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Teaching Philosophy

Volume 40, Issue 3, September 2017

Anne Burkard
Pages 297-322
DOI: 10.5840/teachphil2017101773

Everyone Just Has Their Own Opinion
Assessing Strategies for Reacting to Students’ Scepticism about Philosophy

This article discusses strategies for responding to students’ metaphilosophical scepticism. It includes responses to a survey which asked philosophy teachers about their experiences with various forms of scepticism in their classrooms. In specifying the phenomenon, I point out features which often characterise introductory philosophy courses both in secondary schools and at the university level. I argue that these features make student scepticism particularly challenging. Secondly, I describe a central objective of doing philosophy, and highlight three basic pedagogical principles. I argue that this objective and these principles should function as criteria for assessing strategies which teachers might adopt in reaction to metaphilosophical scepticism. Thirdly, I discuss several such strategies with reference to the proposed principles and the features which are characteristic of introductory courses. I argue that especially strategies which encourage students to philosophise themselves are recommendable. Furthermore, I point out some opportunities which student scepticism offers for enriching classroom discussions and for deepening students’ understanding of philosophy.