This week, a super session created by my colleague Charlie Sturgeon for our 6-8 yrs Philosophy Explorers at ww.p4he.org, but which will work with older children. The Explorers are travelling the galaxy. They describe the physical appearance of the planet they are visiting and we improvise a philosophical scenario inspired by it.
This planet was a huge metal block, which Charlie decided was populated by robots who wanted to be like humans – like the King of the Monkeys in the Jungle Book. What do they need to do? When I reprised the session with my group (some planets are too good for the other group to miss!) the discussion filled the whole hour.
The general rhythm, with all suggestions and objections coming from them, was, “What should they do to be like humans?” [suggestion] “But they still wouldn’t be like humans because…” [objection] for examples:
programming them to do the things humans do – but as they’re programmed, they’re not doing it for themselves
making them need things, imitating bodily functions – but things wouldn’t really have a taste to them
giving them sensors to see when people need help – but they don’t have their own feelings, so they haven’t got empathy
letting them get old and ill like humans – but they’re too easy to repair
There was a long strand on uniqueness and personality, and where personalities come from, as well as ideas about being unpredictable and making choices. The discussion is essentially an imaginative wrapper for exploring the human condition, and it was interesting to see how things like vulnerability, mortality, love, physical needs, sociability, morality, empathy all came up.
By the way, if you have kids of your who would enjoy an imaginative adventure, or know any fantasy-mad children in your school, we have just launched a Dungeons and Dragons strand to our online sessions. The 12+ group sold out within a few hours, but there are still places on the 9-11s group, 6 p.m. Thursdays. Click D&D on our bookings page for more info.
PS: I will be running an open course in the New Year on zoom. This side of Christmas, get onto The Philosophy Foundation Stage 1 Course if you can: It’s a superb training in the core skills of facilitation, and I can’t think of a better introduction to philosophy for children than to combine both courses.