How Philosophy Changed Your Students’ Minds

How Philosophy Changed Your Students’ Minds


Jennifer Baker (College of Charleston) asked the students in her introductory philosophy course to report (anonymously) “ideas of theirs that changed after studying some philosophy.” I think this is a great idea for learning what kinds of topics and readings make an impact on the students’ thinking, which can be of use in both planning and pitching philosophy courses. Have you done this in your courses, and if so, what were some of the responses?

Professor Baker was kind enough to share the changes her students reported:

1. My notion of beauty really changed after this class. I was misusing the term because it is so commonly used in casual conversation.
2. I changed my mind about Camus.
3. Stoicism because that is the way I would like to live my life in the future. I would like to be carefree and not worry about material things.
4. Before this class I tried to be optimistic about things that would happen. After learning about the Stoics, I found it easier to tell myself things could go wrong.
5. I feel like after reading Peter Singer I starting being more aware of animals. I stopped eating meat for now.
6. Studying metaphysics made me realize not to take everything at face value and that there are still things to be discovered.
7. What changed my mind was Aristotle’s view on actions, it changed my mind about addicts.
8. It’s fun to apply Aristotle to everyday life. I think about him when I take an “action.”
9. RACISM! More philosophers need to approach this.
10. I never knew anything about philosophy so it all changed.
11. I learned a lot about ourselves in “the google” era from social epistemology.
12. The Stoics. I should be content with what I have.
13. To not just follow a normal pattern but to think about what I am doing. To not just be a robot.
14. Every day we go to class there is something we talk about that applies to my life and helps me change my views.
15. That we could be in a matrix. I loved that.
16. Before class I believed that nothing was divine. Now, I agree with Plato and Broadie that there has to be some type of divine power in the core elements of the world.
17. Nothing really changed my mind, I am a Christian and all of that stayed intact. I enjoyed it though.
18. Every single philosopher from Yancy on racism (I now fully understand and agree with his angle) to what Plato was doing, to Rawls, to Goldman. They all opened my mind and gave me thoughts I never had.
19. Before this class I feared death because I never experienced it first-hand (no close family member or anything). Now, since I have decided to take on a more stoic mindset, I think I am more prepared for death and how I should handle it.
20. I liked Yancy’s piece because it got me thinking outside my whiteness.
21. I loved the deep discussion over the Matrix. I never changed my mind due to Yancy.
22. I enjoyed thinking about the metaphysics of the afterlife.
23. I realized my upbringing was loosely stoic, never talking about yourself and hard work was continually stressed.
24. I always had trouble thinking like someone else and in this case like Yancy. His argument baffled me until I realized as a white person I may never have felt the same as a black person in my life. How do I know that we all see things the same way?
25. Yancy’s views on racism changed mine.
26. Nothing really changed my mind but the class pushed me towards new ways of thinking. For example thinking about the matrix. That was cool.
27. Simpson’s article on google changed my mind about search engines on the internet, I am actually less skeptical now.
28. Aristotle’s writings have changed the way I look at the decision-making of myself of others. By thinking back to find and understand the reasoning behind the decisions people make and whether they are voluntary, mixed or a choice, I find myself more easily accepting the actions of others.

(image: detail from “Monarch, Double Helix ” by Rafael Araujo)

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