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Teaching Philosophy

Volume 21, Issue 1, March 1998

Michael Pinholster
Pages 1-14

Making it Matter
Socrates, Heidegger, and Introductory Philosophy

This paper offers suggestions on teaching a difficult author to lower-level philosophy students and also explicates an introductory philosophy class designed to communicate the ground of the philosophical vocation while making philosophy relevant to students. The strategy discussed in this paper is to thematize a “philosophical attitude” by first examining Socrates’ claims about his own ignorance and relating these to his insistence that practicing philosophy is the key to the highest human happiness and living well. Then, after reading Heidegger on “being-towards-death,” comparisons are drawn to Heidegger’s claims that philosophy must structure its inquiries on the basis of finitude and that taking one’s own death seriously is paramount for freedom. After detailing lesson plans for these points and explicating several difficult concepts in Heidegger, the author argues that Heidegger’s discussions of finitude and authenticity are highly relevant to students and that teaching him together with Socrates provides a comprehensible picture of the philosophical vocation as a commitment to “the fully finite process of questioning.”

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