Philosophy for Teenagers


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An introduction to a high school philosophy class. See the accompanying class wiki at

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Philosophy for Teenagers

  1. 1. Philosophy for T eens Questioning Life’s Big Ideas in 2014 @dabambic West Island College
  2. 2. Philosophy for Teens 2014 Plato & his student, Aristotle 5th version of this class, each one is distinctive. Visit the past videos on the wiki; see the link on the front page. “What am I getting myself into?”
  3. 3. ‘Doing’ philosophy: Is it dangerous?
  4. 4. Start at the beginning: First steps... Oracle at Delphi Temple built for Apollo believed to be the center of the earth, or the navel of Gaia. The oracle was a priestess who spoke „truth in trance‟ and claimed Socrates to be the wisest of the mortals.
  5. 5. Why begin with self knowledge? To understand oneself is to understand other humans as well. What questions do you have that are common to all people? How would you formulate these questions? How do you look for the answers?
  6. 6. Listening Skills are Essential Listen to what is being said. What does it take to really listen? What does it feel like when you really listen to the other person’s position? Why would it feel threatening to listen to an opposite opinion to our own?
  7. 7. Slow motion thinking Thinking in slow motion. Why is this important? Zoom in on thoughts; observe them. Why is this important? Clarify words – be very precise.
  8. 8. Check the assumptions What is an assumption? A hypothesis accepted as truth but without proof. Why should we check assumptions? Why is truth important?
  9. 9. It’s all about finding the truth. Philosophers assert that truth can be discovered through the process of logically thinking and reasoned arguments.
  10. 10. Person 1 asks a philosophical question. What does it mean to be fair? Person 2 gives a common sense answer/definition. To be fair means to treat people the same way. Everybody should benefit from the same rights and opportunities
  11. 11. Person 1 thinks of a counter example that does not fit the definition given. This shows that the first answer was incomplete, biased or uninformed. All children deserve their parents’ attention. Some children might have special needs and consequently the parent spends more time with that one child than with the others. Is that fair?
  12. 12. Person 2 refines the answer to include the counterexample. So then, being fair means treating people with equality and not in ‘the same way’. Equality must take into consideration how people are different. Person 1 either looks for the hidden assumption or continues to questions until both are satisfied with the definition/answer.
  13. 13. Deduction: from the big picture to the little one. Draw a conclusion from the general statement. Premise: All teenagers are techno savvy. Conclusion: Jim is a teenager therefore he is techno savvy. Start with a general knowledge and proceed to a specific observation/conclusion.
  14. 14. If you know that the horn of your bike is powered exclusively by the electricity from the battery, then you can logically INFER that if the battery is dead, the horn won’t work.
  15. 15. Deductive logic lets us reach a conclusion based only on the information contained in the premise of in the set of statements. English is a compulsory course for all sec 5 students. You are in sec 5, therefore you must take English.
  16. 16. Begin with the observations /particulars and arrive at the conclusion. Example: Every time the motorcycle goes over a bump, the engine misfires. On the smooth road there is no misfiring but after the bump, the problem re-occurs. What can we conclude?
  17. 17. Something can’t be and not be at the same time. Example: It is not possible to say that Jim is alive and that Jim is dead at the same time. A person cannot BE and NOT BE at the same time. So, you can’t have your cake and eat it too in a philosophical debate.
  18. 18. As in the previous example, because you cannot both be alive and dead at the same time, then there is no third or middle possibility. Either it IS or it IS NOT.
  19. 19. Something is what it is. Jim is Jim. He is not Paul or Daryl. It is untrue to say that Jim is Paul.
  20. 20. These might sound silly to you but Aristotle (Plato’s student) developed this system of logic and it is still being used today. Test the premise with these laws. If it passes these laws, there is a possibility that the premise is true. The truer the premise, the stronger the conclusion.
  21. 21. Listen to the assumptions in the arguments. This is called critical thinking and it is the first step in DOING philosophy. Test out the ARGUMENT. Can you find weaknesses? Look at the premise. Does it pass the test? The stronger the premise, the better the conclusion.