A philosophical problem has the form: “I don’t know my way about”. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, § 123
Philosophy makes my head hurt. It’s hard, and it makes me think, and it challenges me to justify my inchoate beliefs when I just want to relax and watch TV. It’s confusing, and it’s challenging, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. And sometimes it makes me, and my students, think about uncomfortable things.
I care about my students – I really do. I try to make my classes safe spaces for them to learn how to do philosophy. I structure and scaffold tutorials so that they can gain confidence in their abilities, and sometimes I leave the room so that they can talk without feeling so self-conscious. I try to make them feel comfortable practising philosophy, and learning to voice their philosophical opinions. But sometimes it is necessary to cause them mental discomfort – to get them to think through moral and political problems:
- Is eating meat murder?
- Is euthanasia morally permissible?
- How should we treat our criminals?
- Why do we have a Tory government (can we blow up Westminster)?
- And so forth.
And these issues are hard to think about.
We talked about this in our #moocmooc chat this week, and all but one of us were agreeing that discomfort was not a bad thing, and we were not sociopaths for (sometimes) trying to cause our students such feelings.
But sometimes I just want to switch off. I want to watch TV, play with my cats or do my knitting without a million pesky thoughts flying around in my head. As Wittgenstein says:
The real discovery is the one which enables me to stop doing philosophy when I want to. The one that gives philosophy peace, so that it is no longer tormented by questions which bring itself into question. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, § 133
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