken, and sustained me through the next one, which was one of those horrific education and research theory as labelling exercises courses.

  3. Thank you, Frances. Well, I was more certain of my ability and knowledge when I was younger!

    I envy you having frogs, we have none at present. One day we’ll make space for a pond, I hope.

    • francesbell says:

      if, in the future, you want any frog spawn you know where to come).
      I am getting less and less certain of my ability and knowledge – it’s a blessing and a problem;)

  4. I loved that quote from the Hangout. Perfect title for your blog. I also loved the fact that you had to keep wiping the beer mustache off your lip! But what was priceless was your answer to Dave Cormier’s question — how do you teach uncertainty?. Absolutely deadpan, you responded, I am a philosophy teacher…….When I was a freshman in college, they were trying out a new idea by having us enroll in the seminar of our choice. The idea was to take the incoming class and break us into smaller groups. Of course, I chose “Is God Dead?” and the Professor himself must have been an incarnation of Nietzsche. Thank you for your post.

  5. Hank you Cathleen. That unhangout was fun, if scary! I love the “God is dead” passage, so powerful. 🙂

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