Top philosopher promotes critical thinking in guiding Saudi Arabia’s reforms

American philosopher Michael Sandel spoke of the advantage of teaching critical thinking skills to Saudi youth in order to guide the kingdom’s reforms, after Saudi Arabia held its first-ever philosophical conference.

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The Harvard professor, who was described by the Times Literary Supplement as “the most important living and influential philosopher”, was questioned in an interview with Reuters after the Riyadh International Conference on Philosophy, which ran from Wednesday to Friday.

“Engaging in philosophical discussions, especially in such circumstances, is a challenge, indeed a risky task. I felt it was a risk worth taking,” Sandel said.

“I think promoting critical thinking is at least worth a try,” he said.

The professor noted that the younger generation in the kingdom seems eager to engage in philosophical discussions.

Philosophy has traditionally not been taught in Saudi Arabia. However, in 2018, the Ministry of Education announced that it would offer a course in philosophy to secondary schools.

“I want to encourage her, even while acknowledging that there are certain risks and the unpredictability of the path that might eventually begin,” Sandel said.

The Philosophy Conference was one event among many organized in light of the kingdom’s rapid reforms that began when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was appointed in 2017.

A film festival is currently being held in Jeddah, and an electronic dance music festival is scheduled to start on Thursday in Riyadh.

The reforms initiated by the crown prince include lifting the ban on women driving, relaxing the male guardianship system, and allowing films to be shown in cinemas.

“All I can say is that I believe that if there is a possibility to encourage philosophy and critical thinking in Saudi Arabia, that is a possibility worth exploring,” Sandel concluded.

with Reuters

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