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Teach philosophy to heal our ‘post-truth’ society, says President Higgins

President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina hosted a reception in Aras an Uachtarain for Philosophy Ireland on Saturday.

Teaching philosophy in schools, and promoting it in society, is desperately needed to allow citizens “to discriminate between honest language and illusory rhetoric”, President Michael D Higgins has said.

Amid claims that we’ve entered a “post-truth” society, he asked how we could collectively and independently result in a “reflective atmosphere in the classrooms, in our media, in our public space”.




“The dissemination, in all levels of society, of the resources, language and methods of philosophical enquiry can, I think, provide a significant component in any concerted effort at offering a long-term and holistic reaction to our present predicament.”

The event Saturday incorporated a reception for Philosophy Ireland, a new organisation seeking to promote philosophy in society and schools.

“The teaching of philosophy is among the most effective tools we have at our disposal to enable children into behaving as free and responsible subjects in an increasingly complex, interconnected and uncertain world,” Mr Higgins said.

“A new politics of fear, bitterness and prejudice against people that are not ‘like us’ needs the ability to review, which an early exposure to the topics and methods of philosophy can bring.”

Mr Higgins welcomed the addition of philosophy as an optional short course on the reformed Junior Cycle but proposed the subject ought to be further embedded in the Irish education system.

“This, clearly, would be greatly facilitated by the addition of philosophy as a subject in the Leaving Certificate. Even an fantastic version of ‘Politics and Society’ isn’t an adequate substitute for the teaching of doctrine as a standalone subject.”

Teaching doctrine in schools, and promoting it in society, is desperately needed to allow citizens “to discriminate between honest language and illusory rhetoric”, President Michael D Higgins has stated.

Amid claims that we’ve entered a “post-truth” society, he asked how we could collectively and independently result in a “reflective atmosphere in the classrooms, in our press, in our public space”.

“The dissemination, at all levels of society, of the resources, methods and language of philosophical enquiry can, I think, provide a significant component in any concerted effort at offering a holistic and long-term reaction to our present predicament.”

“The teaching of philosophy is among the most effective tools we have at our disposal to enable children into behaving as free and responsible subjects in an increasingly complex, interconnected and uncertain world,” Mr Higgins said.

“A new politics of fear, bitterness and prejudice against people that are not ‘like us’ needs the ability to review, which an early exposure to the topics and methods of philosophy can bring.”

Mr Higgins welcomed the addition of philosophy as an optional short course on the reformed Junior Cycle but proposed the subject ought to be further embedded in the Irish education system.

“This, clearly, would be greatly facilitated by the addition of philosophy as a subject in the Leaving Certificate. Even an fantastic version of ‘Politics and Society’ isn’t an adequate substitute for the teaching of doctrine as a standalone subject.”

Philosophy for children, or P4C, provides “an engaging route to a humanistic and vibrant democratic culture”, and a way of encouraging people to talk respectfully, ” he said.

“The development of these digital echo-chambers in which individuals aren’t permitting themselves, their faith, or indeed their bias to be contested, is becoming a matter for considerable discussion as a response to current events in the USA and Europe. There are now so many methods of accessing information online without ever coming across the educated contribution of journalism.

“It’s so important, then, that our kids – all of our citizens – be encouraged to think critically rather than replicate the data pushed towards them by social media resources.




“It’s so important, also, that they learn to articulate their own ideas and supply justifications for them, and that they find ways of disagreeing without resorting to violence, whether physical or verbal.”

He added: “I feel that those merits of reflection, of critical reasoning and of moral enquiry are ones who have gained renewed urgency in the present moment, as humankind is confronted with unprecedented challenges of a global kind – from climate change to mass migration.

“If we want to achieve the delivery of, as an instance, that which we have agreed internationally as to climate change and sustainable development, we need no less than a shift in consciousness compared to our interdependence and new shared vulnerabilities.”




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