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Beth Oljar: Philosophy invites students to examine their lives

By Joe MacLean
On October 1, 2011

Get to know Beth Oljar and you'll have an easier time getting to know yourself.

Prof. Oljar, one of several professors who teach philosophy, welcomes discussions, opinions and debates in her class.

Philosophy is a subject that leaves many students scratching their heads, but it is also a subject that allows a person to find truth.

"Prof. Oljar explained to us on the first day of class that everyone is a philosopher and that discussing the questions that fancy our curiosities allows us to be players rather than spectators," sophomore Kevin Disalle said. "The experience was beneficial in many ways, but especially in my critical

Oljar enables students to reflect on knowledge, which may allow them to change their mind.

"Philosophy is about committing yourself to the examined life and to the pursuit of truth," she said. "Students will learn that philosophical claims must be supported by good reasons that can withstand the critical evaluation of others. Such strong reasoning skills are an essential part of

Students learn that philosophy isn't just an exchange of opinions and that not all opinions are correct, she said.

Her classroom experience includes debates about subjects such as religion and our presence in the world.

"I was raised Catholic, but I have always had questions about the reality of a God," Disalle said. "The debates were intelligent and allowed people on both sides of the argument to understand something they didn't before. Those understandings don't happen everyday. They need to be stimulated, and Prof. Oljar does a great job at

Students improve in a variety of skills in Oljar's philosophy class.

"Students will learn to think both more broadly and deeply than they ever have before, and from a more universal point of view," Oljar said.

Matt Arb, a junior from Troy, Mich., noticed improvements in his other schoolwork after taking the introduction to philosophy course.

"From what I learned in Oljar's class, I applied to my everyday life," Arb said. "I saw my writing skills, negotiating skills and thinking skills improve in my other classes. Philosophy made me look at things in a different

Oljar credits the subject of philosophy; Disalle credits Oljar.

"Prof. Oljar creates a great environment for students to feel comfortable talking about subjects that are sensitive," he said. "Classmates' opinions and comments during class cause some realizations you might have overlooked when you first thought about a

An aspect Arb grasped during class, which he saw as life-changing, was that the unexamined life is not worth living.

"I never thought about examining my life. I heard of it, but never actually understood what it meant," Arb said. "Today, I continue to reflect and try to seek a better understanding about myself and the world around

Disalle encourages friends and incoming freshmen to take Oljar's courses.

"You receive an education from Oljar's class," Disalle said. "That's something that encourages me to keep seeking

Oljar's motivation is broadening students' horizons by providing them with a different way of thinking and a different perspective on the world and themselves. 

"Seeing the look on students' faces when they begin to understand philosophy and its impact on their lives is intensely rewarding," Oljar said. "Introducing students to thinkers like Socrates, Plato, Descartes and Hume – who have had such a great influence on me – is like the feeling you get when you introduce one of your friends to another friend, and the two like each

 

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