Literature and Essential Philosophical Questions

Tuesday, March 18, 2014
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm (EST) Enter Classroom Enter Forum


Dr. Jana Mohr Lone
Center for Philosophy for Children, University of Washington
PLATO (Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization)

About the Seminar

This webinar will be structured as a community of philosophical inquiry, in which participants are encouraged to engage directly with the framing questions posed. A community of philosophical inquiry involves a structured, collaborative inquiry aimed at constructing meaning and acquiring understanding through the examination of philosophical questions or concepts of interest to the participants. We will begin with a short talk about philosophical inquiry with students and ways to inspire a robust community of inquiry in the classroom.

We will explore passages from To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee; The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison; and The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. These novels raise philosophical issues concerning (among others) the following three philosophical themes: Ethics: What kind of person should I be? Personal identity: Who am I? Social and political philosophy: What is the nature of courage?

Participants will be asked to respond to prompts and take part in exercises and thought experiments, including Plato’s Ring of Gyges (ethics), the Ship of Theseus (personal identity), and other activities related to defining the kinds of people we should strive to be, personal identity, and the nature of courage.

Online Evaluation

Online evaluation for seminar participants.

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Assigned Readings

  1. To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee (excerpts).
  2. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak (excerpts).
  3. The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison (excerpt).
  4. "The Disparity Between Intellect and Character," Robert Coles.

Suggested Additional Resources

    "Guiding a Philosophical Discussion" from Philosophy in the Classroom by Matthew Lippman, Ann Margaret Sharp, and Frederick S. Oscanyan.

Presentation PDF

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Seminar Recording