Tuesday 25 June 2024

Developments at The Philosophy Garden

The resources available at The Philosophy Garden have significantly expanded in recent months, thanks to the generous support of the University of Birmingham AHRC Impact Acceleration Account. In particular, new videos address issues surrounding disagreement and the difficulty and importance of trusting reliable sources and being socially connected in order to gain the information we need and achieve our most basic goals.

These videos can be conversation starters, prompting reflection and discussion, and introducing some interesting concepts in concrete and engaging ways. We have been using them with primary school children, from age 7, and with secondary school students and sixth-formers as well. We use them in class with our undergraduate and Masters students to test intuitions and contextualise problems. 

On the site, there are recommendations for readings, games young people can play online to challenge themselves, a video library, and handouts, worksheets, and slides for teachers—these resources are gradually expanding. We are also in the process of making some of the material available in Spanish and Italian, thanks to the valuable collaboration of Fer Zambra and Anna Ichino.

On prejudice and stereotypes

Videos on these topics have been supported by Wellcome funded project EPIC, on epistemic injustice in healthcare, and are inspired by research by Kathleen Murphy-Hollies and myself.

In The Fawn and the Mountain Lion, Fawn warns Doe and Stag that there is Mountain Lion nearby, but his father assumes that the young just want to draw attention to themselves and cannot distinguish reality from imagination. So Stag does not take Fawn’s report seriously. This video explores the notion of epistemic injustice, hinting also at how epistemic injustice can be a structural and societal problem. 

In The Wolf, the Snake, and the Butterfly, three animal characters meet in the clearing to share their experiences of exclusion and lack of support. Wolf, Snake and Butterfly are assumed to be incompetent or dangerous by other animals and humans. But they support each other. This video has been produced in collaboration with the Voice Collective, a group of young people who hear voices. The script suggests that negative stereotypes associated with unusual experiences and beliefs can cause great harm.

In the short video below, I explain in a few minutes how epistemic injustice interacts with agency. It was recorded at the launch of project EPIC earlier this year.

On being connected and disagreeing

Sometimes, disagreement depends on different sources being trusted, but at other times conflicting views reflect different values. 

In The Tortoise and the Hare, Tortoise is left fending for herself by Hare, who thinks that teaming up with her to look for food and shelter would slow him down. But Tortoise receives the unexpected help of a colony of ants who are so well connected that they can find a lovely place for Tortoise in no time. This video is based on the ground-breaking research by political philosopher Merten Reglitz on access to internet as a human right. 

In The Owls’ Parliament, owls need to make important decisions about where to live and what to eat. When it comes to deciding whether to ban mouse eating, the different perspectives cannot be easily reconciled. The script for this video was written by moral and political philosopher Jeremy Williams, who applies theories of political justification, legitimacy, and toleration to polarised debates such as those on abortion. 

The Foal and the Sage Stallion is a very special video. The script was written by Ptolemy (year 11), a secondary school student in the UK, and selected via a national “Write a Script” competition, the first in The Philosophy Garden’s history. In the video, Foal wants to learn how to gallop but does not get the information she needs until she identifies the ‘real’ expert. 

We are passionate about bringing philosophy to everyone, and believe that using short animated videos, reviving the classic Aesop-style fable, is fun and effective. We offer support to teachers who want to get to know the resources and use them in their classroom, and we are always grateful for feedback. To receive updates on our project, follow The Philosophy Garden on Instagram or Facebook.