i thought all this, and i had to keep it in my head.

i know what it felt like. it felt like i was in a cell group again. it's the same feeling that welled in me some way back when it came my turn to prayer, and i prayed for more faith as a christian, because i didn't seem to be as faithful as everyone around me. i remember someone dropped me a note after that telling me how courageous that was. it wasn't. group discussions bring out the worst in me. and i always remember the frustration. it's what eventually leads me to drop out of groups, when the call comes, are you coming for the next meeting? i go for one more, or a few more... but one day the call comes, and i know i'd rather stay in bed, so i politely tell them i can't make it. it felt like when i didn't fall down under the power of the holy spirit (except that time, there was someone still left standing as well. i was sooo grateful for that. see, i am not a pioneer or path-breaker. i like knowing that i'm not the only one or the last person to be picked... i like someone to be there with me. if i could pick a number, my number would be 2.)

so maybe, my mind is too simple like that. it's difficult to deal with consolidating the thoughts of so many people, for each person to wait their turn. it seems so horribly inefficient. i hate chairing meetings myself because i'm afraid as well as to how bored everyone is. some people stay quiet because they have nothing to say. others stay quiet because they have too much to say.

that's why there is always the temptation to turn to writing. you lay down your points and people give you a full judgement. they comment. you reply. or dialogue.

nothing against the group in particular. everyone was experienced, well-intentioned and passionate about contributing to their cause. also, i'm sure that their method of teaching involves games and that engages kids, so it doesn't subject them to sit down, wait-your-turn discussion. and it's admirable that they set something up to practise what they believe in, to bring philosophy and creative thinking into schools. of course, it was interesting as an outsider (nothing new, it happens in all groups) to observe some normative statements (philosophy is important, we should teach more philosophy, why aren't these singaporean students interested in philosophy). all valid. i would be worried if my philosophers didn't think philosophy was important. but i'm just a devil's advocate kind of person, and i thought the person brought in to lecture was too. he didn't assume philosophy was important, he asked if it was, and tried to answer/defend. true, among philosophers, they're probably pretty clear on that question.

of course i was also riled that he didn't give economists a fair hearing. we are a branch of moral philosophy after all, and some of us do still see economics like that. we don't take free-market thinking shoved down our throats. for example, i'm interested in the basic economic unit. if free markets are so good, then why do firms exist? workers in firms don't react to prices, they react to commands? why do planned economies work on such a scale. and why do they stop working? why have they found that it is sometimes more efficient to outsource a certain function, such as IT, and thus subject it to the price mechanism? in a way, the economics should be more like philosophers and philosophers should be more like economists comment is pretty true. but economics were once more like philosophers, but they wanted to push it to see what they could learn from physics, by seeing how objective/technical we could go. i would say it has taught us a lot.

i also argue that some of the best philosophy is done by science and the practitioners of science nassim taleb's work on uncertainty raises questions about inference. when you see a puddle of water on the floor, what can you say? working in econometrics we face questions everyday of whether we can tell what caused what. we do the best we can, and we find answers such as the Granger causality test. schrodinger's cat. oh yeah and i remember that there is an approach towards ethics which uses evolutionary biology and anthropology, (i remember peter singer as one of the practitioners) hinting that our systems of ethics are not completely human nor rational, but systems of organizations which arose for some end.

also, i suppose teaching kids rawls rather than libertarianism is also a value judgement. (then again, there are those childrens books about individuality, i remember one about a triangle that lived in a world of circles. or something like that. the war for the soul starts young.) it keeps them in line better. well, you want them to be socialists before 25 anyway.

i guess that's why the passionate ones want to go further, to smaller and smaller class sizes, to do their own research and communicate with smaller groups. dialogue gets you more mileage (and feedback). it's just more inefficient, more teachers. you can still get the same feedback by having dialogue (meaning 2) with a variety of people. my god. i've got to start learning how to be in a group. i remember choosing a name for the magazine. i thought a few names were good and the rest sucked. well thank god for democracy, because i was overruled, and probably better it's a name that people like more. but it was personal to me. and i will never forget that my chinese name was because my grandparent's didn't think they were smart enough, they chose someone more scholarly for it. well, at least they didn't vote and see which was most acceptable! so i guess that's why govt people like to throw the naming of stuff over to committees.

also, i think philosophy is a luxury. i think everyone has basic questions about meaning, and maybe these get buried by the exigencies of life or being with other people. i don't necessary think everyone turns to it to solve immediate problems, because it does require a substantial investment (if you want to go beyond basic questions, which i feel everyone has the capacity for). besides, the answers are out there in literature and the media for less. i think harvard's most popular introductory course now is happiness, which is an interesting way to introduce philosophy. as a search for happiness through ethics and meaning. but in a strict sense, the older civilizations fed philosophers from agricultural surplus. senators would pay them large amounts of money to teach their kids oratory how to be... senators. i think sparta just drowned them. but if people ask questions, they are less pliable so there's a lot of vested interests out there.

but it's important, in today's knowledge based economy to try to maximise creativity. it's also altruistic and humane. so, those are commendable reasons enough for the attempt to teach philosophy. and it is important for people like me, oh man of little faith.

4 legs good 2 legs bad!

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