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March 4, 2008

Blogging Pedagogy

I'm now into my second year of using a blog (you can find it here) to collect and share student work in my oral advocacy class.  The reading for the class is primarily from Aristotle's On Rhetoric, which many find to be a challenging text.  By having them blog about that reading each week it deepens their engagement and broadens the discussion.  It also gives me a jumping-off place for discussion.

An added bonus is that I find that some of my students discuss things on the blog that they might consider tangential to a class discussion.  Naturally, these often are worthwhile insights.  For example, here is a recent blog comment from Baylor student Anu Ratnyake:

Aristotle’s words have a hauntingly similar sound to those as Siddhartha. Siddhartha taught about emotions and how to control them and Aristotle taught about emotion but in essence how to use it to control people or at least to get them to change their mind. Both were philosophers of the ancient world, but even though they lived in different times, and worlds apart, their theories on emotion run on a parallel plane. On page 116, paragraph 1378, Aristotle states “ a kind of pleasure follows from [anger] and also because people dwell in their minds on retaliating: then the image creates pleasure.” Then in chapter 3, on “ parontes” or calmness (pg 121), Aristotle describes the opposite calmness as “a settling down and calming of anger” which is a positive trait.   Siddhartha basically said the same... However, he further articulates that the pleasure caused by anger and the dwelling on retaliation is a delusion, because retaliation does not feel as pleasurable as the image of it. Siddhartha speaks of a path to fall away from the delusions caused by emotions such as anger, etc. and this path leads to what Aristotle describes as calmness. I found the manner in which the two philosophers structured their discourses on emotion uncannily similar, even though the purposes of those discourses are different.   In general, I found it cool that the same type of philosophy that I use to approach life, could be used for persuasion in the law school context.

-- Mark Osler

March 4, 2008 | Permalink

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