Philosophy and Free Thought.

Is it possible to have a legitimate philosophy, One that addresses all the issues that have arisen, at least, in the Western tradition, without resorting to a list of names and their solutions. Can we have philosophy that doesn’t “teach to the test”?

Are there any free thinkers left?

Is it possible to confront philosophical issues without the name dropping and the predefined issues to their resolutions?

What exactly, outside of the analytical tradition, does teaching the name philosophers gain for a student?

In math, there is an obvious benefit to teaching. History; pretty much. Language; yup.

Analytical philosophy tends holds tight to methods and results and new thought within defined logical philosophical “laws”.

I would bet that given enough time, and intelligent and logical thinking, an individual would inevitably come upon the results that are taught. This is the reason for teaching: to bring the student up to speed.

But Hegel? Derrida? Wittgenstein ?

I’m not sure.

As well, I am not sure that upon certain reflection anyone would ever come across their ideas. So this begs the question as to the value of them. As well, then, appears to show that they might merely be creating the condition wherein their ideas have credence as a teachable product, over the inherent value of the ideas: teaching a distorted version of their value.

When we consider things in this light, I think we have to wonder just what that latter category of teaching is actually teaching.

The examples I would give are highly philosophical, so I can’t give any here right now (read my blog).

So, then; what do we do?

If it is merely critical thinking skill, I think we wouldn’t need those authors specifically; we have a huge library of authors who are less misunderstood to draw from to teach critical thinking.

I say this because the professors that taught me actually were — I gotta say — often way off in their assessment, so far as if one is allowed to think freely once being (supposedly) brought up to speed in them. It appears obvious to me that free thought actually locates how the teachers of many of the latter category of philosophers might actually be teaching a confinement of thought, and not the spirit of which such ideas they are supposedly teaching were written.

Any thoughts?


  1. The university education system isn’t designed to encourage free expression, debate, and thought. There is room for some critical thinking in papers, but testing is still the name of the game. Some philosophy textbooks are better than others (I am a teaching assistant for Philosophy 201 Introduction right now).

    I would LOVE if we even got to Hegel in our introductory courses, but we never get there. We stay mainly within an analytical framework, do the whole utilitarianism vs. Kant thing, talk about God. For me, they need to teach more continental philosophy at lower levels. Do we need to teach names for the sake of knowing them on the test? Of course not, but that’s all they can do really. Some students will bury themselves in it and get something out of it (probably the ones who major in it) others won’t- that’s my take

    1. That’s why I’m wondering if it would be a better, more accurate title for it to be simply “critical thinking”. Because I think the name philosophy has larger connotations then just simply being able to improve upon given arguments.

      But I wonder if that idea of the university has become so stringent and it’s ideal interpretation of knowledge. My history of consciousness professor which I deeply respected his views and ways of approaching things, he taught me a lot so far as my ignorance; years before I got there he headed an effort to remove Stop or redesign the psychology department because it was teaching what he considered to be a kind of “religion“ or particular type of spirituality. He succeeded and now there is only one class in psychology lower division that has to do with Jung and we read so dark that I have send a bunch other kind of those considerations, but the professor had to give the disclaimer before hand of what occurred historically and the reason why we need to keep to a certain, I guess, order of things or certain types of rules so the institution UCSC doesn’t come off as if it’s teaching some sort of religious doctrine.

      But it seems to me that in that kind of “liberalism“ it seems to be more and more attempting to teach a particular type of religious, when I call religious, order to thinking.

      Is it possible to present and yeh information without an agenda instilled in it? Idk.

      1. That’s particularly bizarre that your psychology department mainly taught Jung, because most psychology departments are completely scientifically experimentally based now. Pretty rigorous stuff.

