Aquinas as a Guide for Teaching Philosophy
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Arguably, the best way to learn philosophy is to examine it in the laboratory of history. The limitation of this method is a tendency to reduce past philosophers and their ideas to a catalogue of museum pieces. Such a limitation can be overcome provided one remembers that the judgments of philosophers, in the last analysis, ought to be tested for their truth content. This regard for the pursuit of truth is enhanced by examining philosophical arguments in their historical context, which reminds one that historically philosophy develops as something organic and reactive. Philosophical change happens, even schools of thought come and go, because they are tested in the crucible of history. Samuel Johnson called the history of philosophy “the great conversation,” a description that captures the dialogical nature of the discipline.
Subsequent generations contemplate what their predecessors have said and often consider how they must disagree with them. On the other hand,...
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