Mandatory Philosophy Instruction

The_Nantucket_School_of_Philosophy__1887I just saw someone make a comment online that high schools should have philosophy in their curriculum, and that it would increase standardized test scores.

I used to think that philosophy was all sophistry and dumb thought experiments, and didn’t pay it much attention. I think it was because I resented a field that 1) I didn’t understand at the time, 2) had such an esoteric language that it seemed impenetrable, and 3) was full of people that seemed very, very full of themselves. However, University of Kentucky required a symbolic logic class to all undergraduates, and that class went over logical fallacies, symbolic logic, and basic philosophy. I have to say that in hindsight that was one of the hardest, yet most important classes I ever took. It really did improve the way I thought about arguments, the way I engaged in discourse, and the way I viewed my own ability to think. It caused me to re-evaluate the assumptions I used to navigate the world. It also drove me to really pursue philosophy due to the realization that there’s no getting around it. They say that “If you say you’re not doing philosophy, you’re probably just doing it poorly,” and that is so true.

It especially made a difference when I started to study the theories behind psychology.  I had such a hard time trying to study consciousness from a purely Dennettian-type materialism (that seems to under-gird a lot of modern psychological theory).  It just didn’t work for me, and it was hard to deal with psychology without a real working theory of consciousness (Aristotle and Aquinas made this much easier for me).

The other cool thing about knowing a little philosophy is that it becomes easier to spot the overbearing people online who look like they know a lot but are really just bullies.

I don’t claim to be a philosopher or an expert or anything like that. In fact, the deeper I get in philosophy, the more I realize that I’m pretty much an idiot (my friends might note the marked decrease in online arguments I’ve gotten into since, say, 2006). But even a little formal training in logic and philosophy went a long, long way for me. I would totally support mandatory basic philosophy instruction for people in every field, and even in high school.

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