Critical Thinking and the Duties of Philosophers as Ethics Teachers

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Teachers of philosophy in universities, colleges, and public schools worldwide are committed to teaching students to think critically about their most fundamental beliefs. However, since the time of Socrates this commitment has been shadowed by a nagging worry, particularly among philosophers interested in education: that young people will use their newly-acquired critical thinking skills destructively. I consider how teachers in the contemporary classroom should understand their duties and goals with regard to teaching students to think critically about their moral beliefs. At first glance, our general educational duties seem clear. As educators, we strive to enable students to participate well in democracies and to live their lives well. However, determining how these general goals inform more specific ones within the particular context of the university classroom is difficult. I propose that a useful framework for considering this is considering how our potential goals are constrained by professional and moral duties.


Keywords: Ethics, Critical Thinking, Reason, Morality, Socrates
Stream: Curriculum and Pedagogy; Student Learning, Learner Experiences, Learner Diversity
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Sarah Lublink Daley

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Philosophy, The University of Western Ontario
London, Ontario, Canada

I am currently working on my dissertation entitled “Critical Thinking, Indoctrination, and the Duties of Philosophers as Ethics Teachers.” In it I consider how ethics may be taught in a morally justifiable way. Specifically, I consider how philosophers, historical and contemporary, have considered the educational role of critical thinking about moral beliefs. This involves learning about individual experiences of teaching as well as the teaching methods employed by various practitioners and the goals they are intended to serve. Part of my research thus consists in traveling to meet with those teaching in varying contexts. My broader research interests include ethics and the practice of philosophy, political philosophy, especially issues of religious freedom and public reason, and epistemology, especially the relationship between faith and reason. My undergraduate work in philosophy was completed at York University, Canada, following a degree in theology taken at Tyndale University College, Canada.

Ref: L08P0297