In under five months I’ll have to confirm the topic of my thirty thousand word thesis, even though I won’t start writing and researching it for another eleven. I’ve been thinking over the past few days about what I could possibly want to spend six whole months reading and writing that much on, especially now I’m almost certain it will be my last hurrah in the academic world. It will be something practical – ethics, politics, aesthetics. It will not be contributing further mere noise to an already over-done field. So out goes vegetarianism, however much it intrigues me. And it will hopefully be something that straddles the boundaries of those three fields and ends up saying something I, at least, deem worthwhile and important. That has to be my aim. And I’m wondering right now if that aim could be best served by aiming to do something on the philosophy of education.
Several quick reasons for pondering this.
First, I love Rousseau, as you all know, and this would give me a rare chance to legitimately focus on the guy in my philosophy degree. Emile is a pedagogical masterpiece without precedent, and to be able to get my teeth into its lengthy chapters is far too tempting.
Second, it’s a pressing and topical question. Nussbaum’s Not For Profit, which I’ve reviewed before, shook me deeply. If there’s a time for the nature of education to be reassessed and emphasised, it’s now.
Third, it would allow me vast scope. Insofar as ethics is about human improvement and goodness, it’s inevitably a question for that part of philosophy. But it also falls under the tradition of civic republicanism and raises questions about what sort of education is consistent with the tenets of liberalism, specifically state neutrality. And then the role of art in education is also obvious, so this potential thesis could plausibly cover the entire scope of practical philosophy.
It’s a start, anyway. I’d appreciate comments, and in time I’ll post any other ideas I have.