The Point and Selection of Readings in Introductory Philosophy Courses


“What role should readings play at the lower undergraduate level in a philosophy class?”

That question was sent in by a reader, who explains the motivation for the question:

During my own undergraduate years, I did readings for some classes and not others. I never found readings especially helpful in understanding lectures. In fact, I usually have to use what I learned in lecture to understand what I read (that is, I can only understand something if I read after class rather than before). I remember a lot of what I learned in class, and not at all what I read, except how it was really hard to not fall asleep while I mindlessly turned the pages. Granted, my case might not be general: I might’ve had a different learning style than others; I might’ve had profs who were especially good at lecturing and bad at assigning readings, etc. So, my question is: what should the act of reading accomplish in intro-level philosophy classes?

We could add to the inquiry: how does your view of the role and aims of readings affect which readings you have your students do, how much reading you assign, what reading-related work you ask students to do, and so on.

Book sculpture by Su Blackwell

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