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Eric Dayton, Philosophy Faculty

Personal Viewpoint

How do you feel about personal viewpoints in essays?

I tell my students that I don't care what they think... ... First of all, typically, students don't have any choice about what they think, because what they think they already think, and if they think it for bad reasons, they're stuck with it anyway. What their view is is irrelevant to me; what I want to know is: 'can they make arguments in favour of their view?' ...I don't care whether a student has a... if they are arguing for or against a position, I don't care which side they take. What I want them to do is to reason clearly and to see consequences, [and] to see what the conclusions of their views are. Very often, when people tell you what their personal views are, they tell you stuff that's incoherent. But they don't know that it's incoherent because it's a set of slogans and the slogans don't function to pick out ideas, they more function to pick out stances in the world or something like that. So, I guess, that I haven't ever found that to be very useful to do. I think it's more important for people to see logical consequence than it is to analyze their own feelings or something like that. You know, in most of the social sciences you learn that you're never supposed to criticize another person's views, because it would be immoral for some reason or another -- not that I understand why that should be -- but Philosophy is all about criticism. Philosophy is THE critical--well, not the only critical discipline--but it's nothing but criticism, and so of course you have to criticize other people's views, not in the sense of saying that they're stupid, not insult them, but rather (to not deny their individuality?) Yeah. You have just as much an obligation to criticize your own views as you do to anyone else's views. So, it's really important to have class discussion be respectful and non-insulting and so on, because, of course, insults and lack of respect aren't intellectual acts; they're abusive. But you don't have to agree with somebody. That seems to me to be... There are very few people I agree with at the end of the day, I guess.