Year 8: Perception and Knowledge – Using Our Senses

Year 8, Term 2 Unit: Duck! Rabbit! Believing what we see or seeing what we believe?

Lesson type: Community of philosophical inquiry

Theme: Using our senses, coming to know things (Metaphysics, Epistemology, Logic and Reasoning)

Focus inquiry skill: Seeing things from other points of view

Rule focus: Listening

Focus reasoning skill: Practising analogies

Purpose: To explore the idea that we may all see things differently, so how do we know who or what is right?

Philosophical background: Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711 – 1776) regarded the senses as our key source of information (Law, pg 290). This theory, that all knowledge is based on experience derived from the senses, is called empiricism. It contrasts with rationalism, which asserts that it is possible for us to know some facts about how the world is outside our own minds without relying on our senses (ibid. pg 67).


Resources needed
  • Rules, ball
  • ‘analogy’ card

Lesson Outline

At the beginning of each lesson, revise the rules and articulate the focus inquiry skill/s.

Display rules where teacher can refer to them if and when needed.


Preliminary activity

Warm up your thinking: ‘If everyone saw things differently then…’


Main activity
  1. Community of inquiry: Discussion plan (Chesters et al, pg 18
    (Use an appropriate student question from the previous lesson to begin.)
    • What do we mean when we say, ‘I couldn’t believe my eyes!’
    • Should we always believe our eyes?
    • What do we mean when we say, ‘I see!’
    • Do we all see things the same way?
    • Does ‘red’ look the same to each of us? How could we know?
    • Is the grass still green at night-time?
    • If two people see the same thing differently, must one of them be wrong?
    • If two people see the same thing differently, can they both be justified in believing they are right?
    • If two people see the same thing differently, could both of them be wrong?
    • Does everything depend on how you look at it?
    • What is the difference between believing what we see and seeing what we believe?

During the discussion, look for opportunities to reinforce analogies.

There is an optional homework activity you may like to use.


Suggested teacher procedural questions (for use during lesson)
  • Is there another way we could look at this?
  • Can we think of an analogy to help us understand this idea?

Student reflection (10 mins)
  1. Whole group reflection (oral):
    • How did we work as a community of learners? What did you see that made you think that?
    • Are there any ideas that we could explore further?
  2. Individual reflection (written):
    • Today’s discussion made me more sure about…
    • Today’s discussion made me less sure about…
    • I think the difference between believing what we see and seeing what we believe is…

Teacher reflection
  • What was something surprising a student said?
  • What was something that worked well?
  • What is something I’d like to work on for next time?

* Chesters, Fynes-Clinton, Hinton, and Scholl, (2013) Philosophical and Ethical Inquiry for Students in the Middle Years and Beyond. ACSA

Law, S. (2007) Philosophy. Dorling Kindersley, UK.