kheru2006 (kheru2006) wrote,

Philosophy important in knitting moral fibre

I REFER to the thought-provoking and stimulating article

Integrity is a core value, by Prof Sam O. Imbo (The Star, July 24).

I couldn’t agree more with the good professor and concur with all the theses that his short exposition advanced.

As a philosophy teacher and social science lecturer (I am teaching Philosophy, Ethics and Anthropology in Malaysia), I beg the indulgence of the reader to allow me to elaborate further on the points elucidated by my colleague in the teaching profession.

Indeed, “engaged citizens, who are critical thinkers, are the most likely to cultivate authentic integrity”.

Integrity is the virtue of a good man which enables him to do the right thing at the right time for the right reason and purpose, whether in public or in private, regardless of whether he is being watched by people or in complete isolation.

In the words of Prof Imbo: “In the academic world, the liberal arts and humanities are traditionally the disciplines with a primary focus on developing the crucial skills of reading texts closely, critical thinking, and effective communication. Students need an appreciation of literature, a knowledge of history, the ability to compare ideas.”

This contention squarely aligns with the suggestion of Prof A.C. Grayling who said: “By ‘liberal education’ is meant education that includes literature, history and appreciation of the arts; giving them equal weight with scientific and practical subjects.

“Education in these pursuits opens the possibility for us to live more reflectively and knowledgeably, especially about the range of human experience and sentiment, as it exists now and here, and in the past and elsewhere.

“That, in turn, makes us better understand the interests, needs and desires of others so that we can treat them with respect and sympathy is returned, rendering it mutual.

“The result is that the gaps, which can prompt friction between people, and even war in the end, come to be bridged or at least tolerated.

“Education must be a blend of the external and internal in order to create true humanness in a student. External education alone cannot confer human values and benefit the world.”

It is my passionate view that the external factor is what our educational institutions forge in us, while the internal comprises our social background, culture, upbringing, and how our family raised and educated us. The two elements must concur to produce a good individual.

Inarguably, “integrity is not the sort of thing picked up by hearing lectures. It must be intentionally cultivated and refined by practice over time, in structured settings.”

Hence, it is beyond the shadow of a doubt that social science subjects play a pivotal part in harnessing the full potential of our young. It is precisely through these courses that they broaden their horizons and widen the sphere of their mental grasps.

It is also undeniable that the most suitable place for young minds to be developed and cultivated is the university.

The university is an intellectual community. It is the most sacred ground in society wherein the primordial purpose is to seek the truth, the just, and the beautiful.

It is an avenue wherein all the actors are equal in pursuit of excellence, harmony and wisdom.

The university is the very place where the learned society hammers out intellectuals. Indeed, one does not produce intellectuals in isolation.

In the words of Prof Clive Kessler: “Truly outstanding minds are cultivated within and emerge from a conducive environment.

“They take shape and grow most and best in countries where the intellectual capacities and potential of all their citizens are supported, encouraged and cultivated. In places where, among those offered the chance to pursue a scholarly path, the life of the mind in its broad, most humanly inclusive senses is respected and promoted.”

Our duty is to let the university be as free as possible to discharge its social function of creating intellectuals who are capable of critical thinking that will lead to their being civic-minded and responsible citizens.

Again, to quote Prof Kessler: “It is very hard, if not impossible, to produce that kind of high-quality national intellectual armoury in a country whose public universities, between them, cannot show just one internationally credible, or reputable, school or department of modern world philosophy and logic, not one plausible academic unit devoted to the study and teaching of modern global intellectual and cultural history, not one adequate (or even inadequate!) department of modern political studies, theory and philosophy.”

It is sad that Malaysia does not have a university with a Department of Philosophy. Undeniably, “this absence affects the integrity of the educational mission of universities.”

Indubitably, “it would be odd to downplay the role of the liberal arts and humanities and then decry the fact that we are not producing students with critical thinking skills”.

I sincerely hope that one fine day, a Department of Philosophy in one great Malaysian institution of higher learning shall arise and commence the arrival of Philosophia.

Why are these things important? More to the point: Why do they matter?

I will argue in the affirmative. Yes, all these things are undoubtedly important. It is only through a free university with a Philosophy and Social Science Department that we can produce technicians, technocrats, future leaders, social critics, teachers, lecturers, professors and intellectuals which serve as a vital element in the continuous development of our body politic.

However, we must not only invest materially on intellectual capital; we must also bolster the ethical and moral cultivation of our young. Intellectual power must be tempered and harmonised with ethical foundation and moral sense.

Hence, we must engage in a two-pronged programme, which is the development of the mind and the cultivation of the inner spirits.

These two elements must concur in order for us to mould and create students and citizens of substance and good moral character.

JOSE MARIO DOLOR DE VEGA Source: The Star Online Home News Education Sunday 5 August 2012
Tags: philosophy

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