Florida Philosophy Friends

Florida Philosophy Friends is a group of graduate and undergraduate philosophy students who share a passion for promoting philosophy at the pre-college level.

What we do

We lead philosophical discussions with students of all ages in Leon County. Typically, we work with teachers and administrators to set up a monthly or bi-weekly schedule of discussions. We are also available for “one-off” sessions.

How it works

Discussions typically last 45-60 minutes. We start with a small amount of stage-setting and theoretical background (approximately 5-10 minutes), and then present the students with an intriguing philosophical question. Here is a sample of questions we’ve sought to answer during previous sessions:

“Why do the right thing?”

“How much change can a person undergo before they are a different person?”

“Is happiness all that matters to living a good life?”

“How do you really know when you know something?”

“If God exists, why is there so much suffering in the world?”

We then solicit thoughts and, more importantly, the reasoning behind those thoughts, from students who want to share with the group. Students may share their own ideas or comment on the ideas of others. As facilitators, our main duty is making sure the conversation stays on track and that students justify their beliefs rather than simply asserting whatever comes to mind. We also provide additional prompts and objections as needed.

Through this back and forth exchange, the students try to figure out the most plausible answers to the question we started with. By the end of a session, we rarely reach a unanimous answer, but this was never the real goal anyway. What we hope for instead is that everyone comes away with greater curiosity regarding one of life’s big questions, and a better understanding of the reasoning behind their own beliefs and the beliefs of others. Moreover, students will have practiced engaging in respectful, reason-based discussion about contentious issues. These are the real goals.

Why we do it

Florida Philosophy Friends facilitates philosophical discussions with young learners for three reasons:

1. Young people are naturals at philosophy! It is no secret that children and adolescents have in abundance many traits that are key to doing philosophy well: imagination, curiosity, skepticism, openness, and candor.

2. Not only are young people good at doing philosophy, they enjoy philosophical conversations. Our sessions with students are lively and exciting, and this is due in large part to high levels of student engagement and interest.

3. A growing pool of research suggests that pre-college philosophy has a range of benefits for young learners. Studies have shown, for example, that injecting regular philosophy lessons into the curriculum may improve students’ literacy, numeracy, and communication skills, as well as boost their confidence and self-esteem.

Given that our students are philosophically talented, enjoy doing philosophy, and benefit from our sessions, providing them with a platform to do philosophy is clearly worthwhile.

How to get involved

If you are interested in having Florida Philosophy Friends visit your school, or if you are a graduate student or philosophy major interested in joining Florida Philosophy Friends, please contact Gordon Cooper at gdc15b@my.fsu.edu.

Florida Philosophy Friends is grateful for financial support from PLATO.

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