Wednesday, June 24, 2009

25 Philosophers

This is a nice, accessible resource for high school students: It lists 25 philosophers, from Confucius through Descartes and Kant to Mary Midgley and Foucault, and gives a short synoposis about each of them.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


ochikochi ni taki no otokiku wakaba kana

fresh young leaves –
the sound of a waterfall
both far and near

Yosa Buson

June Birthdays

June 5 Charles Hartshorne (American, born 1897) and Adam Smith (Scottish, born 1723)
June 6 Isaiah Berlin (British, born 1909)
June 9 Nikolai Fedorovich Fedorov (Russian, born 1829)
June 14 Bernard Bosanquet (British, born 1848)
June 18 Jurgen Habermas (German, born 1929)
June 19 Blaise Pascal (French, born 1623)
June 21 Jean-Paul Sartre (French, born 1905) and Anthony Collins (British, born 1676)
June 23 Alan Turing (British, born 1912) and Giambattista Vico (Italian, born 1668)
June 24 Julia Kristeva (Bulgarian-French, born 1941)
June 25 Willard Van Orman Quine (American, born 1908)
June 27 Emma Goldman (Lithuanian-American, born 1869)
June 28 Jean-Jacques Rousseau (French, born 1712)

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Little Book of Thunks

Thunk: "a beguiling simple-looking question about everyday things that stops you in your tracks and helps you start to look at the world in a whole new light."

The Little Book of Thunks is a wonderful resource for talking about philosophy in a classroom or with your own children. About the first quarter of the book discusses philosophy sessions with young people -- how you can do them and why you should. The little book (and it is little, only 90-odd pages) then lists 260 thunks. For example:

Can you have a friend you don't like?
Which is more important, being right or being nice?
Does a sound exist?
If you could take a pill that meant you would never fail, would you?
Can you touch the wind?
If I acquire your memory who am I then?
When you comb your hair, is it art?
Can a fly see a skyscraper?
Can you have a third of love?
Why don't dogs laugh? Is it because they don't have a sense of humor?

Monday, June 1, 2009

College Students in Pre-College Classrooms: Philosophy Books and Other Ideas

Thursday was our last seminar session at UW for the spring. Through this class, twelve college students introduced philosophy into public school classrooms around Seattle over the quarter. The seminar included students majoring in philosophy and education.

On Thursday the seminar students presented the lesson plans they had implemented in the classrooms in which they had been working. The philosophy sessions they had led ranged from discussions about how we know what we know in a second/third grade classroom to a fourth grade class questioning the nature of friendship to explorations of identity with fifth grade students to a dialogue about the nature of good and evil in a high school classroom.

One pair of students who worked with second and third graders came up the idea of doing a book-making activity, in which the children created their own “philosophy books” using paper, scissors, and pens. The books had pages designated for the following questions, which the class discussed and the students filled in as the discussion ensued:

What is philosophy?
How do you know what you know?
An original philosophy question, which the children drew and/or wrote. The students ended up asking questions such as “Are there dragons? and “Are aliens real?” and “What is the meaning of time?”

Most of the college students had rewarding experiences bringing philosophy into pre-college classrooms, and the teachers with whom they worked really enjoyed the opportunity to have their students introduced to philosophy. One seminar student wrote, “After taking this course, I discovered that if I become a teacher, I want to be a teacher who produces excitement in her students. I’d want my future students to know what philosophy is and to appreciate the wonder that arises in thinking as a philosopher. I’d want them to go about their classes and their lives with this kind of thought."