Philosophic Inquiry in a Pre-College Setting

Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


...there is a natural confusion about what philosophy is, and what its role in education should be. What sort of background do teachers need to teach philosophy in elementary, middle and secondary school? How is it related to other studies? Should there be special philosophy curricula, or can philosophical activity occur in all classes? What materials can be used? One aspect of philosophy that sets it apart from the hard and social sciences is that it is continually grappling with its own definition. Unlike, say, biology, which can be defined without actually doing biology, ‘knowing is doing’ in philosophy. The first part of this thesis aims to help teachers think philosophically about what the boundaries of philosophy are, and, in doing so, come to an understanding of its nature. It is hoped that doing this will illustrate to teachers the relevance of philosophy to general education, so that their own inquiry can be a model for introducing philosophy into their classrooms. ... The conception of philosophy advanced in this thesis is that it is a constellation of many different kinds of questions and considerations, unified by a process of inquiry into the foundations of human endeavor. As we have seen so far, this process involves the critical ability to assess and develop sound reasoning, and the creative ability to provide hypothetical possibilities that extend the scope of inquiry. It also includes valuing for their own sake the intellectual attitudes and dispositions which nurture the inclination to probe deeply into fundamental questions, and, in doing so, form the larger context in which these thinking skills are applied. Because this thesis is concerned with philosophy in pre-college education, and because my conception of philosophy implies that its scope is the foundational issues in all areas of study, I will inquire further into the relation of philosophy to general education, and review some existing curricula for the teaching of pre-college philosophy. The third chapter of this thesis includes a survey of some critical and creative thinking skills relevant to philosophic inquiry; the fourth chapter is a discussion of selected attitudes and dispositions that help define the larger context in which inquiry occurs.


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