        I think what the problem is one shouldn’t generalize too much, there is a difference between upper division PhD level philosophy and introduction to ethics courses. But you know, can you teach an ethics course without an agenda? I think so, unless you define that agenda as “teaching an ethics is valuable”. If you pretend in your class that you are just doing it for money, you have no stake in it, then why bother? Do you know what I mean? If anything, we instill in the students the idea “philosophy is valuable, it teaches critical thinking, yadda yadda”. But I do wonder…there is more to your question than meets the eye at first. As an anecdote, we are teaching students about human nature, and I really tried to impress on my students that basically Hobbes is wrong, he drastically oversimplifies things, that most modern philosophers think the same thing, etc. And regardless, most of the students wrote papers praising Hobbes because…well arguing that humans are naturally selfish in their papers is basically easier. What they actually believe and what they taught how to do, in terms of actually writing…like, in my mind, I’ve grown to appreciate teaching writing a lot more, because it doesn’t matter if you are a genius and you are illiterate nowadays. So yea, its kind of a cop out to call it philosophy at that lower level if you are being completely honest with yourself, but they aren’t writing theses you know? Ultimately, are they learning anything conceptually they don’t already know? I’d like to think we are exposing them to ideas in ethics they’ve never thought about before, and perhaps…someone’s *perspective* was changed. Is philosophy always about a hidden agenda? Well to my mind, each philosopher does have an agenda, a conceptual agenda. But at the university level, they aren’t partisan…except when they are. It’s all very confusing really. I think ultimately it depends on the professor what is taught and what isn’t, and it depends on the level of study. But it also depends on culture, academic culture. My ultimate point is…the way they teach philosophy in France or UK is probably superior. But, maybe the way its taught in the US has some merits too…its highly analytic, but I think that has its merits. But the problem is, they are already taught to think experimentally and empirically in science class. The real problem I think is…how, other than through an “empiricist” lens, are they able to a priori judge one idea vs. another? Without basically, “brainwashing” them?

      2. I did most of my lower division at UCSC in early 2000s. So what I’m talking about is what was occurring in the 80s and probably 90s. It’s not that the psychology department was teaching on the Jung, But, as my professor try to explain it I guess, and then also as I heard it from my undergraduate elective psychology class that I took (I was an anthropology major) was that the department as a whole was starting to teach psychology in a light that appeared to other disciplines as a religious or spiritual light. Maybe Maslow had a lot to do with it to maybe. You know kind a like inner journey kind of psychology.

        My history of consciousness professor, professor Gary Lease (deceased) was skeptical about this kind of teaching psychology, I think in his words the problem was “evidence”, he asked where is the evidence involved with this kind of spiritual growth kind of teaching psychology. Well it worked so at the time I was going to school I definitely saw myself through the eyes of say Joseph Campbell type psychology and mythology and philosophy and things like that. It was Professor lease that helped me gain a more objective view on what I might be understanding as history and consciousness and religion and spirituality and things like that. It didn’t knock out my view upon the world but it did allow me to see how my view might be rather small. I was not as hard-core as he was; lol

        So far as academia in general: The way I speak about things kind of goes back-and-forth so I’m not sure if you can take my view on things as reflecting one opinion. 😁

        That being said:

        I’ll use an analogy which kind of indicates perhaps how I came up with the notion of “two routes”:

        I played trumpet from when I was pretty little, all the way up through high school and then I majored in music in junior college.

        I liked jazz and I liked the idea of improvisation. I was pretty good trumpet player I could cite read really well I interpreted music decently well I was first chair in our orchestras and I was second chair in the jazz band because it’s the second chair who does most of the solos and improvising.

        But somehow in late high school I started realizing and then in junior college as a music major I started realizing that it was very difficult for me to improvise on a whim. Basically I would have to take the chord changes and a piece of music paper and I would have to work out through the cords what kind of solo that I would play and then I would basically trying to memorize what I wrote.

        When I started playing guitar it was a completely different story. I’m guitar I could pretty well adopt and play something cool to any sort of music that I was involved with.

        What I attribute this to facets of my music playing ability to was that in trumpet I was taught from an early age about music about structure about playing notes and stuff like that and so by the time I got into a level where they asked me to improvise it was already with in a structural idea of what music is; perhaps if I would’ve kept with it I would’ve been able to improvise through jazz changes quite well who knows.

        But my point is that I think the mode of school rides along the notion that we need to catch everyone up on where we are at, the methods were used, the ideas that of already been thought etc. so by the time we let a student go there pretty much already indoctrinated into a particular way of thinking about things, and whatever improvisation they have is already determined along the lines of what they’ve been taught has already occurred the proper methods etc.

