I graduated college not too too long ago and have missed the intellectual discussions I used to have there. Someone alerted me to this site, and it has done more than anything else to bring back the good memories. Thanks to all of you for spending your time on this - it's like having a mini personalized philosophy class - and it's free!
I was intrigued by the recent question about philosophy and improving students' characters (posted Sept. 9), responded to by Professor Louise Antony and was wondering if that discussion could be continued a little.
In particular, I was unclear on whether Professor Antony was positioning herself as disagreeing with the questioner. Is she saying that it is not philosophy's purpose to improve character, or just that it is un-PC for a professor to state it as a goal of the course? Would, for example, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., (or Socrates, as I think was the example used by the questioner) be considered presumptuous? It was my understanding that writers and philosophers (and artists and engineers), at least the well-intentioned ones, are trying to improve the world. Surely that's not presumptuous of them...So I'm a little unclear as to what Professor Antony meant on that particular point.
Secondly, when I went to college many students were disaffected and spent their time in wild parties engaged in all kinds of (I hope this isn't presumptuous of me) immoral and often illegal behavior. And it was a highly ranked college as well! And this wasn't the minority of students either - I'd say it was rather the majority. Is it presumptuous to intervene here, as a professor? I would think that professors of philosophy would be best positioned to intervene here to persuade the disaffected students of the lack of wisdom of their behavior, not just in a practical sense, but in a philosophical and moral sense. I am completely in agreement with Professor Antony that issues such as oppression of women by organized religion are serious, world-affecting issues that everyone (!) should be aware of, but the issues of date rape, hazing, and general alienation that abound in college aged students seem like equally important issues and ones that, perhaps, hit closer to home. I don't understand what is holding those issues back from being discussed in the classroom.