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A First Aid to Philosophy

A Student's Guide to Philosophy Courses By David Benatar

A Student's Guide to Philosophy Courses By David Benatar

Please note: this material is copyrighted, but may be used for personal use without charge on condition that the author and source are acknowledged.

Etiquette

It should not be necessary to mention some basic considerations of etiquette, but regrettably some students could do with some such guidance. The general idea is to be considerate. For those who need some help in this area, here are some tips. 

(i) Class

  • In and out
    Arrive at one’s classes on time. This not only enables one to gain maximally from the lecture or tutorial, but also prevents disruption of the class. 

    If one has to leave a lecture or tutorial early, it is polite to notify the lecturer or tutor, before class, that one will need to do so. (There may be limited circumstances, such as where one becomes ill during class, in which one will not know in advance that one will need to leave class early.) 

  • Do not disrupt
    Switch off your cell phone before class begins. Do not speak to fellow students during class or engage in other activities that will be disruptive to those around one. Do not eat or drink during class. 

  • Class discussion 
    Class discussion with the tutor or lecturer is encouraged. However, in asking questions or engaging in dialogue in tutorials and especially lectures, be aware that class time is precious and there are often many other students in the class. If one requires clarification of some matter, or wishes to offer some comment, one should put up one’s hand to indicate to the lecturer or tutor that one wishes to speak. When called upon to speak, one should ask one’s question or offer one’s comment as succinctly and clearly as possible. Speak sufficiently loudly that everybody in the class (including those behind one) can hear what one has to say. Do not speak merely for the sake of speaking. 

    Although students should always feel free to challenge what lecturers, tutors or fellow students say, such challenges should always be offered in a spirit of academic debate rather than belligerently. Debate must be civil and personal attacks on others are not acceptable.

  • Tutorials
    Sign up for a tutorial in good time – and then stay in that tutorial group. It causes the lecturer, tutors and administrative staff a lot of trouble when students sign up late for tutorials, change tutorials, or simply attend whatever group they feel like attending. 

  • No recording
    Do not make either audio or visual recordings of lectures or tutorials without the prior permission of the lecturer or tutor. 

(ii) Appointments and office visits

  • Keep appointments
    If one makes an appointment with one’s lecturer or tutor, one should keep it and be punctual (or provide adequate notice to the contrary). 

  • Knock
    Do not feel free to walk into somebody’s office uninvited. Knock first. If the door is closed, or the person in the office is busy with something or somebody else, wait to be invited in or at least until the occupant of the office is ready to see you.

  • Be prepared
    Arrive at an appointment or office meeting prepared, so as to avoid wasting your lecturer’s or tutor’s time. Have your question ready, your papers out, or your forms completed, depending on the purpose of one’s visit. 

(iii) Avoid undue familiarity

Avoid being overly familiar with your lecturer. For example, unless you are invited to address your lecturer by his or her first name, do not presume to do so. Do not phone your lecturer at home unless that lecturer has indicated his or her willingness to be consulted there. 

(iv) Limit question immediately after class

Lecturers are often inundated with student queries after class. Some students want to engage in lengthy philosophical debates with the lecturer while other students are waiting around to resolve some quick administrative matter. This not only keeps other students waiting but also delays the lecturer who may have to leave for another commitment. If you must speak with the lecturer after class, restrict yourself to questions that can be answered quickly. If you have a more substantial question, visit your lecturer’s office or make an appointment to see him or her. Do not send email questions requiring detailed philosophical answers, when you could instead visit your lecturer (or tutor) and ask the question in person.