Introductory Philosophy...

and other wise things


Elementary Philosophy for High School Students

A largely anachronistic painting by Raphael (1483-1520) that portrays Plato and Aristotle (central figures at the top of the stairs), and other ancient philosophers engaged in philosophic inquiry. To be sure, though, Plato and Aristotle were contemporaries and the two did know one another, Aristotle having been a student of Plato. Click on the painting and you will go to a website where you will be able to view the painting in more detail. It will enable you to discern the individual philosophers and some information about them.

Interestingly, Alexander the Great is in this painting and Socrates is near by, perhaps, talking to him. This would have been impossible, of course, since Socrates died (399 BC) well before Alexander was born. (356 BC).  Aristotle, however, did meet Alexander and was commissioned to teach the future ruler, which he did.

It was not Raphael's intention to be accurate with time. His goal was to create an ideal community of intellects from the ancient world. The "School of Athens" never existed, of course, whereas Plato's Academy certainly did exist. Raphael's painting below was a representation intended to capture the intellectual spirit of the Ancient Western World, the place where that World had it's political, philosophical and societal genesis.

The School of Athens

Rationale

Important Note!

Please realize that this site is in its early infancy and will not be launched until I have developed a certain core product, both in terms of its quality and quantity. Meanwhile, I post this page...and will provide a few links that may, hopefully, stimulate some interest. 

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This Philosophy site exists independently of any school, school board or educational philosophy or methodology. It is the author's own belief and judgement that young adults at the high school level, for the most part, have the capacity to handle the rigors of  "philosophizing" and if given the exposure would have the interest to do the same. This is especially relevant in light of the recent adoption of the IB program in various Nova Scotia schools. That being said, however, I would hope, in no small measure, that the interest and love of Philosophy would extend far beyond the participants of any International Baccalaureate program and include all  students, all  staff and all  schools.

In terms of Canadian schools, it is not unheard of to find Philosophy courses being offered in a few schools at the high school level but, by and large, they are still relatively rare, especially as official curriculum courses from Departments of Education. With the introduction of the International Baccurlaurate Program into Nova Scotia schools,  I suspect we will see an increase of Philosophy courses related to that enterprise, but as far as Philosophy courses being part of the regular curriculum, it is certainly not the norm in Canada.

Socrates

While Philosophy, undeservedly, is often cloaked in mystery and obscurity and presumed ever so falsely to be the unique province of university ivory towers, it is my belief... indeed, my conviction ... that this attitude and restrictive notion of Philosophy undermines the very essence of the discipline, itself.  Universality is the name of the game here.  If we are going to philosophize, let's do it everywhere and, more importantly, for everyone.  Moreover, let us also not assume, as it has been assumed in the past, that Philosophy is (a) too difficult, (b) too dull, or (c) too impertinent for high school students.  If we do, we underestimate the minds of the students we are trying to teach.  High school students learn calculus and physics...are there not facets of these disciplines that are very difficult?  Do we discontinue teaching them?  Or, consider, topics like medical ethics, abortion, rights and freedoms, the question of God, how can we know anything?, or what is knowledge?, are some political systems better than others?,  the question of responsibility, what is beauty?, or art?, what makes some action morally right or wrong? --- typical philosophical problems --- would these and many other similar topics be uninteresting for teenagers?  And what about the irrelevancy of Philosophy in a high school curriculum? To their credit, certainly the IB program doesn't think it is. Educational theories spew off platitudes about "life long learning", beoming intelligent and responsible citizens in society, developing personal and academic growth, (...things we always wanted for our kids anyway...what is new here?) ... so I would say formal Philosophical courses at an appropriate level would fit the bill quite nicely for these goals. Do we throw out History because it doesn't have the practicality of Math, Physics or Science?

We are, indeed, teaching the whole child...a big part of that whole is the development and improvment of a student's ability to rationalize and to think critically. All subjects help do this...at least implicitly and by their own specific methodologies. Philosophy is no less useful in this regard. In fact, it could be considered the paradigm of rationalization and intellectual criticism, itself.  There is no way out of it ... it is the nature of this benevolent beast, which we call Philosophy. It has endured for millennia and like a good parent, Philosophy has nurtured parts of itself like developing children until they were strong enough to stand on their own. Its children are the present day sciences: biology, chemistry, physics... even Mathematics; these disciplines did not germinate on their own, "out of the blue". They were seeds of a more general and immature body of knowledge...an attempt by the ancients of investigating and systemizing the reality as they saw it. Humankind had not yet invented , or devloped separate entities of study such as Biology, Chemistry or Physics ... they were all parts of what the ancient Greeks called the "Love of Wisdom" --- or, as we know the term today --- Philosophy.  Very simply put: as enough knowledge was gained and systemized over the centuries, some of the parts of Philosophy became bodies of knowledge and investigation in their own right. Human knowledge was becoming specialized ... and it continues to develop and evolve today.

Incidentally, a note to Philosophy's critics. Perhaps, it will have an effect in some small way of elucidating the nature of this venerable and ancient method of Inquiry, which more than any other, defies the process of definition. Indeed, it is a philosophical question, itself, to simply ask, "What is Philosophy?"  Morever, if one assumes the task of criticizing our beloved Parent of Systemized Knowledge and even if that criticism claims, in no small measure, that in the great scheme of the order of the universe, there is no such thing as Philosophy....then we arrive at the astonishing paradox that the activity used by our critic to arrive at such a conclusion is, itself, an act of philosophical inquiry!

 

SOME GENERAL PHILOSOPHY SITES

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Facts Encyclopedia - Philosophy Resources

Philosophy Pages

 

For more information, please address questions and comments to the address below:

project.x@lycos.com

 

"Where all think alike, no one thinks very much"

---Walter Lippman

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