Meriden students impress with their exploration of philosophical issues

15 June 2018

Is virtual reality real?  What makes something a work of art? Can we ever know the world as it is or just as it appears to us? These are the topics that Juna Suh, Year 8; Vernica Mehta, Year 9; Freja Newman, Year 10; and Ananya Deshpande, Year 11, explored at the NSW Philosothon held on 7 June.

Each year, participants in the Philosothon engage with a variety of deep philosophical issues in community of inquiry discussions.  Sixteen schools were represented in the 2018 event which included a lecture on friendship by Dr Sandra Lynch. Following the lecture, participants engaged in a community of inquiry where they developed a philosophical question based on this topic.

Philosophers from a range of universities observed the proceedings, judging students on their creative and critical thinking and the quality of their engagement with the philosophical ideas. They were also judged on their ability to show collaborative thinking by encouraging their peers, showing intellectual humility and asking thought-provoking questions.

The high scores achieved by each student in her discussion groups secured second place overall for Meriden in the competition. The individual results were also excellent with Vernica Mehta placing second in the Year 9 division and Ananya Deshpande placing third in the Year 11 division. Freja Newman was awarded full marks in three out of the four discussion groups which is a remarkable achievement in this event.

Meriden’s Philosophy Club was formed in early 2015 as a result of student interest in this area. The club runs once a cycle at lunch time and topics are driven by both teacher and student interest. The aim of the club is to allow students to ‘know thyself’, as encouraged by the ancient philosopher, Socrates.

In the course of a year, the club draws on the four main branches of philosophy:

  • Ethics: What are your values? What is important to you?
  • Epistemology, the theory of knowledge: What is knowledge? What do you know?
  • Metaphysics which deals with questions about reality: What is real?
  • Logic, which involves critical thinking: What is correct and incorrect reasoning? What are logical fallacies?

The views of a range of modern and ancient philosophers are also examined. Discussions are held in a community of inquiry style, in which students themselves facilitate the discussion. They are encouraged to challenge and think critically about their own beliefs, as well as those of others, in a respectful and inclusive manner. The club is open to all students from Years 7 to 12.