The Simplified Philosophy for Undergraduates
The Philosophy and Current Affairs course introduced by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency to undergraduate students from public and private universities, starting from the 2019/2020 cohort, could be the first Philosophy course for most students. Students mistakenly believe that philosophy is difficult, too abstract and irrelevant to preparing graduates for the world of work.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The study of philosophy is most relevant because it encourages students to think deeply about a wide range of issues.
Unlike other disciplines, philosophy may not end with “one right answer”, which many students here are not used to.
The emphasis is on the process of finding the answer using deductive and inductive reasoning rather than unquestioningly accepting conventional viewpoints or traditional authority, and even challenging the question.
The aim is to get students to question themselves, to keep an open mind, to engage in the exploration of abstract ideas and to seek answers to the big questions that concern them personally as well as Malaysian society. in general.
Philosophy underlies most of the disciplines that undergraduate students pursue, such as law, management, engineering, computer science, artificial intelligence, journalism, psychology, medicine, education , design and architecture.
The successful implementation of the philosophy course depends largely on the organization of content, teaching and student assessment. If taught like any other undergraduate course, students are likely to memorize key concepts to regurgitate later on an exam, or submit assignments from material available on the web without thought or careful thought, which defeats the purpose. to study philosophy. Current course content is rather dogmatic, with authors asserting their views to the point of disparaging alternative perspectives. Key ideas were not discussed in sufficient depth and the sequencing of course content lacked consistency, which made it difficult to understand philosophical concepts.
With this in mind and strictly adhering to the prescribed curriculum, I redesigned the course to make it fun, interesting and as easy as possible.
In this course, students are exposed to philosophical concepts such as free will versus determinism (Kant), personal identity (Locke), mind-body question (Descartes), beauty, ethical dilemmas, reasoning logic (Aristotle), anthropocentrism, Eurocentrism (Amin), decolonization, Rukun Negara, National Philosophy of Education and the concept of human being.
To enhance appreciation of these concepts, I have incorporated real-life examples, analogies, illustrations (in comic book form), diagrams, animations, short video clips, and podcasts into the course. Students keep a “My Philosophy Notebook” in which they record their responses to various learning activities or thought experiments interspersed at strategic points in the content.
Examples of these activities include writing a 50-word essay on:
> How Cartesian philosophy influences the perception of man vis-à-vis “others” and the natural environment; and
> How epistemology helps assess the vast amount of misinformation and disinformation that students are exposed to on a daily basis.
The course is designed as a self-study module (SIM) to facilitate self-paced independent learning. With the SIM, the role of the teacher is that of a facilitator who leads students to think like philosophers.
The SIM card is presented in digital format which students download and read offline. They interact with their instructor and classmates synchronously and asynchronously using various digital tools and technologies.
Students will have the opportunity to test their understanding of basic philosophical ideas and concepts by taking the practice quiz at the end of each topic. They will also be required to write argumentative essays exploring issues facing Malaysian society using the tools of philosophical inquiry and logical reasoning.
These efforts aim to encourage students to think deductively and inductively, to examine arguments from different viewpoints, and to learn how to make assertions based on reasoning and analysis rather than beliefs and biases. Hopefully they will learn to appreciate the relevance of philosophy in a multicultural society. like ours.
PROF DR JOHN ARUL PHILLIPS
School of Education and Cognitive Science
Asia and University