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2017.10.09

Motivational letter for ERASMUS+ Teaching Visit in the 2017-2018 Fall semester

I propose to teach at Beijing Normal University a one-week course on Pedagogy for Self-Development: Learning to know (with ethics) and to not know (with philosophy). I would teach a total of 20 hours to a maximum of 50 students.

Pedagogy for self-development:

Learning to know (with ethics) and to not know (with philosophy).

This course will be of interest for students of ethics, philosophy and psychology, as well as for future teachers and for current teachers. It is based on my experiences leading the Minciu Sodas online laboratory for independent thinkers around the world, 1998-2010, and teaching philosophy and ethics at Vilnius Gediminas Technical University, 2016-present.

The class will incude 5 two-hour interactive discussions involving up to 50 students:

  • 1) Students will learn how to know themselves by discovering their own deepest value in life, which includes all of their other values. They will think ethically about what they are doing and why they are doing it.
  • 2) Students will learn how to ask a question that they don't know the answer to, but wish to answer. They will see how their question relates to their value as well as questions that others are asking.
  • 3) Students will learn ways of investigating their question, especially by "stepping-in" to collect example from real life experiences, and then "stepping-out" to reflect on the variety of the answers.
  • 4) Students will learn about different cognitive frameworks which may help them structure the answers to their questions.
  • 5) Students will develop for themselves a complete ethical system: What should they do? Why should they do it? How can they get themselves to do it?

Students will also learn how these activities can help them better understand great thinkers in philosophy and ethics who share their values and questions. The class will also include 3 four-hour interactive workshops, 10 students each. Each workshop will focus on one of our investigative questions and show how working together we can answer it, at least partially.

The overall purpose is to show that we can live as investigators. We can take up any question that we care about and we can discover answers that satisfy us. We can know ourselves and investigate what we don't know. We can do this with others and develop a culture.

Benefits to VGTU

The course will share and develop further my teaching approach which I am having success with teaching my philosophy and ethics students. I am showing that it is possible to do philosophy themselves rather than hear about it. I teach them by discussion rather than lecture, and have them focus on their own values, questions, investigations and ethical systems, and thereby appreciate the great thinkers they can learn from. They also appreciate that their fellow students represent a great variety of perspectives and are inspired to engage each other. This teaching visit would embolden me to share my approach with others at VGTU.

I am planning to attend the World Congress of Philosophy in Beijing in August 13-20, 2018. http://wcp2018.pku.edu.cn Teaching at Beijing Normal University this semester would allow me to develop these contacts further when I return to Beijing in the summer. It may also increase my chances of receiving support from the Lithuanian Science Council to travel to that conference and stay in China for part of the summer.

In 1997, I lived for two months in the small town of Longgang, China in Zhejiang province, with the family of my friend, Dr.Shu-Hong Zhu of the University of California at San Diego. At that time, I also stayed 10 days at Beijing Normal University where I met with a psychology professor who introduced me to two students with whom I developed philosophical workshops, "good will exercises". My Chinese skills are at the advanced beginner level. If I lived in China for a while, then I could become proficient at the language. I am currently studying Chinese successfully with the Duolingo app. I am also attending lectures by Tadas Snuviškis on Chinese philosophy on Mondays at the Confucius Institute.

China is one of the great civilizations and represents a distinct profundity of world views which are valuable in surveying who we are, as humans, and who we can be. I am curious what differences I will find in people's values, questions, investigations and ethical systems. In 1997, I learned that we can personally comprehend each other in such matters but that different cultures emphasize different issues. For example, in China, politeness was an important issue. An elementary school teacher felt troubled that neither he nor his friend smoked cigarettes, but even so, he felt compelled to offer his colleague a cigarette, out of politeness.

This will be my first ERASMUS+ Teaching visit, but in August, 2017, I went on an ERASMUS+ Learning visit to Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München where I participated at the European Congress of Analytic Philosophy. That was a very helpful experience in learning how to give academic talks in philosophy, and I have subsequently given talks in Tartu, Estonia, and Lublin, Poland, and have been accepted to give talks at conferences in Portugal, Austria and Czechia. I am an experienced social networker and have attended perhaps a hundred such event as that was my job as leader of the Minciu Sodas online laboratory from 1998 to 2010. I have collected deepest values, all unique from 700 independent thinkers, and 300 investigatory questions from them. I have myself conducted more than 200 investigations of such questions and created a database of 1,500 ways and examples of figuring things out. Starting in 2017, I have organized 7 monthly workshops on how to investigate one's question, for which I received recognition from our Department chair Tomas Kačerauskas for my extracurricular work. These are the workshops that I will conduct at Beijing Normal University.

I am fluent in English and Lithuanian as I was born to a Lithuanian family in the United States of America, where I received my Ph.D. at the University of California at San Diego. At VGTU, I teach in English. I believe that I will impress my students in China and they may want to come to VGTU!

2017ErasmusTeachingVisitProposal


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