        I don’t think creativity is the proper word because it such a loose definition that you can manipulate the idea of creativity novelty and it’s ration all over the place.

        But anyways that’s a general idea of where I’m coming from when I look at academics.

      3. Thats so funny I was in jazz band in high school and college too. I took jazz guitar lessons in college off and on. Guitar comes easier to me than what I played in regular band- clarinet, which I actually applied to a music school for but didn’t get in. Probably should’ve applied on guitar or something.

        My anthropology advisor liked to use improvisation analogies a lot when it comes to writing or giving a lecture. The thing about it is- you always have training, to be a good improviser, you always have to be trained, you know? To be able to think up something on the spot, you have to have hours and hours of practice under the belt, same thing with lecturing or whatnot. But it is possible to receive a training, academically or musically, that isn’t creative at all, so I definitely see what you mean.

        The fact that they taught Jung at all is pretty awesome, I bet it did inspire a lot of creativity in thinking. The idea that that kind of thing was criticized due to it being “indoctrinating” is kind of funny because when you are taught something, aren’t you always indoctrinated into something? As we bring up time and again, we have faith in science too. Because, seriously, even experimental psychology can go seriously horribly wrong. Take some of the things coming out of evolutionary psychology- horrible methodology, complete Western bias, reinforcing Hobbesian notions of self. Its all about ideology at the end of it, and if as a Freudian or Jungian you emphasize a more interpretive concept of the self, in my mind that is far more valuable. I deeply wish they still taught psychoanalysis in the psychology department, but those days are gone. Now we anthropologists have to pick up the pieces of our broken fragmented souls I think…philosophy too, but those analytics aren’t helping one bit!

      4. I supposed I am (as we all are) on my own learning curve. I will be getting my MA in counseling.
        I think I wrote a post a while ago feel like it could’ve been you I was responding to when we first met blogging met🙂.. and my idea was basically that when you consider philosophy you have to also consider what the person actually is involved with, for example Lacan was a psychiatrist. And it’s becoming more significant to me how
        Zizek frames himself last as a philosopher and more as a social critic, even a social media critic. Because other would be philosophers 10 to criticize him so far is his philosophy as if he was putting forth an actual philosophical discussion, Which probably prompted him to say or to realize of himself or something like that that he is more social critic, if you look at his history he’s always been interested in film and media expressions of society and the sout which probably prompted him to say or to realize of himself or something like that that he is more social critic, if you look at his history he’s always been interested in film and media expressions of society and the self.

        And I have come to term what we generalize as philosophy as “conventional philosophy” because of the manner they tend to approach things as a philosopher; to me they all seem to get about 85% of the way there, and it’s this last 15% that is on accounted for that tends to generalize much of what “philosophy“ as a discipline or the school might be as “conventional”.

        And so I’m beginning to formulate that perhaps what I consider philosophy is really, or perhaps can be better defined as “concerning what is occurring”, Whereas when someone is a titled Lettered philosopher, often it seems that they are more involved in something else or something more or something less than what is actually occurring. This is all good and well but it appears to me in the end that wwhat “hilosophy” (conventional) it’s really teaching is really doing is critical thinking, and perhaps that’s what constitutes the missing 15%, because critical thinking, so far is a critique upon everything that might be available leaves the vehicle or the mechanism of such critique out of the critique; and what is left out, basically what is completely unavailable to this kind of critical thinking method that we call philosophy as a discipline or an academic school, seems to me to be exactly “reason”, and this as if reason was the crowning achievement of everything that is able to be human.

        So I’m going to be a counselor. And so in so much is I might be talking about philosophy it might be more than I’m talking about the human being as an occurrence rather than a human being as the entirety of “reason”, and by this I might be able to bring into play, along with my anthropological education and manner of coming up on things, A philosophy that isn’t stuck in what is “reason”, Which might therefore be able to consider what is actually occurring in a larger sense that mere critical thinking often misses.

        Just some thoughts.

      5. …maybe that last 15% that conventional philosophy leaves open is that part that we get to fill in with how we apply it, from where we occupy what is occurring.

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