Thursday, February 10, 2005

Some further specifications to the instructions on making your portfolio

If you want to reflect things in peace, you can return the portfolio at the end of the fourth period. Some students have come up with great ideas: you can discuss the questions also with other people, some students discuss the questions with their spouses, some organize theme discussions in the coffee pauses of their offices. The results of these discussions are then added to the portfolio. Of course, the subject must also be studied on the basis of the philosophic sources. Discussion has an important role in philosophy. Therefore these ideas are a fine way to make up elements missing in distant learning.

The portfolio should be a formally whole and clean copy. It must contain some kind of a heading page, presentation of the contents, use of headings and a list of sources goes to this formula, your own creative variations are allowed, however. The size of the portfolio shoud be at least 12 net text pages plus other pages. A portfolio does not mean just answers to questions, but it needs to show your own thinking and learning in one way or another.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Instructions for making a portfolio

Making your Philosophy portfolio:
  1. You need to make an arrangement with me on the portfolio. Please contact me by phone, by email or by an appointment at the school. A phone message is no good for this purpose.
  2. Of all the twelve themes handled during the course there are 4-5 alternative questions. You will find them in the mimeographed copy (classified paper, not the one that was distributed to everybody for making the course exercise) OR you will find the questions by subjects in the web pages of the course. At all lessons there are some explanations and questions at the end (where I have not had time to write the explanations, there are the questions anyway). You choose one question, with which you study the subject. You should give the answer in your own way, but in a way that includes something that describes your knowledge, independent thinking and your learning. The format of your answer may be creative, but the contents are important.
  3. Acquaint yourself with the general instructions of the portfolio. You can add pictures, your notes or some other reference to the subject of the portfolio. The form of presentation may be paper or digital.
  4. Ask me immediately, if there is something you do not understand. Generally, email is the quickest way to reach me.
  5. In addition to the text book you are invited to use other sources. On course pages you will find a good list of sources and additional material in the web.
  6. Return the portfolio at the latest in the last test day or other day agreed upon with me.
  7. If you wish to pass the exam by making your own portfolio, there will be an additional oral test. The oral test is agreed after you have returned your work. You will get your total score after the oral test. You will find additional information on the composition of your score mark in the general instructions of the portfolio.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Making your own portfolio

A student who chose to make a portfolio, justified his choice in his email: ”Making a portfolio seems to be a challenging, but also reasonable task. You come to ponder your view of the world and exercise in addition to the writing of essays, also presenting your own thoughts on paper. Hopefully I succeeded satisfactorily.” This is the way you should put the idea and motivate yourself to learning from your own starting points. It is important to believe that you can actually make it. Read more in Instructions for making a portfolio.

Monday, January 31, 2005

”Must we know these philosophers in the test?”

”What’s the story: you know, since we do not study all these philosophers, must we know them in the test, anyway?”

Well, you’re going to have to memorize the whole book, but that’s a different test: that’s ’The admission test of the University of Helsinki. When I myself passed the most strenuous ritual of my university studies, I had to remember the caption of a picture on page x. I did! But I can’t remember it any more. Instead, I remember the principle involved and can still remember the idea of the admission test: ‘repeat, don’t think’. Those, however, who passed the exam, were afterwards also allowed to think and to apply.

My dream is that the final exam of my high school course in philosophy could be a meaningful event of learning for you and open a view to what and how you have learnt during this course. I consider your idea of what is aimed at the course particularly significant. Why do we study these things in the first place?

Philosophers tell and answer all in their own way. It pays to listen to them. But please be awake and doubt the need to learn by heart. Listen, ask, discuss. Seize the peculiarities. Ask! Try a different way to pass the exam: make your own portfolio or try the option of taking your book along to the exam.

Esa Saarinen’s New philosopy book has been published

Esa Saarinen urges to think and practise philosophy. The visual look (by Marjaana Virta) of the book published by WSOY does not appeal to everybody, but if you try letting go, if you follow the first pages of the book, you may find something new and good!

