Tips for teaching non-argumentative texts?

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In our July “how can we help you?” thread, G asks:

I wonder if people can share some helpful tips to teach non-argumentative texts.

I am trained as an analytic philosopher, usually starting my intro class with some basic concepts in logic and arguments. My classes also usually focus on analyzing and evaluating arguments. When I try to include some non-western philosophies, some materials I encounter are not in the argumentative style. They tend to tell some stories or describe some worldviews rather than arguing for philosophical positions.

I tried some active learning activities, mostly on how to develop interpretations of those texts. But I find that my students were less interested in those discussions. Can people share some tips to approach those non-argumentative texts (especially for an intro course that focuses a bit more on skills than contents if that makes sense)?

Interesting query. Another reader submitted the following reply:

G, what Eastern texts are you using? By my lights, there are plenty of arguments in Eastern Philosophical texts: e.g., Buddhist arguments against a persisting self, Mohist arguments about the moral superiority of impartiality, Mengzi’s arguments against egoism, various skeptical arguments in the Zhuangzi. Sure, there’s also the sort of content you describe, but there’s nothing wrong with focusing on the part of the Eastern tradition that you’re most comfortable teaching (i.e., arguments), especially in an intro class! For an introduction to Chinese Philosophy that takes an analytic argument-focused approach, check out JeeLoo Liu’s Introduction to Chinese Philosophy.

This seems helpful, and coheres with my own experience. When I teach non-western philosophy, I often (but not always) select pieces where there is some sort of explicit or implicit argument–or alternatively, when I used readings that primarily tell a story or worldview, I normally try to get my students to focus on interpreting and evaluating the philosophical ‘point’ of the story or worldview. But I’d love to hear tips from readers, particularly readers who specialize in non-western areas. 

Do any of you have any helpful tips to share?

Originally appeared on The Philosophers’ Cocoon Read More

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