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The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 2, 1998

American Philosophy

Richard A. Beauchamp
Pages 8-12

Peirce, Thirdness and Pedagogy
Reforming the Paideia

This paper shows how my introductory courses in philosophy were "reformed" by adopting the Peircean notion, as interpreted by Royce, of "community of interpretation." The paper has three main parts. The first sets forth the Peircean/Roycean notion of personhood as active membership in a community of interpretation. T he second spells out the implications of this idea for a theory of pedagogy, one that gives precedence to activities that promote "induction into" the community of interpretation over "introduction to" the subject matter. The third enumerates the specific technique that I adopted to implement the new pedagogical understanding. As a guiding principle for a philosophy of education, the community of interpretation offers specific criteria by which to judge the adequacy of the way a course is structured and presented in the syllabus, how classes are conducted, and how students are tested. The paper tells how the guiding concept is shared with the students in the syllabus to create a common understanding of what a philosophy class should be, and what is expected of them. The community of interpretation implies that lectures be minimized and that dialogue be maximized, requiring a constant discipline of exploring the intersection of concerns between students and major philosophers in the tradition. Finally, testing must become occasions for interpretation rather than mere recall of information about philosophers and their ideas. The pedagogical discipline entailed by the notion of a community of interpretation is judged to be the best way for students to discover and nurture their own autonomous philosophical voices.

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