P4C Video Stimulus: One-ness, and The “Greyest Example”

This week, a video stimulus inviting thinking about how much we are connected to one another, and an exercise that invites careful thought about borderline cases.

Are we “as one”?

This video stimulus is a rather magnificent time-lapse of plants growing, set to a new-age, ecological soundtrack.


The refrain of the song is around us being, “as one”. There have always been strands of both Eastern and Western philosophical and religious thought that claim that there is an essential unity to humanity or creation. One approach to a stimulus such as this which pushes a particular way of thinking is to pose an initial question which deliberately asks for thinking both with and against the stimulus. For example, you could think about, “In what ways are we ‘as one’? In what ways are we not?” After exploring that, you could consider whether we are “as one” in the most important sense of that question, or see what questions are emerging from the group.

The Greyest Example

A good way to investigate concepts and principles, and to practice the skill of careful, precise thinking, is to look for borderline examples where it is hard to decide if they do, or don’t fall within a particular category. In the attached exercise (download it by clicking here), the invitation is to find the greyest examples of:

1. Something you eat that counts a meal

2. Something someone sits on that counts as a chair

3. Something someone sleeps in that counts as home

4. A lie you could tell that would be OK

5. A story that is a true story

6. A rule it would be OK to break

7. A situation in which one country going to war with another is justified

8. A situation in which a soldier not following orders has a good reason

9. A question science can answer

10. A situation in which religion is a good thing

You could then focus on the category people found most interesting

Showing our working

You may have noticed that in recent bulletins, we have mixed in more structured thinking exercises as well as stimuli. This is the beginning of fulfilling a long-standing intention to “go back to the source” and emulate some of the superb work done in the manuals that accompanied Matthew Lipman’s original P4C novels. At its best, P4C is a triangle of dialogical, conceptual and logical – talking and reasoning together about important ideas, using the logical and argumentative toolbox of philosophy, and we want to give more attention to that third corner of the triangle rather than leaving it only to the chance opportunities that arise organically.

If you have exercises that you have found work particularly well for encouraging particular types of thinking, please share them with us. I’m looking forward to attending Roger Sutcliffe’s session on Thinking Moves at the SAPERE conference, who I know has been doing some great work on this. (The conference is open to all – see http://sapere.org.uk/Default.aspx?tabid=68&EventId=2548 for details.)

Best wishes,


PS. I’m grateful to Alicia at International School Ho Chi Minh City for the stimulus, and to one of her colleagues for the term “greyest example”. I had a very stimulating week there before the start of the UK school year. I am heading back in January, and will be available for work in SE Asia and potential Australia/NZ during January and early February. I’m also in Johannesburg, SA on 27th and 28th October (open courses – see www.thephilosophyman.com/za), and I have a week available for international work either side of that. Generally very interested in international work – especially in the English winter when living on a narrowboat loses some of its charm!


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