How to create concept activities

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THERE ARE PLENTY of concept activities on the website covering a range of concepts likely to arise during philosophical dialogues. However, you will sometimes want to create your own in order to explore ideas that are particular to a discussion you have just had with pupils. The attached resource shows you three different ways this can be achieved, all with worked examples.

A note on concepts

HAVING A CONCEPT of X at a basic level means being able to recognise X things, distinguish them from non-X things and compare them with non-X things.

But exactly what things one recognises as X things and what one associates with X-ness is not always straightforward. Concepts cannot simply be established like facts. The question, ‘Is John taller than 5 feet?’ is a factual one. We can answer this by finding out accurate information. However, the question, ‘Is John my friend?’ is a conceptual one. To answer it we need to consider what counts as friendship to ourselves and others. We also need to interpret John’s behaviour in the light of our understanding of the concept of friendship. This isn’t just a theoretical matter with no connection to real life. The way we try to be a friend to someone will depend on our working out of the particular concept of friendship that we hold.

The concept of friendship is one of those concepts that are central to our lives and common to everyone. Philosophers are interested in these kinds of concepts, such as self, nature, justice, freedom and cause, that often prompt deep questions leading to contestable answers. The questions often concern right actions, beliefs, arguments and judgements.

These ‘philosophical’ concepts overlap with other concepts in almost every subject area. For example the question: ‘Does tourism cause unacceptable cultural and environmental damage?’ requires a good deal of conceptual and philosophical consideration as well as a grasp of appropriate knowledge. Thus, we argue that there is a philosophical dimension in all subjects.

We look at life through a prism of concepts and we learn to understand new things through the concepts we already know. They are our main tools of interpretation and they help us to articulate what is important to us as we look inwards at ourselves and outwards to the world around us. Concepts help us to develop our own philosophies and to think for ourselves.

We can help children and young people to become more reflective about the concepts they already use and also try to extend their range of concepts with less familiar ones. You will find many concept activities on our website but sometimes you may want to create your own in order to explore some ideas that are particular to a discussion you’ve  had with pupils. Here, we show you how it’s done.