Ahh… Philosophy- that class you may have taken- or avoided- way back when. It seemed so abstract, out-of-touch and inaccessible. That’s probably because many of philosophy’s questions seemed so big that just thinking about answering them was intimidating. Questions like:
What is good and what is evil? And how do I know it?
Is my life guided by my free choices or is it determined by my past?
What is the meaning of life?
Complexity aside, since philosophy is all about Big Questions, maybe we can enlist it as the perfect ally in our quest to bring more inquiry into our classrooms.
Below are some resources in philosophy I’ve found to be imminently valuable to motivate Big Questions. You don’t need much experience in the subject to appreciate them as they are geared towards the general audience.
Resource #1: Children’s books– We’ve already seen how philosophical questions inside children’s stories can inspire Big Questions.
Resource #2: The 60-Second Philosopher by Andrew Pessin contains mini-thought exercises organized by chapter which engage students in philosophical themes relevant to a myriad of disciplines- social studies, science and English to name a few. We’ve already seen this book used in previous posts within the lessons Can intolerance be a Virtue? and Is America the Land of Opportunity?
Resource #3: School of Life. This YouTube channel creates animated videos connected to philosophy, psychology, history and other humanities-based subjects. Some promote more adult themes but many, especially the ones connected to philosophy and psychology, are creative, entertaining and tied to many Big Questions like Who am I? I have found these videos to be wonderful tools to stoke student curiosity.
Resource #4: The Pig that Wants to be Eaten. Baggini, Julian. Here is a collection of 100 philosophical thought experiments including many of the best known, such as “The Ship of Theseus”. The thought experiments are presented in an accessible way and Baggini offers a one to two page analysis after each scenario, in addition to listing citations to explore original sources.
Resource #5: PLATO-Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization: The Philosopher’s Toolkit has a collection of lesson plans to inspire philosophical discussions within a myriad of subject areas including math, literature, social studies and science. Each lesson indicates the audience for which it is best suited.
Warning! Once your students start thinking philosophically, there is no turning back!
Do you use philosophy in any way to inspire Big Questions? If so, how?