Saturday, January 27, 2007

More on the Philosophy Department

Undergraduate philosophy papers aren't supposed to be particularly politically correct. Graders don't mark you down if you use words like 'mankind,' in my experience. They are more concerned with the way your argument plays out, whether the premises are correct and the conclusion follows from the premises, whether its valid, etc. However, you have to be very careful when writing a philosophical paper on identity and use number-neutral, rather than gender-neutral, language. For example: instead of saying 'the identity of this one is the same as that one,' you say: 'f is g, and f's being g consists in...and is indicated by...' Etc. You also can't use words like 'soul' or 'person,' until you've established what identity is and how it relates to the soul. So. Yes. I was told to use number-neutral language, rather than gender-neutral language. Heeeh!

Also, remember what I said about people being honest in the philosophy department? In a class that has to do with epistemology, Berkeley was brought up along with his notion that God perceives everything and so, when one leaves the room, the things perceived remain in being. A student raised his hand and asked "In this atheistic...or agnostic era, do eminent philosophers still...believe in God?" The answer the professor gave ran along the lines of "Yes, but I think there is pressure on theistic philosophers to hide their beliefs. If you read them, you get the idea that God plays a very small part - but actually, He's [Notice the 'He'] really big in the background."

Another student raised her hand. "Do you think they (theistic philosophers) are trying to hide their arguments because they realize they are seriously flawed?"

The professor responded emphatically: "No. Actually, their arguments are quite compelling. I've sat down in bars with some of these creationists and chatted late into the night - these are highly intelligent people and they know what they're doing...I've gone to conferences at Notre Dame thinking I would hear one thing, and heard something completely different. Sometimes I wish I didn't know so much about God...There is just pressure on them to not mention God, and I think that's a bad thing. It would be a lot more productive if we were actually honest and said what we meant. But don't worry - we'll come back to God later in the class. God will come back."

...I like this professor.

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