Socrates didn’t issue degrees, but it would have been wonderful to have been taught by him

by reestheskin on 02/06/2014

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I came to this via John Naughton. Nigel Warburton is an  ex-institutional academic, who cofounded the site Philosophy Bites, whose podcasts have been downloaded ‘zillions of times’. In an interview he says he lambasts some university philosophers for playing along with institutional requirements that compromise your ability to think and behave like a philosopher. I am deeply impressed by how large an impact one or two individuals can have on learning. He says:

If he’s right about our present, does he think philosophy is in for a grim future? How does he suggest we fix the current state of things? Can we fix it?

“It’s going to fix itself because universities are going to become less important. People who are sophisticated users of the Internet will find ways to communicate which may not require them to be part of universities anymore. Established universities may be overtaken by publishers and other providers of resources and connections entering the world of distance education. What’s stopping people now is that they want a bit of paper at the end of it that says they’ve got a degree. Socrates didn’t issue degrees, but it would have been wonderful to have been taught by him. I think we’re entering a time of contact with interesting people. It’s difficult to imagine what’s going to happen, because things happen so quickly.

“There are a lot of brilliant people in universities, but they have no idea what’s going to happen, what’s just around the corner. Disruptive technologies have a history of producing dramatic change very suddenly. So a lot of those people who think they’re surfing the new technology, keeping abreast of developments and thinking that nothing’s going to change – I believe they’re fundamentally wrong. People thought massively open online courses were just another kind of distance learning, but already they’re changing, evolving very quickly, people are finding new ways of interacting.

“Because of changes in online teaching, in the next ten years, the university system will be turned on its head. If Philosophy Bites can make such an impact with two guys with a hard disk recorder and a couple of laptops, think what people who fully understand the new technology, who can write code, who can employ the best philosophical communicators around, think what they could produce. It’s only just starting. We’re going to see dramatic changes to how we learn, teach, do research and share ideas. I think philosophy’s future’s very bright.”


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