Wondering Aloud: Philosophy With Young People

Death and Philosophy

If we did not die, if our existence did not unravel in the endless darkness of death, would life be quite so precious, so extraordinary, so moving? Andre Comte-Sponville,Professor of Philosophy at the Sorbonne Whenever I ask students what they think are the most fundamental questions of human life, always on the list is some […]

Getting philosophy into classrooms

I’m often asked how the center got started and about ways to get into schools to do philosophy with young people. I decided to start the center when I was about to finish my Ph.D. in 1996. I had become interested in working with pre-college students, and a non-profit center seemed to me the best […]

Is this really philosophy?

“. . . That slight uncertaintywhich makes us sure.” From Advice from the Museby Richard Wilbur The start of the school year and planning for the year’s philosophy classes. Usually I start my philosophy classes by asking students to offer some possible answers to the question, “What is philosophy?” (Of course there is no incontestable […]

Online Philosophy Resources

People often ask me about finding philosophy resources online. There is now a multiplicity of online resources available for free — online philosophy classes, lectures, materials, etc. This is a sampling: http://www.epistemelinks.com/index.aspx (thousands of links to philosophy audio and video, course materials and other philosophy resources) http://broodsphilosophy.wordpress.com/2006/06/15/online-videos-of-philosophical-lectures/ (list of online videos of various philosophy lectures) […]

The Great Blueness and Other Predicaments

“Long ago there were no colors in the world at all. Almost everything was grey, and what was not grey was black or white. It was a time that was called The Great Greyness.” The Great Blueness and Other Predicaments is a story by Arnold Lobel about a wizard who introduces color into the world, […]

The One Who Walk Away from Omelas

The Ursula LeGuin short story The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas is a powerful story for discussing with high school students utilitarian ethics and the question of whether the suffering of one person is permissible if it brings about the greater good. The story is set in a joyful and seemingly perfect city, where […]

The Three Questions

“There once was a boy named Nikolai who sometimes felt uncertain about the right way to act. ‘I want to be a good person,’ he told his friends. ‘But I don’t always know the best way to do that.’” From The Three Questionsby Jon J. Muth Muth takes Leo Tolstoy’s short story, The Three Questions, […]

What is art? Blog Series Part I

I’m going to write a series of posts about the philosophy of art unit I’m doing with sixth grade students this fall. Yesterday was the first session of the unit. We started by listing some of the things the students said they would consider art, which included paintings, sculpture, music, and poetry and also rocks, […]

What is art? Blog Series Part II

I decided that the second class of the philosophy of art series should involve actually looking at visual art and talking about it. I thought about taking the students to a local art gallery, and then decided that it would be fun for them instead to visit our local junior/senior high school (where they will […]

What is art? Blog Series Part III

This week the sixth graders and I read part of a chapter from Harry Stottlemeir’s Discovery (by Matthew Lipman, part of the curriculum developed by the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children in New Jersey), which involves two girls visiting an art museum together and talking as they wander around. The chapter raises […]

What is art? Blog Series Part IV

In the two sixth grade classrooms in which I’ve been teaching this aesthetics unit, the students and I spent a lot of time this week talking about the relationship between having feelings and expressing feelings. We read another portion of chapter 14 in Mat Lipman’s Harry Stottlemeir’s Discovery, in which two girls have a conversation […]

What is art? Blog Series Part V

This will be the final post in this series. What is music?Is there some quality that anything considered music must have?Can any sound count as music?Does all music express emotion?Is the emotion that music expresses in the music itself? In the composer? In us, the listeners?What makes music pleasurable to listen to?Why do we listen […]