Exploring Subjectivity in Teaching Philosophy

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Exploring Subjectivity in Teaching Philosophy ABSTRACT: In the teaching of philosophy, we need to be connect with everyday life. Students in introductory courses can be more motivated when philosophical problems have personal significance. Take the topic of 'selfhood.' Introductory textbooks generally begin with the oracle at Delphi: "Know thyself!" But this motto is usually treated as the search for general knowledge of the individual or of human nature. Is it possible for a student to acquire some knowledge about him or herself during this course and reflect on it in a philosophically relevant way? Can personal experience help in understanding philosophical concepts such as this one? These are the questions which I address. Since I think that philosophers have yet to develop didactical tools for these purposes, I will present techniques derived from Gestalt therapy which can be useful for the teaching of philosophy. The aim is not change but experience itself, with awareness serving as the basis for philosophical analysis. The characteristics of this experience-based pedagogy are: (1) three dimensional inquiry: questioning basic concepts or assumptions and opening new questions, both based on personal experience; (2) experiential work involving a problem, a theory, and an example; and (3) mutual influence between theory and experience, i.e., an interrelationship between the personal and the 'educational' gestalt. "Know Thyself!" This oracle at Delphi which was Socrates' motto inspires many philosophers but also psychologists and even psychotherapists. Each of them has good reasons for insisting that this is his domain. Several questions could be raised: Was Socrates a philosopher or a 'psychologist'? What kind of knowledge is this self-knowledge? How do these domains differ and do they have something in common? How are they related to spirituality? And many others. My interest, however, is more narrow. Although we can suppose there is an overlap between philosophy, psychology and psychotherapy, in this paper I will focus on the overlap between teaching philosophy and psychotherapy. More precisely: how can Gestalt principles and techniques help in the teaching of the topic of selfhood. I will outline some theoretical background of the importance of Gestalt in relation to didactics of philosophy and describe some possible applications. When I ask whether Socrates was a philosopher or a psychologist, this is also a question about what kind of knowledge is involved. Do I really want to know myself or do I just search for general knowledge about human nature?
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