APA Newsletters, Spring 2017 Edition – Part One

The latest edition of the APA newsletters was posted online recently. In case you haven’t had a chance to check them out yet, I’m going to provide a brief synopsis of each issue in a series of posts over the next few weeks. The APA newsletters are often overlooked, but they don’t deserve to be. Their pages contain a wide variety of scholarly material, discussion on relevant and timely topics, book reviews, and much more. You can download the newsletters on the APA website.

Newsletter on Asian and Asian-American Philosophers and Philosophies

Though recent editions of the APA Newsletter on Asian and Asian-American Philosophers and Philosophies have focused predominantly on Indian philosophy and culture, the current issue, edited by Prasanta Bandyopadhyay (Montana State University), includes two papers on philosophical topics in classical and modern China in addition to an essay on Madhusūdana Sarasvatī, a prominent seventh-century Advaita Vedānta philosopher.

In “The Upside of Non-Specialist Teaching: A Reply to Cline,” Julianne Chung responds to an earlier paper by Erin M. Cline (“What’s Missing in Philosophy Departments? Specialists in Chinese Philosophy,” APA Newsletter on Asian and Asian-American Philosophers and Philosophies, spring 2016) by outlining the advantages of having non-specialists teach Chinese philosophy. Chung suggests that non-specialists are able to approach Chinese philosophy from the perspective of their particular specializations, resulting in new insights and interpretations, benefiting philosophy departments and the profession as a whole.

The next article, “Fundamentalist Thinking in Chinese Maoist ‘Thought Remolding’,” explores the effects of the Mao Zedong Era on contemporary China. Author Philip Williams walks readers through the five features of fundamentalist thought to show how fundamentalism and orthodoxy have prevailed despite predictions that scientific advancements and increasing affluence globally would cause them to decline.

In the last paper, Niranjan Saha discusses the controversy surrounding the seventh-century philosopher Madhusūdana Sarasvatī’s place of origin. Saha uses textual evidence and modern scholarship to conclude that Sarasvatī probably hailed from Bengal and, furthermore, that the Caitanya movement likely had a significant influence on his thought.

The issue concludes with a call for papers on the Indian philosopher B. K. Matilal (1935–1991) for the fall 2017 edition of the newsletter. Possible topics include Matilal’s strategy of comparing classical Indian and contemporary analytic philosophy; Matilal’s reasons for engaging in analytic-Indian comparative projects and their relevance now and in the future; how Matilal’s contributions to logic, epistemology, ethics, etc., have added to contemporary understanding of these topics; and how Matilal’s legacy has been told and how he will continue to be remembered. Submissions (1,000–3,000 words) should be sent to Ethan Mills (Ethan-Mills@utc.edu) by June 15, 2017.

Newsletter on Teaching Philosophy

The APA Newsletter on Teaching Philosophy is devoted to pedagogy rather than theoretical discussions of philosophical issues. Longtime co-editors Tziporah Kasachkoff (The Graduate Center, CUNY) and Eugene Kelly (New York Institute of Technology) traditionally put together a cohesive collection of essays, book reviews, and a list of recent books that may be of interest to those who teach philosophy.

In “How Teaching Should Matter,” Steven M. Cahn addresses the fact that philosophy instructors are often hired based on their publications and research rather than teaching ability. Cahn suggests that graduate departments should offer a course on teaching methods for aspiring instructors. He also recommends that teaching proficiency should be taken into consideration during the hiring process as well as in making tenure decisions.

The second paper, “How Teachers Succeed,” also by Cahn, follows up on the first by discussing what he believes to be the fundamental components of pedagogic success: motivation, organization, and clarity. Using baseball analogies and examples from philosophical lectures, Cahn shows how these concepts lead to effective teaching and student engagement. (Both articles by Stephen Cahn have recently been featured on the APA blog.)

Next, in “Didactical Ordering and Emotional Moral Persuasion,” Shlomo Cohen states that teaching success depends in part on students’ perception of the topics as relevant. To that end, he discusses the importance of the order of presentation of material and explains how—and why—he chooses to teach normative egoism and moral relativism prior to the substantive ethics of Aristotle, Kant, and Mills in his Introduction to Ethics course. He further goes on to explain how he appeals to students’ sense of shame to help them determine whether they really are either egoists or relativists.

In the final article, Stephen J. Sullivan describes in depth his approach to “Teaching ‘Introduction to Women’s Studies’ as a Critical Thinking Course.” In addition to presenting factual issues such as workplace discrimination, sexual violence, and gender privilege, Sullivan also encourages his students (primarily freshmen who have never taken a philosophy class) to think critically about feminist issues. The paper provides a detailed look at how Sullivan’s course is set up and the readings and types of work he assigns.

Nils Rauhut’s review of The Stone Reader: Modern Philosophy in 133 Arguments, edited by Peter Catapano and Simon Critchley. The book consists of 133 essays—many by APA members—taken from the New York Times series “The Stone.” Though the essays cover a wide range of topics, Rauhut writes that they are all brief, well written, and accessible to a wide audience, including non-philosophers.

At the end of the newsletter you’ll find a list of review copies of books the editors have received from a variety of publishers. If you’re interested in reviewing one of the books listed or any other book that you think would be useful in the classroom, please contact the editors (tkasachkoff@yahoo.com and/or ekelly@nyit.edu).

Concluding Thoughts

The next post in this series will highlight the Newsletter on Philosophy and the Black Experience and Philosophy in Two-Year Colleges. I encourage you to read the APA Newsletters and to share them with your colleagues and students—access is unrestricted!

The APA Newsletters are a great place to publish your work. Individual guidelines for preparing and submitting material are posted on each individual newsletter’s webpage. You can find links to all of them here.

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