What is Philosophy?

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Area: Other Areas
Grade Level: High School & Beyond
Topics: Arguments, philosophical skills
Estimated Time Necessary: 45-90 Minutes

Lesson Plan

An introduction to philosophy and argument-making
The goal of this activity is to see what students already know about philosophy, as well as introducing them to forming their own arguments and responding to each other’s arguments.

Introduction to Philosophy/Making Arguments

True/False handout for each student (see “Handout” below for specifics)
Two signs, “True” and “False,” placed on opposite sides of the room

At the start of class, ask students what they know about philosophy already. Call on a few students. If students need prompting, ask “Do you know any philosophers? What does the word make you think of?” etc.

Once a few students have shared what they know about philosophy, give each student a handout with 13 true/false statements about philosophy (see below). Students should complete the forms on their own. If they can’t decide whether a particular statement is true or false, they should write about why that is. Give students about 5 minutes to read all the statements and complete the form.

Then, put the “True” and “False” signs up on opposite sides of the room, in places where students can stand under or near both signs. Read one of the statements out loud and ask students to move to the side that represents their view. If a student says it is true that “philosophy is just about opinions,” that student would move to the side of the room to stand under the “True” sign. Students can also stay ‘in the middle’ if they can’t decide. Ask at least two students from each side why they are standing where they are. Give students an opportunity to respond to each other’s comments. Finally, let any students who have been convinced by the arguments of the other side move across the room.

Continue through all 13 statements. Some might be more contentious than others. At the end, ask students to reflect in writing about what they think philosophy is, now that they’re heard some possible reasons for believing various things about philosophy.

For each statement, decide if it is true or false and write a T for true and an F for false next to the statement. If you can’t decide whether a statement if true or false, use the lines at the bottom to write why you can’t decide.

______1) Philosophy doesn’t apply to real life.

______2) Philosophy is just about opinions.

______3) Philosophy has been replaced by science.

______4) There are no wrong answers.

______5) Philosophy is about searching for truth.

______6) Philosophy and science have clear boundaries.

______7) Philosophy is about who can talk the loudest and/or longest.

______8) Philosophy started in Greece.

______9) There are objective answers to moral questions.

______10) If there might not be any objectively correct answers to moral questions, we should stop seeking answers.

______11) Philosophy is different than religion.

______12) Philosophy is different than science.

______13) We can come up with objective answers in science, but not in philosophy.

This lesson plan was created for PLATO by: Darcy McCusker.

This work is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

If you would like to change or adapt any of PLATO's work for public use, please feel free to contact us for permission at info@plato-philosophy.org.