Listen what Esa Saarinen writes: “Somebody may take an interest to think, to think independently. To think in a different and surprising way. In his mind he combines things that he or she has used to consider separate. He or she sees a new unity, in the light of which some truths will be tuned in a new splendor. He or she is practising philosophy. “Any thinking is not bright philosophy, but why not? Have a look, and be astonished!

Sunday, January 30, 2005

”Is this a good book?”

A student remarked: ”I read about Descartes’ philosopy in ‘Sophia’s world’ and understood what it was all about.” I would say that understanding is relative, but I recommend my Norwegian colleague’s (teacher of philosophy and religion, now a free writer) Jostein Gaarder’s success book ‘Sophia’s world’ The book has been written for young readers, which does not dim the ideas presented in it. The best thing is that it opens philosophy for beginners. The cover story may not offer an immediate object of self recognition for an adult student (Sophia is 14 years old). Gaarder has the ability to concretize a number of philosophic concepts very clearly. Find the right attitude and read the book! The book is not a text book, but if Alberto makes you think along with Sophia, some excellent ideas may turn out. (Have a more critical look on the book at the heading link ‘niin&näin’)

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Passing the course on philosophy

Some students were worried about the test coming up. The idea of the test is not to measure the capacity to remember, because the aim of the course is not to memorize the contents of the book. The test measures the structures and versatility of thinking (knowledge is needed, too). The abilities that are tested can be proven otherwise as well. You can negotiate alternative ways for passing the exam. Yet most students take the final exam. An alternative is a portfolio and an oral exam. In the final exam you can also choose an alternative, where you can use the text book (you must make your choice in advance). Please contact me and present your wishes well in advance before the final exam.

The dualism of idealism and unreality of sensory data

Beneath a detail of the painting of Rafaello ‘Athenian school’ (1510-1511), Plato and Aristotle.

In the book ’ Filosofia Prima’ on page 34 you read: “From the point of view of the weltbild idealism ment a dualistic division to mobile world of senses and immobile world of reason and ideas. Because the latter are real, the interest turned from nature reaching just probabilities to the possibilities of human soul and reason.”

A student’s question: ”Does this mean that the world of senses is not real?” Yes, this is how Plato understood it. According to him the world of ideas was real and immobile. Anybody sees, how a flower unwatered whithers and turns ugly. In the world of ideas the idea of a complete flower remains for ever brilliant and constant. Platon was teased by asking: Is there, in the world of ideas, also the idea of ugly things? The dualism was problematic to Aristotle. So he accepted a view different from that of his teacher. Have a look at how he understood the nature of reality.

Must we know all this?

"Working alone with the text book had made me wonder, Must I, in the exam, be familiar with all the material in the book?"

I suggest that you start by pondering why philosophy is taught in the high school, and why the first course is obligatory for all. The goal cannot be that you remember by heart when Aristotle lived, even though broadening your knowledge with the history of philosophy is important. But what is it that philosophy really can give to a high school student?

One of the distance learners remembered: “Doesn’t philosophy mean something like loving knowledge?” The word ‘philosophy’ comes from the Greek words for loving wisdom. Wisdom may be something else than information learned by heart. Wisdom, like philosophy, is also readiness. Speaking about philosophy I appreciate most the readiness for thinking.

What can a high school student or any student get from studying philosophy? The ability to analyze and to argument? The ability to analyze the structures of things and contents of questions is useful for all studies, and so is the ability to present good grounds for your arguments or to evaluate other people’s arguments.

Knowledge on philosophy can be understood referring to the English word ’ to know’: we learn to recognize things and know how to do things. Therefore there is a certain problem in learning philosophy at a distance. You should philosophize with somebody to learn it.

Learning philosophy course

Yesterday in the class for distance learners some really important questions arose about learning philosophy in general and especially learning philosophy at distance. Therefore I decided to begin a new kind of philosophy tutoring – to establish this site. Welcome to the marvelous world of philosophy, and to being bewildered together.