What is fairness? What does it mean to be brave? Can you step in the same river twice? It is not only adults who can discuss philosophical issues. Peter Worley picks the best philosophy books for children.
What is philosophy and why is it important that children have a chance to discuss it?
I think of philosophy as an activity more than anything else. So for me, working with children, it’s important that philosophy is rooted in conversation. The reason it’s important for children to do philosophy in this conversational style is firstly, to get them to respond to problems they encounter. Secondly, to reflect on those problems, and to reason about them and then, most importantly, to reevaluate. Those are what I call the four Rs of philosophy: respond, reflect, reason and reevaluate. So, for instance, you might come across a problem in the classroom — or with your friends — which leads you to ask ‘What is fairness?’ They might be faced with a situation where one boy or girl in the class is getting more attention than the others. When they reflect on it, on the one hand, they might think this is fair because the child needs that attention. On the other hand, they might think it’s not fair because fairness is to do with equal share and equal treatment. Straight away there’s a conflict which leads to the question of what exactly fairness is. Children often don’t get to that point and, if they do, they often won’t get past it. So it’s important to provide a structured dialogic approach for the children to start reflecting on these things.