An example of the misappropriation of theme days for religious purposes

South High School, Bulle

Coordination sciences-philosophy - March 5, 2001

To the teachers involved in the Blaise Pascal meetings as well as to philosophy teachers

Let's set the objectives

by Marcel Délèze

A pivotal century

For the scientific branches, the choice of the theme Blaise Pascal is very favourable. It allows us to develop subjects that are interesting and whose level can be adapted to that of our high school students. I had a lot of pleasure leading the workshop "Pascal and probabilities".

The 17th century was a pivotal century. For the sciences, it marked the beginning of a new era which saw, among other things, the birth of Newton's classical physics. But in order to take this turn, it was necessary to abandon everything that, in Aristotle's doctrine, is contradicted by the facts.

A tenacious tradition

While I was reflecting on the 17th century, I was caught up by ours. I received a surprising piece of information: in the study of their philosophy programme, some fourth grade classes have just come out of the Middle Ages. With only a few weeks of study remaining, their vision of philosophy will necessarily be truncated and distorted. That Aristotle, St Thomas Aquinas and some Catholic thinkers are taught is normal since they belong to our cultural roots. But, when their part represents the essential or the crowning achievement, a suspicion arises: wouldn't the teaching of philosophy be brought back to its Catholic dimension? Naturally, professors who are not concerned will be able to recognise themselves and will understand that my remarks are not addressed to them.

A daring wager

We can only encourage the study of Pascal's wager. It is a work that belongs by right to our culture. But it is not appropriate for this theme to refer to the same obsessive preoccupations as those of the philosophy course: "to dispose one's heart so that God may give it to believe". Given the general context, the event appears to be a high Mass of Catholic thought, and I am not happy to play the role of concelebrant.

Let's set the objectives

In my opinion, a theme day should aim not to lock the pupils' minds into a system of thought, but to open up new horizons. There are so many interesting topics. For example, in an interdisciplinary framework, some elements of epistemology of science could be brought in. More generally, it seems to me that it is necessary to stimulate the critical spirit of the students because there is a crying need.

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