Reviving the Philosophical Dialogue with Large Language Models

Teaching Philosophy 47 (2):143-171 (2024)
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Many philosophers have argued that large language models (LLMs) subvert the traditional undergraduate philosophy paper. For the enthusiastic, LLMs merely subvert the traditional idea that students ought to write philosophy papers “entirely on their own.” For the more pessimistic, LLMs merely facilitate plagiarism. We believe that these controversies neglect a more basic crisis. We argue that, because one can, with minimal philosophical effort, use LLMs to produce outputs that at least “look like” good papers, many students will complete paper assignments in a way that fails to develop their philosophical abilities. We argue that this problem exists even if students can produce better papers with AI and even if instructors can detect AI-generated content with decent reliability. But LLMs also create a pedagogical opportunity. We propose that instructors shift the emphasis of their assignments from philosophy papers to “LLM dialogues”: philosophical conversations between the student and an LLM. We describe our experience with using these types of assignments over the past several semesters. We argue that, far from undermining quality philosophical instruction, LLMs allow us to teach philosophy more effectively than was possible before.



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Robert Smithson
University of North Carolina at Wilmington

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References found in this work

Phaedrus. Plato - 1956 - Philosophy and Rhetoric 1 (3):182-183.
Dialogue theory for critical thinking.Douglas N. Walton - 1989 - Argumentation 3 (2):169-184.
Symbolic protest and calculated silence.Thomas E. Hill Jr - 1979 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 9 (1):83-102.
Philosophy in the Wild.Crystal L'Hôte - 2012 - Teaching Philosophy 35 (3):263-274.
On Being a Socratic Philosophy Instructor.Eric C. Mullis - 2009 - Teaching Philosophy 32 (4):345-359.

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