……is Philosophy for Children

Philosophy with Children is a method of enabling children to philosophise using the model of Socratic Dialogue with the aid of a facilitator.  Socrates states in Apologia 38a that “the unexamined life is not worth living”, and it is upon this principle that P4C is built.

The method requires children to reason and explain their thinking, to listen and to build on the ideas of others. This happens within a Community of Enquiry in the classroom. The facilitator’s role is to help the children uncover the philosophical in the issues that they discuss.

The children sit in a circle with a facilitator (the teacher). The facilitator’s role is to help the children uncover the philosophical in the issues that they discuss. In this way, the teacher is an enabler and not a ‘font of knowledge’. The children lead the dialogue, steering it in the direction they choose. The facilitator asks questions to enable the children to enquire more deeply and challenge their assumptions.


Matthew Lipman  is credited with starting the Philosophy for Children movement in the 1970s.  After witnessing political upheaval taking place on University campuses nationwide in the 1960s, Lipman realized that philosophical and critical thinking should be encouraged much earlier in the academic setting. He founded the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children at Montclair State University (then Montclair State College) in 1974.

Lipman’s method involves reading philosophically stimulating narrative to children and encouraging them to come up with philosophical questions in response. He wrote philosophical children’s novels that were published by Lipman, including Harry Stottlemeier’s Discovery, which he published in 1969. Lipman wrote the world’s first systematic pre-college philosophy curriculum and created both masters and doctoral programs in the field of Philosophy for Children.  Matthew Lipman sadly died in 2010 but his work carries on in over 60 countries.


Maria and Sara trained with Karin Murris, who herself trained with Lipman.  Karin’s interest in Picture books led to a move away from the “philosophical novel” towards using good quality picture books as a stimulus. with many practitioners oin the UK.   Sara and Maria trained with Karin and share a passion for Picture books which feature heavily in their work.

Working as full-time teachers allowed Maria and Sara to reflect on the skills the children needed to be successful in Enquiries.  They have developed a series of skills that underpin the work they do.  In the skills are made explicit to the children, practiced and then applied.  For this reason the sessions are varied, sometimes introducing a new skill, sometimes developing skills and sometimes applying in more traditional enquiries.  This approach has been welcomed by teachers as it is clear what is happening in the sessions and can be assessed for the next steps of learning to take place.

Sara and Maria’s experience of teaching infant children has made it necessary to develop resources and activities that are stimulating, hands-on and inclusive.

What concepts do we think about in Philosophy?

What is love?

•             Do we choose who we love?

•             Do we have to love our family?

•             How do you know if you love someone?

•             Can you love and hate the same person?

•             Where does love come from?

•             Does love always make us happy?

•             Can you love someone unconditionally?

•             Do you have to be loved to know how to love?

•             Can you control how much you love?

•             Can you love too much?

•             Can you lead a fulfilled life without love?

•             Is it better to have a short life with lots of love or a long life with no love?

•             Do you love with your heart or your head?

•             Is loving someone the same as loving something?

•             Is love physical or mental?


What is knowledge?

•             How much knowledge are you born with?

Do you think we know anything at all when we are born?

•             How do you gain knowledge?

•             Is knowledge belief or truth?

If we believe something does that mean we know it?

Do we only know something if we know it is true?

•             How do you show that you have knowledge?

•             Can we ever really know anything?

•             Can you have knowledge without understanding?

•             Are memory and knowledge different things?

If you lost your memory would you still have knowledge?

•             How do you test knowledge?

•             How do you judge whose knowledge is best?

•             Are there such things as good knowledge and bad knowledge?

•             Can knowledge change you?

•             If you are knowledgeable are you a better person?

What is real?

•             How do we know if something is real?

•             Can you trust your senses to tell you what is real?

•             If you say something is real because you can see it, is it still real if you close your eyes?

•             Is something real if you have never seen it?

•             Are dreams real?

•             How do I know I’m not dreaming right now?

