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The If Machine Philosophical Enquiry in the Classroom by Peter Worley

The If Machine Philosophical Enquiry in the Classroom


The If Machine Philosophical Enquiry in the Classroom by Peter Worley

This is a practical resource packed with 'philosophical thought experiments' - imaginary situations designed to test an idea or intuition though profound thinking. Can computers think? What makes something human? How big is infinity? From Sartre to Searle, this practical book is rooted in accepted philosophical theory, and introduced at a level suitable for children. Each chapter offers an imaginary situation, followed by a series of questions to encourage children to question key philosophical ideas such as values and ethics, gender and identity, existence and beauty. All the thought experiments have been tried-and-tested in the primary classroom, and a handy star system is included to indicate the difficulty level of each one, enabling quick ability differentiation. With a comprehensive introduction, key sections on the philosophy behind the experiments, this book also includes an online teacher's resource to guide them through using the stories to best effect in the classroom. Invaluable as a resource for P4C trained teachers, this book is also perfect for primary teachers with no previous grounding in philosophy who want to introduce higher order and critical thinking in their classroom.


'Philosophy with my Year 6 class was a revelation. Children who had never felt confident enough to speak up came out with such insightful comments that others had no choice but to start to take them seriously. Every school should have philosophy as part of the curriculum.'--Amanda Crook, primary teacher Atteded How The Light Gets In at Hay Festival 2011 Author article in The Times 'This is a timely and valuable contribution: a capacity to think critically is the key component of any education, and Worley is an inventive enhancer of children's ability to think for themselves.'--Sanford Lakoff '...a lucid and well-thought through resource that should have children entertained and educated at the same time.'--Sanford Lakoff 'If you had any doubts about whether you could do this, this book gives you the confidence to be able to go out and do it.'--Sanford Lakoff 'A very well-organised and thought-out book...One of the most striking things about this book is its intellectual rigour, its grounding in the work of real philosophers and its implicit belief that children will respond to big and important ideas.' --Sanford Lakoff 'Plato in primary school? Existentialism, moral responsibility and determinism as topics for key stage 2 exploration? Is this book suggesting that primary children can tackle these big ideas? Has Peter Worley ever been inside a school? The answers are yes, yes, yes and yes. Worley is seriously presenting this material for use in schools...This is, I think, a pretty comprehensive package. Many of the stimulus stories derive from classical origins, but these are mixed with the contemporary tale of Billy Bash the school bully and the futuristic Ceebies stories, which use an increasingly humanoid robot to explore what it means to be human. In all cases, the quality of the stimulus material is high and the task questions are engaging and demanding. Without the context of the stories, many of the questions, such as Do you think the mind is the same thing as the brain? or Is it possible to think of nothing? would be out of reach for primary pupils. But within context, they are exciting opportunities for exploration and I can imagine primary children getting very involved with them.' --Sanford Lakoff 'Peter is skilled at making a potentially complex subject as accessible as it could be... Each session is clearly laid out, graded for difficulty as well as age-suitability, and accompanied with information about the relevant philosophical question.' --Sanford Lakoff'

About the Author

Peter Worley has been teaching Philosophy in primary schools since 2002, and currently works peripetetically in 13 schools. Peter is Founder of The Philosophy Shop, a company supporting and promoting the teaching of philosophy in primary schools. He also has a regular column in Teach Primary magazine, and is often invited to speak at conferences about philosophy in schools.

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Book Info

Publication date

19th December 2010


Peter Worley

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Continuum Publishing Corporation


144 pages


Primary & middle schools



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