Philosophy for Learning

Philosophy for Learning
“All which the school can or need do for pupils as far as their
minds are concerned …. Is to develop the ability to think”
John Dewey
A Grand Project
• Philosophy as a critical and comprehensive process of thought
involves resolving confusion, unmasking assumptions, revealing
presuppositions, distinguishing importance, testing positions,
correcting distortions, looking for reasons, examining world-views and
questioning conceptual frameworks.
• It also includes dispelling ignorance, enriching understanding,
broadening experience, expanding horizons, developing imagination ,
controlling emotion, exploring values, fixing beliefs by rational inquiry,
establishing habits of acting, widening considerations, synthesizing
knowledge and questing for wisdom.
Why Philosophy in Schools
• Interrogates underlying assumptions of our disciplines
• Encourages cross-curricular thinking
• Demands precise definitions
• Encourages chains of logic and consistency
• It is metacognitive
• It encourages speculation and, above all, WONDER
How Do I Know what I know?
How is Maths Beautiful?
• Mathematics is sometimes seen as being at the opposite end of the
spectrum from art in the sense that it offers us something that is
built on absolute objectivity, which only works if every element of
its structure is in alignment with each other.
• However, because mathematics is an essential tool in so many
fields, and spills over into such ‘artistic’ realms as design and
architecture, as well as engineering, medicine, and the social
sciences, it would be quite incorrect to say that it and the arts are
mutually exclusive.
The Golden Ratio
• Without mathematics there is no
art,” said Luca Pacioli, a
contemporary of Da Vinci.
How far can our ideas of beauty be defined in
terms of symmetry?
Islamic Art: The Joy of Balance
But what about asymmetrical features?
Bertrand Russell
• “Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme
beauty — a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without
appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous
trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a
stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show.”
Can mathematics help us capture
aesthetic experience?
Hendrickje Bathing in a River
Moral Outcomes: The Trolley Problem
The trolley problem and fat man variation are essentially the same scenarios. What
differs, interestingly, are the responses to them. The trolley problem sees the utilitarian
perspective as justified. The fat man variation, however, strangely labels it as wrong.
The fat man variation,
therefore, shows the key flaw of
utilitarianism. The philosophy’s
cold approach to determining
justice is highlighted when one
is seen directly taking a life as
opposed to simply flipping a
switch: in other words, the lack
of empathy in the approach.
• Community of Enquiry
• Stimulus
• Question Setting
• Prolonged Enquiry
• Socratic Questioning
Peter Singer: The Drowning Child & Expanding Circle
• Geography
• Politics
• History
• Sociology
• Psychology
Descartes’ Evil Demon
The Brain in a Vat
Humans as Batteries: The Digital Magic of the Matrix
Philosophy begins with wonder -Socrates
• Starters
• Whole lessons using P4C methods
• As part of EXCEL, deep thinking especially concerning themes
• Drawing upon cross curricular learning
• Metacognitive Plenaries
• Stimulus for creative writing
Further Reading
• Philosophy for Children through the Secondary Curriculum (Nick Chandley & Lizzy Lewis, Continuum 2012, ISBN
• Teaching Thinking (Robert Fisher, Continuum 2003, ISBN 0826468055)
A really good book that explores the teaching of thinking through philosophical discussion. Each chapter begins with a
quotation from a distinguished scholar, followed by a supporting one from school children.
• Thinking in Education (Matthew Lipman, Cambridge University Press 2003)
original pioneer of P4C
• P4C Pocketbook (Barry Hymer & Roger Sutcliffe, Teachers’ Pocketbooks 2012, ISBN 190661041X)
Two of the biggest influences in my P4C career, Barry & Roger have written a great little guide to P4C in the classroom.
• The Philosophy of Childhood (Gareth B. Matthews, Harvard University Press 1994, ISBN0674 )
• Games for Thinking (Robert Fisher, Nash Pollock 1997, ISBN 189825513X)
An invaluable resource for games and activities the encourage children to think. Great for starters to P4C sessions.
• The Philosphy Gym (Stephen Law, 2003)
25 short adventures in thinking by a great master