•             Does reality matter?

•             What is the difference between real and make –believe?

•             Do we all have the same experiences of reality?

•             Is what I think is real the same as what you think is real?

•             How do you know you are real?

•             What can you trust to know something is real?


What is identity?

•             Have we always been the person we are?

•             Do we learn how to be who we are or is it inside us already?

•             Where were we before we were born?

•             Do we exist when we are dead?

•             Will we be the same person when we are old?

•             Can anything change who we are?

•             If we swapped bodies with someone else would that change who we were?

•             If we swapped brains with someone else would that change who we were?

•             Why are twins different?

•             Can there ever be anyone who is exactly like you?

•             Can you be a girl in a boy’s body?

•             What is the difference between boys and girls?

•             Do we have to learn to be a boy or a girl?

•             How do we know we are real?

•             If we made an exact replica of our brain and put it into another person would they be the same as us?

•             Can we ever really change who we are?

•             Is your mind separate from your body?

•             What is the actual thing that makes you you?

What is anger?

•             Are there different sorts of anger?

•             Is anger just a feeling?

•             Does anger come from our mind, body or brain?

•             Is anger always bad?

•             Do some people get more angry than others?

•             Are some people born less angry than others?

•             Are we born with anger or do we learn it?

•             Would it be good if nobody could get angry?

•             Why do we get angry?

•             Are animals capable of anger?

•             If we had no contact with other humans would we ever get angry?

•             What would happen if we could not express anger?

What is free will?

•             Who controls what you do?

•             Are you ever free to do what you want?

•             If we had no free will would we be like robots?

•             Does free will allow people to make bad choices?

•             Do you still have free will in prison?

•             Do children have less free will than adults?

•             Do we live in a free country?

•             Should we have laws?

•             Does having free will make us different from animals?

•             Do animals have free will or instinct?

•             Do babies have free will?

•             Do we choose to be born?

•             What is it that makes us make choices?

What is right and wrong?

•             Are we born knowing what is right or wrong?

•             What is the difference between right and wrong?

•             Do we choose to be good or bad?

•             Do we have a conscience?

•             Where does our conscience come from?

•             How do we know what is right and wrong?

•             Should people be punished?

•             Are everybody’s ideas of right and wrong the same?

•             Who says what is right or wrong?

•             Is it ever ok to break the law?

•             Is it ever right to kill anything?

•             Does doing the right thing make you truly happy?

•             Does doing the wrong thing make you a bad person?

•             Is there such a thing as pure evil or pure good?

•             Is there ever such a thing as an unselfish act?

What is God?

•             If there is a god where did he come from?

•             Why do we think God is a male?

•             Where is God?

•             How can God have so many powers?

•             Can God control our lives?

•             What is God?

•             Would the world exist without God?

•             Would people exist without God?

•             Why do people believe in God?

•             Can we ever prove God exists?

•             Can there be more than one God?

•             If God is good why do bad things happen?

•             Do we have to have evidence to believe that God exists?

•             Can God be responsible for miracles?

What is the mind?

•             Is our mind the same as our brain?

•             What is the mind?

•             Is everybody’s mind different?

•             Do we need a body and a mind to live?

•             What does mind over matter mean?

•             Can our mind exist outside our body?

•             Does our mind control our life?

•             Does our mind tell us what to do or do we tell our mind what to think?

•             Can two minds ever be alike?

•             What are thoughts?

•             Do we feel colour?

•             How can you see when your eyes are closed?

•             What is intelligence?

What is Power?

•             Is everybody born equal?

•             Why are some people more powerful than others?

•             Why do we need leaders?

•             What makes someone a leader?

•             Does a country need a king or queen?

•             Should leaders get more money?

•             Should everybody get paid the same money?

•             What makes someone more important?

•             Should grown ups be more powerful than children?

•             Does money give you power?

•             Does being clever give you more power?

•             Can one person be more powerful than a hundred people?

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