Foundations of Philosophy (Ages 9-11)
with Sally Zeiner
This week in class we began by using a story map to organize the details of our reading from Five Children and It, Wings. Once we were sure that we had all agreed on the basics of the story, we launched into a very challenging discussion on ways of knowing.
In our discussion of who we are, and whether we exist, we learned about Rene Descartes proof, “I think therefore I am.” He said that because we can think about existence, we know we exist. He started by looking for things that he knew for certain. If something can be doubted, we do not know it for certain. Take a moment to think about the following questions:
Question 1: Ways of Knowing
Descartes, and many philosophers since, have considered thinking to be the foundation of the way we know.
Are there other ways that we know?
The five children start to fly, and the author says, “Of course you all know what flying feels like, because everyone has dreamed about flying, and it seems so beautifully easy – only you can never remember how you did it; and as a rule you have to do it without wings, in your dreams, which is more clever and uncommon, but not so easy to remember the rule for.”
Do we all know what flying feels like? Can we know things because we have dreamed about them? What other ways do we know things? After our discussion, we filled out a table with a variety of ways of knowing. I hope you will continue the discussion at home!
This week we will continue Five Children and It, discussing the ethical issues raised in Wings and Bigger than the Baker's Boy. The children should be reading Bigger than the Baker's Boy, as indicated on the syllabus.
Philosophy for Children (ages 12-14)
with Rich Piscopo
On Monday, we discussed the amazing skill of talking. Though we may take it for granted, when one stops to think of it, the act of speaking is a highly complex skill. How does a child learn to do it correctly? There is so much room for misinterpretation and error.
We also discussed the many varied ways one may express one's thoughts and feelings (one's self), besides through speech. One can express oneself through the means of writing, painting, sculpting, dancing, music, sports, fashion, and so many as of yet undiscovered ways! We realized that the same idea or feeling may be expressed in many different modalities. This realization heightened our consciousness of art in general. With our heightened perception, we can now ask ourselves what the artist was thinking or feeling when they
created a work of art. What mood where they in? Where were they psychologically when the creative moment struck? Where were they physically? What is the artist trying to convey? A student said that when he sees a work of art, he asks himself what season of the year the artist was trying to represent. Yes! See deep. Look behind the surface of things.
This line of dialogue led another to say, "Did you ever wonder if you are in the background of someone else's picture?" To which a student replied, "Or in the back of someone else's mind?" (I love when this interplay of ideas occurs! Each building on the other's comment.)
Now the discussion turns to points of view, and the value of seeing the world from another's point of view. We then universalized this practice. What would the world be like if everyone practiced this skill? Would there be conflicts? Wars? This rare skill is certainly worth the time and effort it takes to develop. Studying philosophy is an excellent means with which to develop this skill!
And the journey continues...