On Education

A short Socratic dialog
By BRENT SILBY

Background

Socrates has been invited to run a philosophy discussion group at Western Heights school. The discussion group is part of a social sciences class. During the discussion a student interrupts to question its importance, given that it does not contribute to course assessment.
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Rebecca Goldstein vs Steven Pinker

A Socratic Dialogue

In this Socratic Dialogue, Rebecca Goldstein persuades Steven Pinker that reason is the driver of moral progress.

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Self Driving Cars

A philosophical discussion starter
By BRENT SILBY

[For teachers, click here to download article and lesson plan]

Driving can be an exhilarating experience. The thrill of negotiating the interesting bends on a hilly country drive is a joy to many. At other times driving can be downright boring. The mind-numbingly dull drive through peak hour traffic is something most of us try to avoid. For many people, owning an autonomous vehicle – a car that can drive itself – would be something of a dream come true. No more boring traffic congestion. The car can worry about traffic while we pursue more worthy endeavors such as reading a book, watching a movie, or catching up with our social networks. It sounds promising, and many people are lining up to be among the first to own an autonomous car. However, as is often the case, benefits come at a cost. In the case of autonomous cars, the cost is a loss of driver control. For a car to be fully autonomous, the driver must relinquish some of their own autonomy – specifically, the autonomy to choose a course of action in a life-threatening situation.
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The is / Ought Problem

A quick overview of Hume’s articulation of the is / ought problem.

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Computers in the Classroom

A Socratic Dialogue
By BRENT SILBY

(It can be a challenge to read long articles online. Here is a link to the PDF version, which is in a page-by-page format)


Background

Socrates is visiting Western Heights Intermediate School with a view to setting up a philosophy club. As an Intermediate school, Western Heights caters to students aged 11 to 13 years. The school’s Principal, Allison Fells, is open to the idea of a philosophy club and is meeting with Socrates to discuss the idea.

The school’s receptionist has delivered Socrates to the Principal’s office.
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The Atheist and the Agnostic

A Socratic Dialogue
By BRENT SILBY

Background
Walking through a small green space near the center of Western Heights town, Socrates comes across Paul, who is taking his lunch break in the sun, reading an article by the atheist writer Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens strongly argues that religion is the root cause of many of the world’s problems. In his writings and live debates, Hitchens argues that belief in God is irrational. Paul agrees with Hitchens and tries to convince Socrates that because God doesn’t exist, believing in him is crazy. Through the following dialogue, Paul finds that agnosticism is a more rational position than hard atheism.
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What’s Philosophy For?

People new to philosophy often ask: what’s the point of doing philosophy? This short video is a good reply to that question.

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Opinion or Truth

A Socratic Dialogue
By BRENT SILBY

Background
Through this dialogue we see the problem that arises when we take a relativist stance to truth. Many people have taken a liking to relativism; perhaps because it seems so wonderfully democratic. However, the further one goes down the relativist road, the more difficult it becomes to answer fairly straightforward questions. It is almost as if the relativist tries to use logic to argue that logic doesn’t work.
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Moral Relativism

A Socratic Dialogue

By BRENT SILBY

Background

As he walks through the theater district in Western Heights town, Socrates comes across John leaving a movie theater. Through a series of questions, Socrates reveals the problem with moral relativism. This dialogue serves as an introduction to moral relativism.

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Sugar and Hyperactivity in Children

A Modern Socratic Dialogue
By BRENT SILBY
2014

Background
In this hypothetical dialogue, Socrates has targeted a parent’s belief that sugar makes children hyperactive. Through the discussion, the parent comes to understand that correlation does not entail causation.

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