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Difficult Dialogues: Rediscovering the Unifying Dynamism of Intellectual Integrity Steve Hays Dept of Classics and World Religions Ohio University, Athens.

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Presentation on theme: "Difficult Dialogues: Rediscovering the Unifying Dynamism of Intellectual Integrity Steve Hays Dept of Classics and World Religions Ohio University, Athens."— Presentation transcript:

1 Difficult Dialogues: Rediscovering the Unifying Dynamism of Intellectual Integrity Steve Hays Dept of Classics and World Religions Ohio University, Athens Steve Hays Dept of Classics and World Religions Ohio University, Athens With your smart phone, iPad, laptop, etc., go online to www.rwpoll.com. www.rwpoll.com. Enter Session ID: Hays Join Session. Leave data on Welcome page empty. Press Continue. Wait. With your smart phone, iPad, laptop, etc., go online to www.rwpoll.com. www.rwpoll.com. Enter Session ID: Hays Join Session. Leave data on Welcome page empty. Press Continue. Wait.

2 Difficult Dialogues concerning Religion at Ohio University 2006 Ford Foundation grant to encourage religious dialogue post 9/11. OUs particular purpose Not religious tolerance. Rather self-criticism and mutual respect via thoughtful shared inquiry: intellectual integrity.

3 Todays plan Brief sample of an approach used in Difficult Dialogues concerning Religious Beliefs. Merely suggestive, probably not readily replicable at other institutions. Description of pedagogical structure and financial model. Almost certainly adaptable to many disciplines and many institutions. Basic pedagogical structure: a) Lead instructor provides content and guidance via readings, lecture, etc.; b) Discussion leaders guide small-group dialogues; c) Graders grade weekly journals and alert faculty and discussion leaders to students who may be in crisis. d) Individual students engage their integrity by accurately reporting dissenting views, then testing beliefs (their own first) both in dialogues and in weekly journal entries.

4 An appeal to intellectual integrity What can a university offer students to help them with questions of religious beliefs? Not specific answers. Intellectual values, skills, and experience. Analogue of the acid bath: A gold heirloom in HCl.

5 Intellectual Incest: Belief without challenge becomes inbred (from Presidential Primary Season 2008)

6 The university is by nature an acid bath where we can escape intellectual incest and practice intellectual integrity Our students and discussion leaders come to the class with beliefs about religion. Some have acquired their beliefs from religious authorities (the priest, grandma,...) Some have learned their beliefs or attitudes from non-religious authorities or traditions (Richard Dawkins, grandpa,...) ------------------------------------------------------------------- A very brief example lesson beliefs about authoritative scriptures within religious traditions.

7 Poll Question #1. The Bible A. The Bible is the infallible (unerring) source for Gods own truth. B. The Bible is not infallible. Much of what it says is demonstrably untrue.

8 Poll Question # 2. Which of these books of the Bible would you assert is infallible/fallible? A. Elijah B. Nahum C. Micaiah D. All of them E. None of them

9 Poll Question # 3. If a man lies with a woman having her monthly period, and has sex with her, he has made naked her fountain, and she has uncovered the fountain of her blood; both of them shall be cut off from among their people. (Lev. 20:18) A. This law is immoral and wrong. B. This law must be true and good because it is contained in the infallible Scriptures. C. This law used to be true and good but in Christian times it has been abolished, so now I am free to regard it as foolish and immoral.

10 The Succession Myth from Hesiods Theogony (700 B.C.) Ouranos, the first king of the gods. He maintained his power by oppressing his offspring. Eventually Kronos castrated him because of his injustice Kronos, the second king of the gods. He maintained his power by oppressing his offspring. Eventually, the Olympians led by Zeus overthrew him because of his injustice. Zeus became king. Zeus distributed power among the gods and ingested Wisdom so that he would know what was right and wrong. Zeus is still king.

11 Poll Question # 4. About Hesiods Succession Myth A. I dont believe what the Greeks believed because science or responsible reasoning contradicts their belief. B. I dont believe what the Greeks believed because my religious beliefs contradict their belief. C. I agree with the central belief Hesiod sets forth in this story.

12 Discussion (normally 30-40 minutes, preceded by reading assignment and 30-minute lecture) Does rigorous thinking about these traditional religious texts (Bible, Theogony) a) challenge some element of your personal beliefs; and /or b) cause you to listen more carefully to beliefs expressed in a religious tradition that you had previously been inclined to dismiss as childish or absurd? I.e., Have you seen reason to suspect that some of your 24- carat Au might be pyrite, or that what you took as someone elses fools gold might be the real McCoy?

13 Goals of the DD course Not tolerance, but mutual understanding and deserved respect for valid insights An escape from intellectual incest--the prison of what every right person believes An experience of pursuing what is better, rather than trying to win arguments. [Socratic] A deep awareness that others different beliefs often stem from a commendable commitment to something good. A willingness to substantively challenge claims that dont make sense in a way that is open either to changing ones mind or continuing ones challenge. Extended experience of legitimately trusting the honesty and honor of other people and exercising ones own honesty and honor: Integrity--what the university can do best. An appreciation of ongoing creative tension.

14 Transferability to other topics of general and transdisciplinary interest war/peace climate change social inequities (wealth, health care,...) food and population capitalism, democracy, and justice, taxation the benefits / dangers of science and technology

15 Discussion Leaders / Graders Faculty Faculty spouses Retired faculty Grad students Community members

16 Challenges Seriousness and personal honesty are difficult to elicit and maintain. Risks: Personal crises, family tensions, depression. Appropriate instructional space: moveable seating, 100+ capacity, appropriate acoustics.

17 Financial Scaling ConfigurationEnrollmentTotal CostCost per student One tenured professor 20$20,000$1000 Tenured Professor + TA [For comparison only] 40$25,000$625 Professor, 2 graders*, 1 addnl discussion leader 60$27,900$465 Professor, 2 graders*, 2 addnl discussion leaders 80$29,200$365 Professor, 2 graders, 3 addnl discussion leaders 100$30,500$305 Assumed Rates: Tenured Professor: $20K ($100K / 5) TA: $5K ($15K / 3) Grader: $2000 Discussion Leader: $1300 * Graders always serve as discussion leaders and are paid for both services.

18 For further info hays@ohio.edu


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