Philosophy Books for Children

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.


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Handbook of Philosophy for Children

This rich and diverse collection offers a range of perspectives and practices of Philosophy for Children (P4C). P4C has become a significant educational and philosophical movement with growing impact on schools and educational policy. Its community of inquiry pedagogy has been taken up in community, adult, higher, further and informal educational settings around the world.  The internationally sourced chapters offer research findings as well as insights into debates provoked by bringing children’s voices into moral and political arenas and to philosophy and the broader educational issues this raises, for example:

  • historical perspectives on the field
  • democratic participation and epistemic, pedagogical and political relationships
  • philosophy as a subject and philosophy as a practice
  • philosophical teaching across the curriculum
  • embodied inquiry, emotions, and space
  • knowledge, truth and philosophical progress
  • resources and texts for philosophical inquiry
  • ethos and values of P4C practice and research.

The Routledge International Handbook of Philosophy for Children will spark new discussions and identify emerging questions and themes in this diverse and controversial field. It is an accessible, engaging and provocative read for all students, researchers, academics and educators who have an interest in Philosophy for Children, its educational philosophy and its pedagogy.


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Philosophical aesthetics and cognitive science

Philosophical aesthetics is the branch of philosophy which explores issues having to do with art, beauty, and related phenomena. Philosophers have often been skeptical about the place of empirical investigation in aesthetics. However, in recent years many philosophical aestheticians have turned to cognitive science to enrich their understanding of their subject matter. Cognitive scientists have, in turn, been inspired by work in philosophical aesthetics. This essay focuses on a representative subset of the areas in which there has been fruitful dialog between philosophical aestheticians and cognitive scientists. We start with some general topics in philosophical aesthetics—the definition of art and the epistemic status of aesthetic judgments. We then move on to discussing research concerning the roles that imagination and perception play in our aesthetic engagement. We conclude with a discussion of the emerging field of experimental philosophical aesthetics.


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Habermas: An Intellectual Biography

This book follows postwar Germany’s leading philosopher and social thinker, Jürgen Habermas, through four decades of political and constitutional struggle over the shape of liberal democracy in Germany. Habermas’s most influential theories – of the public sphere, communicative action, and modernity – were decisively shaped by major West German political events: the failure to denazify the judiciary, the rise of a powerful constitutional court, student rebellions in the late 1960s, the changing fortunes of the Social Democratic Party, NATO’s decision to station nuclear  weapons in Germany, and the unexpected collapse of East Germany. In turn, Habermas’s writings on state, law, and constitution played a critical role in reorienting German political thought and culture toward a progressive liberal-democratic model. Matthew G. Specter uniquely illuminates the interrelationship between the thinker and his culture.


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Habermas and the Fate of Democracy

Jürgen Habermas’s career, with its prodigious philosophy and social theory now translated into forty different languages, can be interpreted primarily as an effort to make intellectual sense of democracy and its untapped possibilities. But the Habermas who emerges in the German sociologist Stefan Müller-Doohm’s illuminating new biography (Habermas: A Biography) also appears as an intensely political creature, an intellectual whose public interventions over the course of sixty years have regularly galvanized popular debate in Germany and beyond. Beginning in the 1950s, when he was perhaps the first in his generation to take on Martin Heidegger and other older intellectuals who had embraced the Nazis, Habermas’s public political interventions have been instrumental in shaping our understanding of and aspirations for democracy.


Read also: Habermas: A Biography

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Teaching Philosophy of Science to scientists: why, what and how

This paper provides arguments to philosophers, scientists, administrators and students for why science students should be instructed in a mandatory, custom-designed, interdisciplinary course in the philosophy of science. The argument begins by diagnosing that most science students are taught only conventional methodology: a fixed set of methods whose justification is rarely addressed. It proceeds by identifying seven benefits that scientists incur from going beyond these conventions and from acquiring abilities to analyse and evaluate justifications of scientific methods. It concludes that teaching science students these skills makes them better scientists. Based on this argument, the paper then analyses the standard philosophy of science curriculum, and in particular its adequacy for teaching science students. It is argued that the standard curriculum on the one hand lacks important analytic tools relevant for going beyond conventional methodology—especially with respect to non-epistemic normative aspects of scientific practice—while on the other hand contains many topics and tools that are not relevant for the instruction of science students. Consequently, the optimal way of training science students in the analysis and evaluation of scientific methods requires a revision of the standard curriculum. Finally, the paper addresses five common characteristics of students taking such a course, which often clash with typical teaching approaches in philosophy. Strategies how best to deal with these constraints are offered for each of these characteristics.


