Is it Dessert?

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Area: Language Arts and Literature, Other Areas
Grade Level: High School & Beyond, Middle School, Primary/Elementary School
Topics: counterexamples, cultural norms, food, Language, metaphysics, Wonder
Estimated Time Necessary: 30-45 minutes

Lesson Plan

Objectives:
Wondering together about categories and thinking of counterexamples.
Wondering together about what makes something dessert and what constitutes dessert to think about metaphysics, language, and cultural norms. This activity can also help work on developing counterexamples.

Using whatever piece of fruit you have available, ask if that fruit is dessert. With this simple prompt, a rich discussion about the nature of dessert will develop.

Is anything you eat after a meal dessert? Is it dessert if you ate it without eating a meal first? Can it be dessert if it is a healthy food? Does something need to be done to the item to make it dessert (e.g., if it is an apple, does it need to be turned into pie to be dessert?)?

For older students, you can do the “Is it Soup?” prompt. The characters in this video have strong Scottish accents that might be challenging for younger students to follow and the video takes a darkly comical turn at the end.

Watch the “What Makes Soup, Soup?” video and see if you can collectively determine what makes soup, soup. Do you find yourselves coming up with counterexamples every time you land on a criterion for what makes soup soup? What about other common items? What makes a table a table? A chair a chair?

See if you can come up with the conditions that make something what it is without running into counter-examples that make you have to refine your conditions further. Is it even worth one’s time to try to define things like soup? Are there things in life we know what they are even if we cannot define them minutely? Make a list of those kinds of things.

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