PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS ISSN 2043-0728
Issue number 11 5 July 2001
I. SAPERE Level 1 Course, 9 - 10 June, Puriton, Somerset
II. Philosophy Cafe, 25 June, Exclusive Bookshop,
III. Mortimer J. Adler, December 28 1902 - June 28 2001
I. SAPERE LEVEL 1 COURSE, 9 - 10 JUNE, PURITON, SOMERSET
I have been a member of SAPERE - the Society for Advancing Philosophical Enquiry and Reflection in Education - since 1997, but it was only recently that I found myself able to attend one of their regular Level 1 courses - an introduction to philosophy with children. This course took place at the residential care home owned by SAPERE chairman Roger Sutcliffe and his wife Vivien.
The course began at 10:30 am, as we introduced ourselves over coffee. There were 7 participants; ranging from one who was teaching in Switzerland, through to teachers trying to introduce philosophical enquiry in their schools - some with support and approval, some meeting considerable hostility. Roger explained a little about the origins of Philosophy with Children. Started in the USA about 30 years ago by Professor Matthew Lipman, it has been practised in Britain for about 10 years. SAPERE co-ordinates work in this field in Britain. After some paired discussion about what we thought constituted philosophy, and what might be important in philosophical enquiry, we had lunch.
Following lunch, it was our chance to try out a philosophical enquiry for ourselves! We read, aloud, an extract from "Harry Stottlemeier's Discovery" - one of the many stories that have been written to stimulate philosophical discussion with children. Each of us put forward a question connected in some way with the story. These were written up on a flip chart, and we chose one to discuss, by voting. The question chosen was: "Why do we feel sure some people will understand us?"
After the enquiry, we had a long break for tea. When we re-started, Roger talked about some of the dispositions, or virtues, that are encouraged in a philosophical enquiry discussion group - or "Community of Enquiry". It is hoped that children (and adults - for philosophical enquiry is intended for them as well) will gradually become more patient, tolerant, understanding, creative, and so on. After this, we had another philosophical enquiry, this time based on a children's picture book called "The Island of the Skog". The question discussed this time was "Why are some people more powerful than others?", which raised questions of how people become powerful in the first place, and whether others have sufficient influence to remove them from power if they misuse it.
By now it was time for the evening meal, during which a great deal of lively and enjoyable conversation went on around the dinner tables. After dinner, Roger talked about how philosophical enquiry relates to the 'thinking skills' element being introduced into the National Curriculum. We finished at 8:30 pm.
The course started again at 9 am next morning. First we played a game called 'Zip/Boing!', to wake up our minds! The game was to 'pass an imaginary ball around the circle', either saying 'zip' and turning your head to the next person along, or staying looking at the person who passed to you, and saying 'boing'. After this, Roger explained how the traditional areas of philosophy (such as ethics, politics, and theory of knowledge) are covered in philosophical enquiries. He also recommended some resources, and suggested ways of dealing with the expression of undesirable opinions by children (e.g. "If someone hits you, you should hit them back").
Then we practised another enquiry, this time using a traditional Indian story. The story tells how there was once a ferryman who lived by the bank of the Ganges. He had never been to school, but had learnt a lot from talking to his passengers. One day a professor got into the ferryboat. He ridiculed the ferryman for not having acquired any academic knowledge. But then a storm blew up, and it was the ferryman who knew how to swim, while the professor drowned. This raised the question: "What's worth learning?" In our discussion, we talked a lot about the difference between knowing intellectually how something is done, and having the practical ability to actually do it. After this we had tea. When we resumed, Roger taught us the basic structure of a philosophical enquiry: how you set it up, start the discussion, and draw it to a close.
At lunch there was, once again, a good deal of stimulating discussion going on during the meal. After lunch came the final session of the course. Roger talked a little about some of the practicalities of managing a philosophical enquiry with children, and the possibilities for moving on to the next level of SAPERE training.
The course ended about 2:45 pm. It had been a demanding weekend, but it was well worth it, as I had enjoyed the course immensely and taken part in some thought-provoking discussion, in the most congenial company.
SAPERE Level 1 courses are currently running every month or two, at various venues around Britain. If you are interested in finding out more, then visit http:--- .
(c) 2001 Katharine Hunt
II. PHILOSOPHY CAFE, 25 JUNE, EXCLUSIVE BOOKSHOP JOHANNESBURG
On Monday, 25th June, the first meeting of the Johannesburg Philosophy Cafe took place, under the direction of Reynhold Reynolds-Zamitt, the Philosophical Society South African representative. The discussion topic was, 'Are the truths of science more credible than the truths of philosophy?' Reynhold Reynolds-Zamitt put the case that 'there is only one truth and that the two fields of knowledge are complementary and not contradictory. Science deals with facts and philosophy with concepts.'
Among those who attended was Pathways student Leonidas Maniatis, from the Greek Consulate in Johannesburg. Leonidas Maniatis reports that 'we had a very interesting and lively discussion. Dr Reynolds-Zamitt is very optimistic and expects to attract big crowds!'
The next meeting of the Johannesburg Philosophy Cafe will be held on Monday, July 9th, 6.30 pm at the Exclusive Bookshop, Hyde Park, Johannesburg.
III. MORTIMER J. ADLER, DECEMBER 28 1902 - JUNE 28 2001
Mortimer J. (Jerome) Adler was born in New York City, the son of an immigrant jewelry salesman. He dropped out of school at 14 years of age and went to work as a secretary and copy boy at the New York Sun, hoping to become a journalist. After a year, he took night classes at Columbia University to improve his writing.
It was there that he became interested, after reading the autobiography of the great English philosopher John Stuart Mill, in the great philosophers and thinkers of Western civilization.
Adler became an instructor at Columbia University in the 1920s. His tenure at the university included study with such eminent thinkers as Erskine and John Dewey, the famous American pragmatist philosopher. This kind of environment inspired his early interest in reading and the study of the "Great Books" of Western Civilization. He also promoted the idea that philosophy should be integrated with science, literature, and religion.
The work on which he had concentrated since his Columbia University days, together with a lecture series and essays produced in Chicago, resulted in several publications, including 'The Higher Learning in America' (1936), 'What Man Has Made of Man' (1937), and his best-selling 'How to Read a Book', published in 1940 and still in print, occasionally revised and updated since first published. In 1943, his 'How to Think about War and Peace', written in the social and political climate of World War II, was published and he continued his advocacy of a popular, yet intelligent, approach to public education.
Throughout his career as a philosopher and educator, Adler has written voluminously, consistently focusing on a multi-disciplinary and integrated approach to philosophy, politics, religion, law, and education. Such works as 'The Common Sense of Politics' (1971), 'Six Great Ideas' (1981), and 'The Paideia Program: An Educational Syllabus' (1984), reflect this concern. He has also been involved with Bill Moyers in creating a series of video programs focusing on the subject of the American Constitution and biographies of the justices of the Justices of the Supreme Court and has also been involved in producing videos on the Great Ideas.
In 1977, Adler published an autobiography entitled 'Philosopher at Large', which was followed later by another autobiographical account entitled 'A Second Look in the Rearview Mirror: Further Autobiographical Reflections of a Philosopher at Large' (1992). He has spent a lifetime making philosophy's greatest texts accessible to everyone. As he has written, "No one can be fully educated in school, no matter how long the schooling or how good it is." And throughout his teaching career, Adler remained devoted to helping those outside academia educate themselves further. No one, no matter how old, should stop learning, according to Adler. Mortimer J. Adler, dead at the age of 98, after a long life dedicated to philosophy and education.
(c) John Johnson 2001