WHAT IS PHILOSOTHON?
What is Philosothon?
A Philosothon is concerned with big questions, questions at the edge of science and reason. Each school selects between 5-8 students to represent the school and together they explore philosophical and ethical issues verbally. During the event they discuss four issues and the aim is to collectively come to a conclusion about the issue. The event differs from debating in that students are scored highly if they build on each others arguments. While some have a problem with the fact that this is a competition most educators recognise the healthy respect for the ideas of others which is fostered in a Philosothon. Students can change their mind during the course of the discussion.
Young philosophers are marked on the clarity and intellectual rigour of their contributions to the community of inquiry. Philosothon aims for vernacular accessibility and collaboration over competition and speciality. As a result, Philosothon is judged not on how many philosophical concepts you can slide into the conversation or how well you can 'debate' your teammates. Ultimately, Philsothon is a safe and collaborative space that allows students from all year groups, knowledge and skills to work together and enrich each other.
Unlike many other competitions, Philosothon does not encourage adversarial like behaviour, instead preferring collaboration and teamwork within the community of inquiry.
Taking the form of a 'community of inquiry' (COI) students from a diverse range of schools collaborate to answer a philosophical question. Given university grade stimulus material written by well respected academics, students are exposed to a wide range of philosophical disciplines, including epistemology, ethics, and metaphysics.
This group starts off with students in the same year with a facilitator who guides the discussion and selects students to contribute. Starting off with prepared questions from the students, eventually the discussion evolves to tackle larger philosophical questions. The students are marked by a Philosophy academic from the local university on their contributions and collaborative efforts.
As the Philosothon progresses, students are introduced to 'mixed' communities of inquiry which have students from a diverse range of year groups.
History of Philosothon
In 2007 Matthew Wills from Hale School in Perth Western Australia embarked on a bold new project to promote higher order thinking among secondary school students. The success of Philosothons in WA has largely been due to Matthew's tireless work over the last 14 years in organising teams and stimulus material.
At the first Philosothon nine local high school teams, each including five students came together for an evening of philosophical investigation. The word 'Philosothon' was invented in the first few years of the event by Matthew Wills and Leanne Rucks.
The WA Philosothon grew each year eventually involving 30 schools and all the major WA universities. Philosothon has been hosted by Hale School, Perth College and Trinity College across the years. Currently Philosothon is hosted by APIS in collaboration with the University of Western Australia with the National Philosothon held by the Australasian Association of Philosophy.
In July 2011 Federation of Australasian Philosophy in Schools Associations (FAPSA) decided to host the first Australasian Philosothon at Cranbrook School in Sydney. This came as the culmination of a Winston Churchill Fellowship awarded to Matthew Wills to research ways of creating a National Philosothon. Each Australian state sent three teams (the top three placed teams in each state) and so twelve schools participated in the inaugural event. The three days consisted of speakers, games and Communities of Inquiries. University academics awarded points to students on the basis of their ability to construct an argument collaboratively on interesting philosophical and ethical issues. Encouragement awards were sponsored by the Australasian Association of Philosophy. ABC’s Radio National produced a programme about this event and to listen to the “The Philosopher’s Zone” broadcast on Radio National from 3rd September 2011, please click on the link below: “The Philosopher’s Zone” broadcast on Radio National on 3rd September 2011. Each year since then the Australasian Philosothon has been held in a different capital city.
Philosothon also provides students the opportunity to progress to the Australasian Philosothon which is held in an Australian Capital city each year.
The first UK Philosothon happened in 2014 at Kings College, Taunton following a series of seminars run by Matthew Wills as part of a Federal Government grant in the form of an Endeavour Award in 2013. Father Mark Smith and Julie Arliss from the Philosophy & Religion Department at King’s have now spearheaded the Philosothon movement in the United Kingdom in collaboration with Dr Michael Lacewing from Heythrop College and Lizzy Lewis from SAPERE. The first Philosothon took place at King’s College in January 2014. Philosothons have also been held in Europe and Israel.
Winners of the Australasian Philosothon from Western Australia
Christchurch Grammar School
Winners of the Perth Philosothon
2007, 2010 and 2011
Christchurch Grammar School
2008, 2015 (Joint) and 2016
Iona Presentation College
2014, 2015 (Joint), 2017, 2018 and 2019
Winners of the South-West Philosothon
Georgiana Molloy Anglican School
Margaret River Senior High School
2015 and 2016
Bunbury Cathedral Grammar School
Our Lady of Mercy College
2018, 2019 and 2020