Julian Young is the Kenan Professor of Humanities Wake Forest University, where he specializes in Continental (nineteenth- and twentieth-century German and French) philosophy, philosophy of art, environmental philosophy, and philosophy of religion.


  • It is very difficult to give a general answer to this question, for teaching, like love, is an intuitive business that cannot properly be articulate in rules and procedures. (That is why one should never go to a ‘teaching-improvement workshop’.) One thing to do is to stop complaining about students. … Students tend to respond well to someone they sense wishes them well. Never let students think that your real life is research-work that happens out of the classroom – try to make it the case, so far as possible, that (as in the nineteenth-century) your research and teaching are one and the same. Do not pander too much to the demand for ‘visual aids’. Do not teach in a darkened classroom and, especially, do not structure your lecture around a set of ‘bullet points’ projected onto a screen. Remember that bullet points are discrete while thought is continuous so that what bullet points represent is, in fact, the death of thought. Address what interests students – sex, death, boredom, technology and the meaning of life.
  • ‘Philosophy’ comes from philo-sophia not from philo-theoria. It means ‘love of wisdom’ not ‘love of theory’. Philosophy is about living wisely, that is well. Although theory can make an important contribution to living wisely, philosophy is not about theory for theory’s sake. Theory is a means not an end. The ancient Greeks understood this as did the Hellenistic and Roman philosophers – the Stoics, Epicureans, Sceptics, Cynics, Neo-Platonists, and so on. Theory was important but only to the extent it was relevant to the art of living. In the Middle Ages, however, the question of how to live well became the exclusive province of religion, and so philosophy was reduced to scholastic logic-chopping by monks. The ‘analytic’ tradition inherited the scholastic conception of philosophy whereas nineteenth-century German and twentieth-century French philosophers returned, in the main, to the original idea of philo-sophia. I was never interested in theory for theory’s sake though it took me some time to realise this.

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