Friday, April 24, 2009

In which Immanuel Kant becomes a student's favorite philosopher of ethics


Kant and, um, Ka(n)twoman.

Scene: My Intro. to Humanities class last night. A half dozen students' eyes glazing over after our brief discussion of Candide (the eye-glazing due more to its being Thursday than to its being Voltaire). We've just discussed Kant's philosophy of the mind--specifically, his idea that our experience of the world is inextricable from what we think about that experience, and . . .

Me: An important contribution Kant made to ethics is the idea of the categorical imperative. This idea says that for any given action I take, I should also be able to say that I will that this be a universal action.

[Not even crickets are heard]

Me: Okay. Here's how this works. I happen to have an enormous crush on Michelle Pfeiffer, much to my wife's chagrin. So, say Ms. Pfeiffer were to walk through that door and say, "John, take me. I'm yours." What should I do?

Tim (a male student about my age, who happens to be sitting by the door): You'd have to get through me first.

Me: Oh--you like her, too? Good--that will help the discussion. . . . So, this is what is known as a dilemma. On the one hand, it's Michelle Pfeiffer offering herself to me. But, as Randy Travis once famously sang, "On the other hand/there's a golden band." I'm married to a woman whom I love very much and to whom I've pledged to be faithful. Much as I may be tempted by this offer, I cannot in good conscience say that it should be a universal action that men be unfaithful to their wives. [It's still quiet, but the students get it--I can see it in their now not-quite-so-glazed-over eyes.] So, I would have to say, Tim, I guess she's yours.

Tim: Yay, Kant!


CODA: This morning, I related this story to a colleague, and then we got to chatting about various things regarding education. We found ourselves on the subject of how transformational education can be in a person's life; I used myself as an example. I concluded my little speech by saying something like, "I'm extremely lucky to be where I am, where I have a job that [pause] that allows me the opportunity to ask students to imagine Michelle Pfeiffer offering herself to me. How much like real-life experience is that!?!" To which my colleague replied, "Yeah--is this a great country, or what?"

5 comments:

R. Sherman said...

Nicely done. Nothing like those modern teachin' methodologies which combine philosophy and fabulous babes.

Cheers.

John B. said...

Well, exactly. Except that traditional pedagogy classes tend not to exploit the "________ and Fabulous Babes" angle in their discussions of teaching methods. No wonder our educational systems are failing to hold students' attention.

I envision a series called Michelle Pfeiffer and Problems in Philosophy . . . though, in seriousness, someone like John Malkovic or Christopher Walken might be a better candidate for such a thing . . .

Doc said...

too funny.

and close, sooo close. hoever:

"...John Malkovic AND Christopher Walken might be (a) better candidates for such a thing..."

The eye-glazing would take on a totally different mien.

Lucy (music buff in Brazil) said...

Professor! How does one get in touch with you other than blog comments? I just wrote you and it just bounced back... :(

This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification
Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently:
the-email-you-have-on-your-blog-side-bar @ sbcglobal.net
Technical details of permanent failure:
Google tried to deliver your message, but it was rejected by the recipient domain. We recommend contacting the other email provider for further information about the cause of this error. The error that the other server returned was: 553 553 5.3.0
etc etc etc.

Can I write you somewhere else?... Too long for a blog comment! Thanks much... :)

John B. said...

Lucy,
Try again tomorrow, if you don't mind.