Abstract Details

The Role of Imagination in Teaching Philosophy and the Philosophy of Consciousness  Maria Kasmirli (Honorary Research Fellow, The University of Sheffield, UK, Sheffield UK & Herakli, Cyprus)   C6

The teaching of philosophy is widely taken to involve training students in cognitive skills, including conceptual analysis, logic, and deductive reasoning. Imagination and creativity are rarely stressed. We believe this is a mistake. Good philosophy teaching -- and indeed good philosophy itself -- relies heavily on imaginative exercises. This is particularly clear in the teaching of philosophy to children. Here there is something of a paradox. Good teaching with children starts from the concrete and particular and engages with each child's individual interests, beliefs, and experiences. But doing philosophy involves focusing on the abstract and general, and disengaging oneself from one's personal interests and beliefs. So how can there be good teaching of philosophy to children? The first author has argued elsewhere that we can resolve this paradox by exploiting children's imaginative abilities. The idea is that by encouraging children to imaginatively identify with other perspectives, we can use their natural focus on the concrete and particular to help them adopt more abstract, critical ways of thinking. The first author has a proposed a strategy for implementing this approach, which she calls the Scenario-Identification-Reflection (SIR) method. This begins with the creation of a concrete scenario (a short play, for example) relating to the topic under discussion. The children engage with the scenario (for example, by acting out roles in the play), imaginatively identifying with the subjective perspectives represented within it and thereby acquiring new intuitions and insights. In the third stage, the students reflect on the topic again, drawing on the insights and intuitions gained during the identification stage. In this talk, we shall explain the SIR method, give examples of its use, and suggest how it might be used in teaching philosophy of consciousness. We will then go on to use these reflections on the SIR method to critique some aspects of the philosophy of consciousness itself. The philosophy of consciousness is one area where the SIR method is not only a useful pedagogical aid but a key methodological tool. Much of the debate is driven by imaginative exercises (thought experiments), often involving subjective identification with an alien perspective (e.g., Mary, a zombie). However, from the perspective of the SIR method, such exercises are often underdeveloped. For they typically omit one key element of the method -- the creation of a concrete scenario, which contains the imaginative identification. This lack of constraint, we shall suggest, limits the value of some of the exercises and may be an obstacle to progress.