Tips for Intro to Philosophy Students

I sent these tips to my section students, but I think they apply pretty generally.

The readings and lectures give you a great opportunity to take in new ideas. The discussion sections and writing assignments give you the opportunity to try out your ideas. Often, ideas turn out to be harder than expected to put into words. That’s fine. A lot of what we’re doing is practicing the process of putting thoughts into words.

On that point, I suggest being adventurous in discussion. Explore different positions. Take positions. Don’t be afraid to change. Many of the questions we’ll be exploring are difficult to feel very confident in your answers. Nonetheless, taking some position may help you gain more from discussions.

Finally, simplicity and slowness both have plenty of uses in philosophy. Really break things down and work through things slowly so you can clearly see each move being made.

Some media is better than other media

This article is excellent. I don’t agree with everything in it, but I think it has two very good and important points:
1. If you give up on things like value judgements and expertise, you lose almost all ground you have to say much with oomph. Some things are better than some other things. Aesthetically as well as politically. Media created with nuance and skill is better than kitsch and propaganda. People who spend a lot of time studying a thing do tend to know better than most about that thing. “Elitism” has become such a bad word that we’ve forgotten that it is better to be better.
2. Texts (and other works, but usually texts) that are difficult and slow, but rewarding, to work through have benefits over fast and easy media. Simple messages are easy to use as rallying cries. For good or bad causes. If something takes no thought to consume, then it usually won’t get much thought in its consumption. This isn’t to say that writing in such a way that is needlessly difficult to understand is a good thing, but works that reward reading slowly and rereading and analysizing are better.