While I was eating my Spicy Szechuan Tofu at the Union, two kids sat down with me and read me a questionnaire about religious and moral issues. I could tell where it was going from the beginning, but the girl was cute and I don't mind chatting with proselytizers, so I answered their questions politely. Then they tried to convert me to Christianity. I ran the problem of evil back against them, and I tried to convert them to compatibilism* and hedonic utilitarianism. Probably nobody got converted, but I think we all had a pretty good time.
I really think I could do this "teach philosophy in a red-state university" thing. Whenever I'm talking to little religious undergrads who assume incompatibilism in responding to the Problem of Evil, and think that you can't get morality without the Bible, I feel like I have awesome powers. I can spin out amazing theories that can reshape the way you think about the world, and do all that stuff that's supposed to happen in a good philosophy class. I'm only about 85% sure about compatibilism being right, and error theory occasionally has appeal for me (though, to be sure, I can't see how God would be helpful in setting up morality). But I get a real kick out of spinning out these theories to kids who simply hadn't ever encountered them before, and who had unthinkingly assumed their falsity. Heck, if I can get this kind of kick out of talking to some kids who were carrying around the ulterior motive of converting me, imagine how it'll be when I'm lecturing on these topics to a class of 300, and maybe even 50 of them are paying attention! I haven't had a chance to teach on compatibilism as a TA, but I'll make sure to do it when I'm running intro philosophy lectures in the future.
*compatibilism is the view that we can have free will even if determinism is true.
The Essence of a Jackass . . .
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