Friday, February 1, 2013

The Grand Teaching Experiment (2)

Shortly after I made my first post about how I'm trying something different with teaching this year, I went off to my Wednesday class. The paper for the day was Ayer's "Truth", published in Revue Internationale de Philosophie in 1953.
This particular class seemed to go pretty well. I laid out the topics I thought we should cover: Ayer's discussions of whether "true" is eliminable, of whether convention (T) can be understood as a definition of truth, and of the metaphysical and epistemological status of instances of (T).
Most students seemed as if they'd understood the main outlines of Ayer's discussion, so it was easy to get the class to put Ayer's basic claims on the table. We were then able to work through some questions about them pretty effectively. At certain points, I felt it worthwhile to jump in and talk for a bit, but it seems unsurprising that I should need to do that from time to time, especially at the beginning of the semester.
It helps, of course, that Ayer's paper is, as one would expect with him, extremely clear. Indeed, several students remarked how much they'd appreciated Ayer's straightforward prose after having slogged through Austin and Strawson.
One lesson here may well turn out to be, then, that if you're going to try to teach a course without lecturing, you have (for the most part, at least) to choose papers that are relatively easy to understand. The ultimate test of that theory will come next Wednesday, when we read Dummett's paper "Truth".

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