I have been staring in admiration over the shoulder of my 17-year-old daughter, as she embarks on a last mental rehearsal before a much-dreaded philosophy exam.
My primary thought is: Thank the Lord I was spared the torment.
I mean, can you imagine having to sit down one morning in June and spend four hours developing an exhaustive, coherent argument around the subject: Is truth preferable to peace?
Or: Does power exist without violence?
Or possibly: Can one be right in spite of the facts?
Perhaps you would prefer option B, which is to write a commentary on a text. In which case, here is a bit of Spinoza's 1670 Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. Or how about some Seneca on altruism?
I take these examples from my daughter's revision books. My heart bleeds for her, as I look at the list of themes that have to be mastered.
Ruby has chosen to take what they call a Bac Litteraire – the Literature Baccalaureat.
There are alternative, more science-biased versions of the Baccalaureat. They all include an element of philosophy.
But in the Bac Litteraire, philosophy is king.
It means eight hours a week of classes, and in the exams it has the top coefficient of seven. In other words, in the calculation of your overall mark at the Bac, it is philosophy which counts the most.
It also means having to master a host of what they call notions – notions, or themes.
Here are some of them from Ruby's books – consciousness, the other, art, existence and time, matter and spirit, society, law, duty, happiness.
And among the writers you need to refer to are Plato, William of Ockham, Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Heidegger, Sartre.
Why this emphasis on philosophy in France?
Written By: Hugh Schofieldcontinue to source article at bbc.co.uk