He is a professor of philosophy at an institute in Gijón and has just published the book Philosophy in the street. Thanks to his peculiar way of bringing philosophy to young people, Eduardo Infante has achieved something much more valuable than the mere learning of theories and authors: that his students develop a passion for philosophy.
In this interview we ask him about his new book and his method of philosophical teaching through social networks.
What does philosophy have to do with the daily problems we encounter on the street?
Philosophy has always had to do with everyday problems. When he was born it was a popular practice. The first Hellenistic schools dealt with urgent and daily problems of human life, and the first Greek philosophers debated sex, personality, anger, aggressiveness … They tried, as Epicurus said, to be "compassionate doctors." That is, that philosophy served to cure the ailments of the soul just as a doctor heals the body.
Philosophy was not at all theoretical then. But Plato created an academy and put up a sign that read: "Let him who does not know math not pass from here." He made philosophy something elitist, something that reminds us a lot of the expression: «Subject to admission». At that time when academic philosophy was created. The idea of my book is to recover the popular exercise of philosophy.
In Philosophy in the street You ask us questions we ask each day and explain how to give answers based on thoughts and authors. Can you give us examples of some of them?
These questions arise from my own students, mainly from an anecdote that radically changed my way of teaching. A student reminded me that, when I was young, my teacher explained things that had nothing to do with life. At that time, I stopped the class and talked with you about you to my students. And there they told me what were the problems that really bothered them: the death of a loved one, love, failure, success, truth …
One of the issues to which we spend more time was that of truth and lies. The first chapter is about that: should we tell our partner everything? There is also talk of art: are the galas of Operation Triunfo? And a multitude of problems that teenagers pose.
When you were a student, did you like philosophy? Was it one of your favorite subjects?
I did not have a good first experience with Philosophy. My first teacher of this subject did what he could, he gave a very academic philosophy. I remember writing the outline of each lesson in Greek on the board. We told him that we didn't know Greek and he replied that he didn't care and kept teaching.
Thus, my first experience was not positive: I saw it as a subject that dealt with problems that I did not understand, indecipherable and foreign to me, that we simply had to comment because they were part of the agenda. Philosophy was reduced to that, to a text comment. But at COU I had a magnificent History and Philosophy teacher, of these who touch your heart and save your life. And I fell in love with Philosophy not only through that teacher, but also through a book, the book in which Socrates' judgment is recounted. It was undoubtedly the figure that fell in love with Philosophy: it was and remains my teacher.
Let's talk about the philosophy challenges you put on Twitter. Where does the idea come from?
The idea came years ago. I was with a classmate, Professor of Physics, at recess, looking at the students. They spent time with mobile phones and commented that they did not communicate with each other, what a shame they were always glued to the screen. And I told him that, in reality, they were communicating through their screens. It changed the medium through which they debated and discussed, but continued to communicate.
At that moment it occurred to me to take them out of their world and their life to put them in a different one. I thought: why instead of taking them out of the street and putting them in the Philosophy classroom, do I put the Philosophy classroom in their world, on their screen? That day, talking to them, I proposed using Twitter to connect it with other problems, to challenge them, to make a window through which to follow the world and life. And, as it is said in the book, that thought becomes life.
How was the response from the students?
Magnificent Last year, for example, I really enjoyed the challenges: I proposed that they get in touch with physicists to explain the latest theories of the universe, and they got nothing more and nothing less than CERN physicists contacted us. . We invited them through Skype and they showed us the place where they work. It was a wonderful wonder. In education I think we have to incorporate new technologies, because the virtual world has become the world we live in and gives us tremendous possibilities in the classroom.
How is your relationship with students, now that you have written the book and with all this dynamics of social networks?
The truth is that it hasn't changed much. I love my profession very much. In fact, I start the first day of class writing a letter to my students in which I explain that I would like to convey that love to Philosophy over the years we are going to spend together.
The most beautiful thing is that I can see that this passion is transmitted to them during those two years, and it is maintained when they are alumni. Sometimes I go to the medical center and a doctor or nurse is a former student and they remember my classes. I love that you continue with that same passion! And knowing that I have left that mark for the search for truth, goodness, justice and dialogue is the most rewarding thing that can happen to me in this life.
In the book, when referring to philosophy, you talk a lot about the difference between what is useful and what is valuable.
Useful can be a corkscrew, an instrument that performs a function. In the field of knowledge, the tools are those that make us effective producers to produce a final merchandise. Faced with that is the valuable. If we follow the example of the corkscrew, it would be valuable to stop uncorking a bottle of wine with the person you love. That is valuable. And in the field of knowledge the same thing happens: there are valuable knowledge because they make us understand the life in which we live, they make us find meaning to each day and, above all, they are valuable because they bring us closer to good, to beauty the truth