P4C: The Ethics of Time

I wasted time, and now doth time waste me;” Shakespeare, Richard II. (V.5.49)

It’s your own time you’re wasting.” Innumerable teachers (esp. before lunch)

 Ten Questions about Time

  1. Can your time be someone else’s?
  2. If you own your own time, is it yours to waste?
  3. Can you buy time?
  4. In what ways is and isn’t time like money?
  5. Is there anything else time is more like than money?
  6. If you enjoy something, does that mean it can’t be a waste of time?
  7. If you enjoy wasting time, is it still a waste of time?
  8. If you invest time in something, do you earn interest?
  9. Is there a time for wasting time?
  10. If time had a waist, what would it be? 

You might, since this session is on the theme of time, spend 3 minutes on each of the first seven questions and and just a minute on each of the last three, in which case your final additional question could be, “When the times changed were you changed by the times?” 

Connections to Philosophies 

We often try to make sense of time by speaking of it in the same breath as space and physical stuff – “the here and now”. That plays out in a variety of philosophies that have similar attitudes to both time and physical possessions. 

Part of the Scout Law is, “A scout makes good use of time and is careful of possessions and property.” That sense of time as a resource to be invested and managed emerges from a strand of Protestant Christian philosophy in which thrift, deferred gratification and the accumulation of wealth demonstrates moral character – “money is time”. 

Other philosophies such as stoicism and Buddhism emphasize the present moment in a way that parallels their lack of attachment to physical possessions: “You only live in the present, this fleeting moment. The rest of your life is already gone or not yet revealed.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations (3.10). 

You’ll also find your time well spent if you buy a copy of Thinking Beans by David Birch from our shop, which contains an interesting section on time focused on very different question. 

January – Time to Boost Philosophy 

January is the traditional time for new beginnings. You might like to invest in Sticky Questions for your class or school. If you order before Christmas, they will be with you in time for the start of the new term. Something colourful and fun to raise a smile and promote interesting talk, without staff having to do more (in fact, less, as it can stand in place of homework). You can purchase your chosen pack from our shop.  

This week is our Christmas Special. Nearly to the end of term, everybody… campaign medals and an extra tot of rum all round… 

Best wishes, 


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