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Exploring Differences of Kind and Degree

To further explore the question, seek out differences of kind and differences of degree in each concept embedded in the question. For instance, in the question “Why are we here?”, ask participants whether there are different types of heres (e.g., school, galaxy, state, state of mind), different types of wes (students, children, human beings, Philosophers' Club members, boys, girls), and of whys (many different types of explanations to answer the question).

By comparing and contrasting each kind of we, here, and why—exploring to what degree each kind differs from the other—members will come closer to identifying what they think. Ask them, “How are all these kinds of wes or heres alike? How are they different?”

Do the same with the different kinds of whys. “What do all the different reasons offered to answer our sample question have in common? How are they different?”

Answering the following questions will help the group determine whether they feel some reasons are better than others, and why:

If I am here in this room, is that the only place where I am?

Is it possible to ever be in only one place, or am I always in more than one place at the same time?

Am I absolutely, positively here in this room?

How do I know for sure?

The facilitator may then ask, “Is this absolutely, positively the only reason we are here? Or are there other reasons too? And can the answer to ‘Why are we here?’ change over time?” In other words, say that ten years pass and the children are now adults: Would they answer “Why are we here?” differently than when they were children?

DOs and DON'Ts

Do encourage participants to offer specific examples. Challenge them to articulate their perspectives and propose solid evidence that supports them. Members should aim to help one another discover, articulate, and refine their unique points of view. It should be clear that the facilitator is also a co-inquirer. As such, the facilitator along with each Philosophers’ Club member, has unique experiences and perspectives to offer and add to the group but who at the same time should not monopolize the discussion and should not in any way lead anyone to think that his or her views are somehow better than those of the other club members.

Do nudge the dialogue along in a spontaneous way. As a rule of thumb, when a child offers a response, ask the rest of the group if they agree or differ, and why. Remember: This is a community of philosophical inquirers. So at every turn include as

fully as possible all participants.

Do let participants use the chalkboard or poster paper to share, back up, or further explain and elaborate on their examples or “map out” the path of the dialogue.

Do allow members to eventually facilitate some dialogues once they are ready. In fact, one long-term goal can be to give children the tools not only to engage in Socratic discourse, but also to facilitate such discourse themselves.

Don't feel as if you must strive for consensus. It doesn’t matter if everyone begins and ends a dialogue with somewhat or even wildly disparate perspectives. Differences in perspective typically are all to the good.

Don't try to bring the discussion to any sort of artificial closure. Leave it open-ended. A Philosophers’ Club can be considered a success when children leave a discussion with many more questions than they had at the beginning. Philosophical inquiry the Socratic way is a springboard for further and deeper thinking and discourse.

Do be ever prepared for the Wow Factor. No matter how many times you discuss the same question, children without fail will come up with new answers, insights, and possibilities. And when guided and nudged, they will combine their reasoning skills with their unlimited imaginative capacity to develop a more acute sense of who they are, who they can be, and of what they are capable.

Welcome to the Club!

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