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Kant on teaching philosophy

MacDonald Ross, G. (2005) Kant on teaching philosophy. Discourse : Learning and Teaching in Philosophical and Religious Studies, 5 (1). pp. 65-82.

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In 1765, Kant issued an Advertisement for the four lecture courses he would be delivering in the winter semester of 1765/66, on Metaphysics, Logic, Ethics, and Physical Geography (Kant 1905). Instead of merely outlining the course syllabuses, Kant prefaced the document with what would nowadays be called a ‘statement of teaching philosophy’. As far as I am aware, this is the only place where he explains his approach to teaching,2 and it is an approach which (apart from the first point below) is remarkably consistent with what professional educationalists consider to be best practice in the 21st century.

In view of the radical nature of Kant’s ideas, it is surprising how little attention has been paid to them. John Ladd (1982) summarises the Advertisement in a general account of Kant as a teacher, derived largely from Vorländer’s biography. His main purpose is to show that Kant’s approach to the teaching of philosophy presupposes that philosophy is very different from other disciplines, in that it fosters the independence of thought which is central both to the concept of enlightenment and to the concept of the autonomy of the will in ethics. Eugene Kelly (1989) provides a complete translation of the Advertisement into English, and prefaces it with a few brief remarks. Interestingly, Kelly is almost entirely negative about the Advertisement. He says that if Kant had submitted it for publication in the APA Newsletter on Teaching Philosophy (of which Kelly was editor at the time), he would have rejected it, on the grounds that it was too long-winded, it contained too much technical terminology and it said too little about the content of his lectures. Its only saving grace, according to Kelly, was that Kant showed a genuine concern for his students.

The articles by Ladd and Kelly are the only two writings I have been able to find which discuss Kant’s Advertisement in any detail. In what follows, I shall give a much more sympathetic account of Kant’s approach to teaching philosophy, and relate what he says to current theories of good practice in university education.

Item Type: Article
Copyright, Publisher and Additional Information: © Copyright Subject Centre for PRS, 2005. Reproduced with permission from the publisher.
Institution: The University of Leeds
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts (Leeds) > School of Humanities (Leeds) > School of Philosophy (Leeds)
The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts (Leeds) > School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science (Leeds) > School of Philosophy (Leeds)
Depositing User: Repository Officer
Date Deposited: 29 Aug 2008 14:09
Last Modified: 08 Feb 2013 17:05
Published Version: http://prs.heacademy.ac.uk/publications/discourse/...
Status: Published
Publisher: The Higher Education Academy : Subject Centre for Philosophical and Religious Studies
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/4485

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