×

Forum, Aug. 6: Philosophy helps us ask the big questions


Tuesday, August 06, 2019
Philosophy helps us askthe big questions

Several readers have weighed in on what kinds of things should be taught to our schoolchildren in order to create a more humane and informed society. One writer suggested a return to the “three R’s,” another recommended a curriculum with more emphasis on history, civics and politics. Both of these suggestions have real merit, but I want to put forward another area that should be intentionally emphasized in our children’s learning, from kindergarten onward: philosophy.

As communities East and West have known for centuries, the elements of the philosophy curriculum are essential to meaningful human well-being. Philosophical logic and rhetoric foster clear thinking, the capacity for cogent and rational argument and the ability to differentiate central issues from peripheral ones. (Wouldn’t that be a refreshing change to our current political discourse?)

We will never agree on the specific answers to the larger philosophical questions — What constitutes the ‘good life’? What is the essential nature of the human being? What responsibility do human beings have to one another and to the other beings that inhabit the planet on which they live? Can we get at the notion of essential human rights, what are they and why is it important to come to some consensus in this area? — but a solid grounding in philosophy will help us all to pursue them with purpose and passion and to keep them as a grounding for the host of more pragmatic decisions we make about how to live together.

One of the things I have been missing very much in all our current political discussions is the question, “What is the right thing to do in this case?” Again, we may not agree on the answer to such a question, but if a solid grounding in philosophy could encourage us to see that the question itself is an important one to ask, we will be further along the road to a more compassionate and life-affirming world.

SUSAN J. WHITE

Norwich

Warren has the vision,and the plan

I am proud to support Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as the Democratic Party’s nominee for president of the United States because she is fighting for economic justice, opportunity and a government that works for people and not just for corporations.

Warren knows how important this fight is because she’s lived it. Her father suffered a heart attack when she was a child. He was unable to work and her family would have lost their home had her mother not taken a minimum-wage job. That minimum wage made it possible for them to keep both their home and their dignity.

Hard-working people in the Upper Valley today often work two or three jobs just to get by. Even when they do, housing is often out of reach, a car is a luxury and the basic building blocks of life are unattainable. This isn’t right, it isn’t tenable and it doesn’t reflect the principles on which our democracy was founded.

Warren is willing to make the structural changes that will reverse this cruel and unnecessary dynamic. She is committed to raising the minimum wage, supporting unions, and enforcing policies against racial, gender and age bias in the workplace. Her ideas about funding child care, easing the financial burden of a college education and providing health care as a basic human right ring true to me because they are realistic, based on justice and support everyone’s participation in our democracy.

Warren has the vision and the courage we need to win this election. And she has the plans we desperately need to address the overwhelming economic disparities that threaten our way of life.

LAUREL STAVIS

West Lebanon

The writer represents District 13 in the New Hampshire House.