How to introduce Ancient Greek Philosophy to middle school students

Philosophy can seem like a bit of a lofty subject for middle school students, but kids are natural philosophers. As soon as they can talk, children start to ask questions, wanting to understand the why of things. Philosophy can be a great tool for tacking questions without easy answers.

Philosophy isn’t just about finding answers to big questions, it’s also about learning to think and reason. There were many wrong answers before there were right answers, and even those answers we think are right could one day be proven false. Ancient Greeks asked questions over 2000 years ago that we still don’t know the answers to. Questions like what is happiness? and do humans have a soul? Sometimes the object of discussion is not to find the answer, but to gain some understanding of the topic.

A great way to introduce philosophy to middle school children is to have a class discussion. Hopefully, by discussing questions that don’t have obvious answers, your students can get some practice using reason to better understand ideas.

Reminders for your students during the discussion

Keep an open mind. It’s important to be able to see another person’s point of view, even if you don’t agree. As Aristotle said, it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

It’s okay if your opinion changes. There are no winners and losers in this discussion. Changing your opinion is not a bad thing if you do it for a good reason.

It’s important to have a reason for your opinion. Ask why? Can they provide evidence or examples?

It’s okay to be a bit silly. Many great ideas once seemed silly. Democritus was laughed at for saying that everything is made up of tiny particles called atoms, yet now it is an accepted theory.

Have fun! Thinking about big questions can be a nice escape from the small issues that pester us everyday. It can be a lot of fun to wonder how you know if you are dreaming or if an apple is alive.

 

For more information and activities about Ancient Greek Philosophers, check out our Ancient Greek Philosophers resource.

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