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About the Project


Why Philosophy for Young People?

We sometimes see philosophy as an inaccessible subject and the philosopher a solitary academic musing about abstract concepts from her office chair. However, philosophical thinking lies at the heart of many aspects of human life. Anyone who has pondered over questions regarding goodness, value, personal identity, justice, how to live well, or how to determine the right course of action has thought philosophically. These issues are of great interest and importance not just to adults, but also to children and teenagers. Introducing younger students to philosophical thought consists, in part, of showing them the ways in which they are already thinking philosophically. Equipped with philosophical methods of challenging assumptions, analyzing arguments, making connections, and questioning intuitions will help students to improve their critical thinking skills—skills of central importance in all school subjects. 

Background and Goals

One of the objectives of the Penn philosophy department, in conjunction with colleagues from  across the University, is to engage with the public in our Philadelphia home and beyond.  The rationale for the Philosophy for the Young Project in particular is driven by the insight that philosophical thinking – e.g., wondering about the nature of goodness, what one values, social justice, how to live well, how to determine the right course of action – shows up very early in children, and children greatly enjoy thinking about philosophical questions. In addition, helping the young cultivate philosophical thinking sharpens a range of skills that are helpful across all K-12 school subjects. Finally, bringing philosophy into underserved schools can help address the school justice issue of equal access to educational goods.

Our Activities and Future Plans

We are pursuing our goals in a number of ways (see our list of initiatives here). First, we are working directly with K-12 students, including class instruction and extracurricular club activities.  Second, we work with teachers to integrate philosophy into broader class curricula. Moving forward, we plan to expand both of these sets of activities to extend the reach of our efforts.