High schoolers sold on philosophy

12 September 2007 | Story by Helen Théron

Questions and answers: High schoolers pondered some weighty questions at the Department of Philosophy's first Foundations in Philosophy course.

The Department of Philosophy's first introductory programme for high school pupils was a sell-out.

Held over three successive Thursday evenings, Dr Greg Fried's Foundations in Philosophy got scholars in grades 10 to 12 pondering some deep questions about human existence. How is the mind related to the body? What makes something right or wrong? Is the world really as we see it?

"Many school learners value the combination of reason and open-mindedness that philosophy offers, but our school system doesn't offer philosophy. This course gives learners an introduction to philosophical skills," Fried said.

Each session offered a new topic. Professor David Benatar spoke on the justification of punishment, Dr Elisa Galgut on personal identity and Dr Jeremy Wanderer on the pursuit of truth.

Students (there were 85 from 14 schools) were equipped with a course reader. Each topic required listening, speaking, reading and writing activities. But the aim of the course isn't to prepare pupils for university, Fried said.

"Rather, it is to promote rigorous thought about fundamental matters '“ a skill welcomed by many school learners."

And it forged valuable links.

"I believe that our philosophy programme, small though it is, is a valuable addition to the intellectual relationship between UCT and schools."

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