The Purpose of Philosophy Class


It is not the purpose of a Philosophy class to transmit information or inculcate skills, however useful that may be.  It is to introduce students to the life of the mind, with all the characterological as well as intellectual changes that requires.  It is to welcome the young man or woman into a moral sphere in which argument, honesty, and a passion for ideas reign.  This is accomplished — it can only be accomplished — through the establishment and nurturing of a relationship between the teacher and the student….

There is, as Paul Goodman argued many decades ago, a strong erotic component to all great education.  The good teacher loves his or her students, in the way a parent loves his or her children (and also, needless to say, in the way a lover loves the beloved.)

You cannot communicate that in a MOOC.

Robert Paul Wolff thinks that “everything is liable to be lost, at least everything that counts as education,” when philosophy is taught as a massive open online course (MOOC). You can read the full post here. I wonder whether readers agree with his characterization of the purposes of a philosophy course, and whether they are indeed unattainable in a MOOC.

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