Building flexible, independent thinkers

Philosophy definitely matters, and we believe it should be available to all young people. Matthew Lipman, a Philosophy Professor at Columbia University in the 1970s, was a pioneer in bringing Philosophy to children. 

Here in Australia this beginning was built upon by Philip Cam, Laurence Splitter and others, leading to today where derivatives of Lipman’s original work can be found in many schools in Australia and elsewhere. One of these is Philosophical Inquiry.

What is Philosophical Inquiry?

Philosophical Inquiry (PI) is based on the premise that thinking comes naturally to young people, and so engages students in collaborative experiences requiring them to think well about the big issues that are fundamental to the lives of us all.

The three cornerstones of PI include:
The exploration of life’s big, philosophical ideas.
The development of good argument, including the capacity to think and reason accurately.
The opportunity to engage collaboratively, confidently and respectfully with others.
During PI, students ask questions, make judgements and make sense of the world.

As life’s big questions are explored using a rigorous inquiry process, respect and reason are developed and practised. By listening to each other, building on each other’s ideas and understanding that there will be many possible answers, students learn to be fair and open-minded, intellectually cooperative and mutually respectful. By reflecting on prevailing beliefs, exploring possible alternatives and giving and accepting reasons, they learn to be reflective, sensitive to meaning, divergent, and reasonable.

During PI, students are learning HOW to think, not WHAT to think.

We believe that through engagement in PI, students become creative, collaborative, flexible, critical and independent thinkers, with the capacity to innovate and solve novel problems.

When we are doing PI we agree that:
  • We are seeking understanding and meaning in our lives.
  • We must use logic and reasoning to explore our ideas, taking care to look for mistakes in reasoning that would undermine our argument.
  • A community of inquiry requires us to actively engage with others by:
    • listening to them,
    • trying to see their point of view,
    • exploring disagreement respectfully,
    • being prepared to change our mind if presented with good reasons and ideas.