What does teaching introductory philosophy consist in? What makes a particular introduction to philosophy a good one? I argue that teaching introductory philosophy neither aims at teaching learners how to do philosophy nor at transferring philosophical knowledge; rather, teaching philosophy aims to both illuminate what philosophy is and generate motivation. I develop this view through a comparison between teaching philosophy and Greek tragedy, as Aristotle understood it. In designing a lecture, cognitive insight and motivation are achieved through catharsis of fear that arises when foundational views are brought into conflict. Just as a tragedian’s task is to generate fear, pity and ultimately catharsis, a teacher’s task is to generate a moderate degree of fear and catharsis that lead to lasting curiosity. This view provides a substantial model for pedagogy, specifically for lecture design, and a means for diagnosing flaws and imperfections.
Teaching Philosophy and Tragedy (publication forthcoming),