Wednesday, July 23, 2008


One of the graduate classes I'm in right now is a philosophy course. It's focus is philosophy of education, but my professor (who I've had before and LOVE) is never content to stay only within the focus. He challenges us to explore all aspects of our class. With this in mind, our first book this semester--Sophie's World--was an introductory philosophy text couched within a fictional story. It was amazing, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in philosophy, loves to read fiction, and doesn't want to take a philosophy class.

In this class, we discuss books after reading them via an online discussion board. The two books that followed--Nel Noddings' Philosophy of Education and Dr. Slattery's Curriculum Development in the Postmodern Era--were equally engaging, if more academic than the first.

One statement that I made apparently kicked off a side discussion. In my essay, I emphasized the questioning part of the philosophical process, and how that aspect can be applied to every aspect of our lives. My position was that questioning can only strengthen things in our lives, and aide in our pursuit of self-knowledge, which to me is one of the most important things to achieve.

Well, did that generate some feedback! I had questions asking what it was ok to question, what it was appropriate/useful to question, what I was questioning currently, etc. All of these questions I answered, clarifying my position.

In regards to what it is ok to question: EVERYTHING. From personal perception, to relationships, to religion, nothing should be held above being questioned. Too many times, the hesitancy to question comes from a fear that finding what we believe is either wrong, or built upon misconceptions. This only serves to perpetuate a lack of self-knowledge. Questioning things reveals inconsistencies and fallacies, and once those are revealed, they can be confronted and corrected. I'm not saying it's a comfortable or easy process...but it is a very worthwhile and rewarding one to go through.

In regards to what is appropriate/profitable to question: This is a bit more complicated. I'll deal with appropriate first. To answer a question with a question: Who defines what is appropriate? Society? Our background? How we were raised? I don't think it is ok to allow any of that to determine whether or not we question something. What is appropriate to question is whatever the individual feels needs to be questioned. Allowing other influences to determine what is appropriate is allowing other people to dictate the direction of your life journey, which I feel is a dangerous thing to allow to happen. As far as what is profitable, again, who determines that? My answer is the same...that choice is up to the individual.

Yes, I realize that saying it is up to the individual that it opens the door to people choosing not to question anything, ever. Or to conform to society's expectations in regards in what to question. But that's the right of the individual to choose. That said, I do wish more people would undertake the challenge to challenge their beliefs about their lives.

Another note about questioning that one of my classmates brought up: the motive behind questioning. This point made me pause, because for me, questioning has always had the purpose of strengthening. He pointed out that some people use questioning to destroy or to create division and bad feelings. I honestly hadn't considered that. That motivation turns questioning into something harmful. Basically, questioning is a tool and a process...and as such, can be used for the aforementioned negative reasons or for good and healthy reasons--growth, strengthening, self-knowledge. It's also important to figure out the right questions to ask in a given situation.

As for the question as to what I'm questioning now, I didn't answer that on the discussion board. Partly because I think the person meant as far as my educational philosophy, and since that's in a constant state of flux, I didn't really have an answer. In regards to what I'm questioning personally, I didn't feel like sharing that with my philosophy class! Lol. But this, this is a good forum for it.

I'll start with what I'm NOT questioning. Who I am. Who my friends are. My relationship with my wonderful, loving husband. My family relationships. Basically, my relationships with the people in my life, and with myself, are sound and strong. :-)

What I AM questioning: my religion. Ok, be careful with how you read that! I am NOT questioning my FAITH--I am a Christian. I believe in God, and that Jesus died for my sins. That said, I'm questioning quite a bit about how Christianity is practiced today. I haven't been able to find a church home for several years, either because the preacher does not meet my expectation (I like preachers that put things in historical context and delve into the original meanings of words) or the general atmosphere does not encourage any questioning or deviation from the group mindset. If this post tells you anything about me, it's that I don't like environments that stifle questions or insist on blind acceptance.
I was also a Religious Studies minor in college, and learned a great deal about the history of Christianity. I know that many things that churches claim are "Biblical doctrine" are actually tradition that formed because of the choices made at the First Council of Nicea. Which isn't a bad thing at just makes me wary of accepting "doctrine" blindly. And it also makes me question how much of that is applicable to today. That said, I do believe in the Bible...I just believe that it was a product of man, inspired by God, and as such is not infallible. (See what I mean? My questions can get me into trouble!) I do think that what I call the "red text"...that is the words of Jesus/God...are the core of instruction on faith and how a Christian should live. Not that I'm perfect and always manage that, but hey, the only one who ever did was the Son of I'm ok with not being perfect.
I also really like certain Eastern religious traditions and philosophies. Taoism has aspects that I really enjoy, in particular. So, I'm in the process of trying to reconcile my faith with my religious questions and inclinations, and trying to find a church home where I can be a part of a community who is open to new ideas and to questions.
Should be easy, right? :-P

Well, that's about it for tonight I think. I'm going to go finish laundry, make sure the dogs are good to go for the night, and spend some time with my hubby before we crawl into bed! I do hope, if anyone's reading this, that you won't be afraid to question things in your life as you feel the need.

Anyways, I was just thinking.


  1. Aw, you should come to our church up here ^_^ the pastor's really good at giving the historical/religous background on everything. (and there's an evening service, which is wonderful!)

    And, just because I'm always proposing books to read, you might want to check out 'The Abolition of Man' by C.S. Lewis (not really a book, more like 3 essays, they're online somewhere I think)--he uses the word Tao to describe a concept that is completely in synch with Christianity, but I've never really studied Eastern religions, so I don't know how close he is. I'd also like to hear your opinion on his views of education ^_~
    P.S. You can just reply on this thread, it'll get e-mailed to me :-p

  2. Hey Jackied!
    I read a bit of "The Abolition of Man" and about C.S. Lewis' use of the Tao. I think his interpretation of the Tao in terms of Christianity is a valid one, but it seems to be that he is more making the Tao equal to you said, being in sync with Christianity is being in sync with the Tao. From my understanding of philosophical Taoism, the Tao isn't just a concept. It exists above and beyond all is separate and yet infuses is the natural path and flow of everything, not necessarily the path and flow of a particular religion.
    That said, many people have reinterpreted the Tao to represent what they think or believe is the "natural" or right path.
    I'm still working on finding the Tolkein recommendation you gave ;-).

  3. Sorry :-p Here's the Tolkien essay! I can't find my hard copy right now, so I can't promise it's the same version I've read, but it's probably pretty close:

    I'm not sure that I buy the idea of the Tao being above religion--if a given religion is true, then the Tao would merely fit inside that religion, right? You can't be 'more true' than the truth :-p It may rise above the practices of a given religion, may reach for the truth behind traditions, but ultimately, there can only be one truth. Or am I missing something?


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