Employing Zen Methods to Teach New Natural Law Theory
Philosophical Practice, No. 3, No. 1
Posted: 5 Oct 2007 Last revised: 9 Dec 2012
Rinzai Zen Buddhism employs intellectual puzzles or exercises called koans to assist with the attainment of spiritual insight or enlightenment. This paper borrows a similar pedagogical strategy to help students grasp certain foundational moral insights. It showcases an ethics koan, i.e., an activity designed to help the person grasp in a practical manner the reality of normative first principles that identify basic goods and evils, called the principles of natural law in the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition. The koan requires that student complete a chain novel about a fictional character's absurd life. The effect is that students acknowledge their own grasp of what is beneficial and what is pointlessly futile. Such pedagogical strategies are especially beneficial for professional students, who are less inclined to abstract philosophizing. It ends with suggestions on how to employ new electronic media to present these koans.
Keywords: Zen Koan, Natural Law, Pedagogy, Teaching Philosophy
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