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Nous in Aristotle’s De Anima

I lay out and examine two sharply conflicting interpretations of Aristotle’s claims about nous in the De Anima (DA). On the human separability approach, Aristotle is taken to have identified reasons for thinking that the intellect can, in some way, exist on its own. On the naturalist approach, the soul, including intellectual soul, is inseparable from the body of which it is the form. I discuss how proponents of each approach deal with the key texts from the DA, focusing on four of the most important and interesting topics in this area. Two of these topics concern the activity of understanding (noêsis): first, what does Aristotle mean when he claims that the intellect cannot have a bodily organ and, secondly, what role does Aristotle think phantasmata (“images” or “representations”) play in understanding something? Two of the topics concern DA 3.5, one of the most difficult passages in Aristotle’s corpus: first, what is the nature and role of the productive intellect (nous poiêtikos) introduced there and, secondly, what are this chapter’s implications for the question of whether the intellect or intellectual soul can exist apart from the body? I conclude by identifying areas where further research is necessary.


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Aristotle’s Cognitive Science: Belief, Affect and Rationality

I offer a novel interpretation of Aristotle’s psychology and notion of rationality, which draws the line between animal and specifically human cognition. Aristotle distinguishes belief (doxa), a form of rational cognition, from imagining (phantasia), which is shared with non-rational animals. We are, he says, “immediately affected” by beliefs, but respond to imagining “as if we were looking at a picture.” Aristotle’s argument has been misunderstood; my interpretation explains and motivates it. Rationality includes a filter that interrupts the pathways between cognition and behavior. This prevents the subject from responding to certain representations. Stress and damage compromise the filter, making the subject respond indiscriminately, as non-rational animals do. Beliefs are representations that have made it past the filter, which is why they can “affect [us] immediately.” Aristotle’s claims express ceteris paribus generalizations, subject to exceptions. No list of provisos could turn them into non-vacuous universal claims, but this does not rob them of their explanatory power. Aristotle’s cognitive science resolves a tension we grapple with today: it accounts for the specialness of human action and thinking within a strictly naturalistic framework. The theory is striking in its insight and explanatory power, instructive in its methodological shortcomings.


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The Love Affair between Philosophy and Poetry: Aristotle’s Poetics and Narrative Identity

In order to grasp the distinctive character of the object imitated in tragedies, Aristotle’s Poetics introduces a new notion of action (praxis), which does not refer to individual ethical deeds as in the Ethics. Rather, it signifies a whole with a beginning, a middle, and an end, whose constitutive components are events (pragmata). This paper argues that the notion of agents undergoes a parallel transformation in the treatise on poetry. It no longer refers exclusively to the authors of ethical deeds, but to the characters who enact the entire dramatic action (prattontes). Their nature can be understood in terms of a potential story whose logos (account, articulation) is a muthos (story, narrative). On this ground, the suggestion is made that the Poetics provides the elements of a narrative conception of human identity.


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Foucault, Power, and Education

Foucault, Power, and Education invites internationally renowned scholar Stephen J. Ball to reflect on the importance and influence of Foucault on his work in educational policy. By focusing on some of the ways Foucault has been placed in relation to educational questions or questions about education, Ball highlights the relationships between Foucault’s concepts and methods, and educational research and analysis. An introductory chapter offers a brief explanation of some of Foucault’s key concerns, while additional chapters explore ways in which Ball himself has sought to apply Foucault’s ideas in addressing contemporary educational issues.  In this intensely personal and reflective text, Ball offers an interpretation of his Foucault–That is, his own particular reading of the Foucauldian toolbox. Ideal for courses in education policy and education studies, this valuable teaching resource is essential reading for any education scholar looking for a starting point into the literature and ideas of Foucault.


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