Community Debate

“If the cultivation of the understanding consists in one thing more than in another, it is surely in learning the grounds of one’s own opinions. Whatever people believe, on subjects on which it is of the first importance to believe rightly, they ought to be able to defend against at least the common objections.”

–John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

In philosophy we learn and practice the art of argument, because we think that confronting the logical implications and most serious objections to our views helps us to grow in understanding.  And one of the best ways to strengthen and clarify our views is to subject them to public debate.

Twice a week we practice this skill in our large group debates.  The entire class gathers to discuss case studies that challenge leading views on faith, morality and meaning.  Should the FBI compel Apple to unlock iPhone data, even at the cost of individual privacy?  Do established religious traditions deserve special protection under the law?  Are certain career paths more meaning-driven than others?  We’ll use the philosophy we’ve studied in addition to our own arguments to investigate the questions from many angles.  By the end of the course, we’ll have stress-tested our most enduring convictions and learned how to rationally argue our cases to others.

Large group debate occurs in three modes: (1) in-class oral arguments at the microphone, (2) in-class commenting and voting in our Echo 360 polling system, and (3) outside participation in the form of op-eds and comments on our course blogs.   We’ll do our part to create a welcoming and useful marketplace of ideas, where you can try arguments on for size.

We’ll also periodically hear from business leaders, artists, activists, software designers, architects and other who are engaged in timely debates over the issues we are studying.  You can see the list of speakers here: 2016-2017 Speaker Schedule.

Want to know more?

  • Learn about the Philosophical Tradition of Rhetoric and How to Write a Great Op-Ed