Saturday, July 02, 2011

Doing Philosophy With Children 4

Thinking Beyond The Visible World

A different perspective, Mont Souris Park, Paris, June, 2007
This is the third of Professor Robert Fisher's ways of engaging children in philosophical discussion. In short, I believe that this is the world or wonder and imagination, fancy and fantasy.  At this stage in my life, I believe religion fits in somewhere in this realm.  Let me explain and elucidate my point further here.  Children naturally respond to stories of magic and mystery, monsters and myths.  They like to be both entertained and scared.  They encounter, read about, see on TV all the myriads of ordinary and extraordinary things that actually happen in the world and also about all the ordinary and extraordinary things that happen in the world of the imagination.  Now we're getting into the stuff of philosophy    where does the so called "real" world end and the "imaginary" world begin?  Indeed is the imagination not as "real" as the "real" world?  What does "real" mean anyway?  What does "imaginary" mean in fact?  Some questions one might ask children or have them ask:


  • How do you know you are not dreaming at this moment?
  • What does it mean to dream?
  • Are dreams just that - random stupid imaginings of the mind asleep?
  • What is the mind?
  • How does the mind differ from the brain?
  • How do we know the mind exists?
  • How do we know the brain exists?
  • What is the difference in the answers to the two foregoing questions?
  • How do you know when something is true or not true?
  • Is an apple dead or alive?
  • Is it right to eat animals?
  • Are we not animals?
  • Why is it not right to eat other humans?
  • What does it mean to be human?
  • What is the difference between pretending and lying?
  • Why do people lie?
  • Why tell the truth?
  • What is the truth?
  • What is the difference between a real person and a robot?
  • Can we construct a human being?
  • Can computers be said to think?
  • What is thinking anyway?
  • Can animals think?
  • We know they have a brain, but do animals have a mind?
  • Is it right to tell lies?
  • Can you really like someone who does something really bad?
  • Who might love a murderer? Why?
  • Which is better, to be found guilty until proven innocent or innocent until proven guilty?
  • What are the valuable things in your life?
  • What makes them valuable?

    1. The Sense of Curiosity and Wonder:
        Striking light - Ionad an Bhlascaoid, Nov. 2005 
        It has long been accepted that a spirit of curiosity and wonder is at the very heart of creativity whether that be in the World of Arts or in the World of the Sciences.  All discoveries and inventions begin in curiosity.  Indeed, as a teacher of some thirty years standing, curiosity and wonder are essential qualities of a good teacher because children have those qualities naturally.  However, those qualities will fade quickly under the weight of academics and examinations to be sat, unless the teacher actively promotes them to prevent their demise.  That's the saddest thing I have found in all my years of teaching, that the natural instinctive wonder and curiosity in children can be killed off so quickly by a dead and deadening curriculum.  Indeed, I firmly believe that there is no such thing as a boring and deadening curriculum as every single area of study can be enlivened by the thought-provoking and curiosity-promoting approach of teachers, lecturers and professors.  It was one of my old primary teachers who was nearing retirement that influenced me to become a teacher - simply because even at sixty-plus years of age he was still young at heart, still curious, still enthusiastic, still asking questions, totally inspiring.  It is lack-lustre and uninspiring teachers who kill the native wonder and curiosity in our children.  Indeed, I find that the kids keep me young at heart as not alone to I promote their curiosity and wonder, but I actively listen to their stories and most importantly, their questions.  One of the best ways of rewarding and positively enforcing a child is to say something like: "John or Michelle or whoever, that's a very good question!"

        Let me quote a few of Professor Fisher's concluding lines by way of concluding these short musings here:

        .... a child needs a home and school where they can question and discuss contestable ideas, where people are interested in what they think and feel, where it's alright to challenge others and ask "Why?", and where it is all right to change one's mind where there are good reasons for doing so.  Here, philosophical thinking can flourish.  As Beth, aged ten, said, philosophy happens in a place "where people let you take out your mind and share it with others." Philosophy Now, May/June 2011, p.8)

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