Ideas for the First Day of Philosophy Class

Many universities start their fall semesters around now, so it’s a good a time—though not as good a time as last week—to ask: “what do you like to do on your first day of philosophy class?” 

If there’s an approach you like to take to organizing the first course meeting or a particular lesson or exercise you like to do on the first day please share it. Of particular interest would be what you say to your introductory level students whom you suspect don’t know what philosophy is.

I typically don’t go over the syllabus until at least halfway through the first day’s meeting. Rather, I start the class by talking through a problem or puzzle with the students, and letting them take a try at it.

Here’s one, which comes in the form of a joke:

Two friends, Sam and Terry, are walking down the street when they are surprised by a mugger. He whips out a gun and says, “give me all your money.” The two of them reluctantly take out their wallets. As they’re about to relinquish them, Sam pulls out a twenty dollar bill and hands it to Terry, saying “oh, here’s the twenty bucks I owe you.”

Ha ha ha hmmm. I didn’t say it was a great joke.

So… the main question is whether Sam has paid back Terry. Getting the students to articulate a principle that explains why or why not, and which also gets us what seem to be the right answers in other cases, is trickier than they think it will be.

In any event, good luck out there, teachers, and have fun!

First Day of School sign 3

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