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Philosophy and teenagers

Philosophy is the love of wisdom - the study of the great thoughts written by the sages since Ancient India and Ancient Greece. It is often dismissed as an airy subject in which philosophers run around in circles not getting anywhere, or, as George Berkeley commented, 'philosophers create a dust storm and then complain that they cannot see.' ( Or words to that effect) In his Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking argued that philosophy needs to catch up with physics - again, the suggestion that it is outmoded and perhaps useless prevails. Yet a broader and deeper reading of philosophy has caught some scientists by surprise: the metaphysical views of quantum theorists can be found in Ancient Chinese and Indian thought: some of the theories currently being tested have ancient antecedents: no, it's not the data that the Ancients provided but the interpretation of the nature of the universe...that perhaps what we see is not what really is.

Philosophers are naturally sceptical - they have taught the scientists, and continue to do so - how to test their logic, how to test the validity of arguments and the limitations of evidence and the senses. The service is powerful and subtle, yet often dismissed as a waste of time. Materialist minded politicians have encouraged cuts to philosophy departments over the sciences - which is a bit like lobotomising an individual to heighten the sensory organs. Philosophy reaches to the higher spirit or mind within us and to dismiss it is to dismiss our nature.

We can begin to teach our children philosophy by becoming actively curious and presenting them with big questions that perhaps are unanswerable: 'who am I?' 'what is the purpose of life?' 'where do we come from?' 'how should I act?' 'how do I know anything at all?' Great starters.

And for the teenagers, I highly recommend Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder: still a favourite of mine to share with pupils to get them thinking!

Article by Dr Alexander Moseley
Added Sun, 8 Nov 2015 20:46


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