The truth, but not yet: Avoiding naïve skepticism via explicit communication of metadisciplinary aims

Teaching in Higher Education 24 (3):361-377 (2019)
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Introductory students regularly endorse naïve skepticism—unsupported or uncritical doubt about the existence and universality of truth—for a variety of reasons. Though some of the reasons for students’ skepticism can be traced back to the student—for example, a desire to avoid engaging with controversial material or a desire to avoid offense—naïve skepticism is also the result of how introductory courses are taught, deemphasizing truth to promote students’ abilities to develop basic disciplinary skills. While this strategy has a number of pedagogical benefits, it prevents students in early stages of intellectual development from understanding truth as a threshold concept. Using philosophy as a case study, I argue that we can make progress against naïve skepticism by clearly discussing how metadisciplinary aims differ at the disciplinary and course levels in a way that is meaningful, reinforced, and accessible.
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