The newest version of the Flash Player is required to watch these videos. Note that a restart will be required after installing.

Eric Dayton, Philosophy Faculty

Freedom and Responsibility

Freedom and Responsibility in Writing

Some philosophy professors, well, some professors, generally, give their students a lot of effective advice about how to organize their thinking and so on. I'm not very good at that. I tend to try to encourage students through developing their imagination and so on. Very often I will give an assignment, which is to write an essay, and I won't say how long it has to be or what it's on or anything, and a lot of students find that very intimidating. Of course, I don't do it to be intimidating; I do it because I don't want to inhibit their freedom. Handling freedom in an essay is a real problem for lots of students. There are disciplines where you're not allowed to use the word 'I'. And if you're not allowed to use the word 'I', you clearly have very little freedom in what you're doing. And yet, freedom is an essential part of a good essay, because it's... because then you're in control of how the elements of the answer [fit] together, [and] then you are responsible for whether the outcome is ugly or beautiful, or well argued or not, and... Students who are impatient about their own freedom, [just want] to know what the answer is. They don't want to do philosophy; they want to get a grade or something. Philosophy isn't about the conclusion so much as it is the process. There are no right answers in philosophy, but there are lots and lots and lots of wrong answers, because if you think about it, if you have... Suppose you have five different positions, five different theses that can fit together in various combinations. Some of them will be self-contradictory, some of them will be ruled out because they're incoherent, but there'll still be some left. And, it will always be more than one, for any argument. Let's say you have an argument that says 'P' and then 'if P then Q, therefore Q', you've got three sentences there, 'P', 'if P then Q', and 'Q'. You could say 'Well, if P then Q, but not Q, therefore not P.' So, there's always, whenever you have more than two claims, there's always more than one answer that's possible. And, a good philosophical answer is one which shows why the bad answers can't be right, and then selects one that makes sense overall. So there's always room in a Philosophy article for the opponent ... to come back and give a defence and tell a better story, and so the arguments never end, in a sense, but they get bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger and then people develop views of the whole how ideas as a whole fit together. As I said, there are no right answers about those, there are just lots of bad answers. So, you try to get students to see that their freedom consists in avoiding the mistakes, not in requiring them to view one thing or another.