About the Project

Most people see philosophy as irrelevant and silly (wondering about stuff that hardly makes sense, like how many angels can dance on the head of a pin) or irrelevant and impossibly difficult (because they actually expect you to find an answer to those silly questions.)  The aim of this course was to show my students that philosophy is not irrelevant, and that being an (amateur) philosopher can help you understand and deal with life better, by being a more thoughtful and reflective person.

In this course, I gave my students the opportunity to address one of those important life-issues they thought needs dealing with by having them write an open letter to someone.  At the end of the course, we actually mailed that letter to that person (or people), and posted it on this website for anyone else to read.  What can writing a letter do, to change important and difficult problems?  That’s something I hope we find out here, but part of what it’s already done is change my students and the people reading it (you!), by helping you understand the issue better.

Did my students actually use philosophy in a (gasp!) practical way?  Read some letters, and find out.  Maybe, maybe not… (of course, this isn’t a controlled experiment, so the question is likely unanswerable.  Ah, philosophy.)  I don’t grade the letters – I don’t want them artificially written – so there’s a reason you don’t see explicit philosophy in them.  (I just require they write a letter, properly formatted, to pass the course.  I don’t restrict the content.)

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Susan Lottermann  |  April 30, 2014 at 10:38 am

    I stumbled upon the letter that a former student had written on a particularly bad day; a day when I was actually questioning my effectiveness as a teacher. It touched me and gave me the strength to continue on – so if philosophy and fate collided, they did on this particular day because it gave me that little push to forge on.

    Reply

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