Written by students in an Introduction to Philosophy Students and Teacher, fall, 2015 Albright College, Reading, Pa. Sadik Akdogan, Catherine Alvarado, Ebony Brown, Will Cese, Dweh Duncan, Shana Guyah, Andy Jackson, John Morgan, Nanton John, Colleen Stankiewicz. A link to their video of this is and used with their permission: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_OY4urT85E
Everything started in a small classroom on the Albright College campus. We are people with different cultural, ethnic, and ideological backgrounds, part of an introductory philosophy class. As with any class, we expected to learn mostly from the teacher, but we never thought how much we could learn from each other.
We started with dialog in small groups, which helped us open ourselves to others. It was a challenging experience for some of us to share certain events that impacted our lives with complete strangers. But the fear of being exposed, judged, or misunderstood became less intimidating every time. We learned to listen to each other respectfully, which was one goal of our time together.
Some might assume that such a diverse group could end without engaging in dialog. This might be a possibility given how little people in our society listen to one another. Our society often focuses on differences between people first instead of reflecting on commonalities that might bring people together. Practicing what our teacher called “narrative philosophy,” or storytelling, our individual stories found common ground and became our story. Later, our story was transformed into the great story, a universal narrative which unveiled the great questions of life we found in sharing episodes in our lives. Questions about how and what we know, what is the meaning of our lives, what is real or who we are were some of the themes of our weekly dialogs.
For almost two months each week we tried to tell our stories and listen to those of others, seeking understanding. Even though with the diversity in our class, we found common ground between us. Connections were made. Listening to each other’s life perspectives through personal stories helped us identify a piece of ourselves in others Over time we found ourselves recognizing the value of someone else’s life which made that person who he or she was and is and might become. Our differences weren’t seen as barriers, but as opportunities to grow. They brought us closer one to other. We learned to respect one another. It didn’t matter which topic we dealt with, we grew to experience a shared bond. Out of this shared experience grew a project to share our stories with others, a single theme—home—seen from different perspectives, many different world views and cultures and ethnic groups, but illustrating a common journey: Life.
By sharing this short video, which we created and produced ourselves, we hope to show that from one great story there can be woven many individual ones, like a patchwork quilt. Our objective is not to select the best answer or judge who is right or wrong. We want to make known that even if some of our answers are different, they are still able to connect with other answers. We were practicing doing philosophy as a community of learners. We learned that by the practice of asking questions and engaging in active listening, we were able to understand and respect the thoughts of others, and sometimes even change our own. We believe that this process helped us to grow as individuals and could help a whole society. Learning how to live the examined life and listen to others is what philosophy is–the love of wisdom.