The Philosophy Foundation: Provocations

Philosophy for secondary school

By: David Birch


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Size: 196 x 146mm
Pages : 328
ISBN : 9781785833687
Format: Paperback
Published: September 2018

David Birch’s Provocations: Philosophy for secondary school will help teachers to present ideas and stimulate discussions which both accommodate and engage adolescent appetites.

Foreword by A. C. Grayling.

Are human beings flawed? Is murder an act of insanity or just plain thoughtlessness? Do we need a soul?

From the fall of Icarus to the rise of Caesar, this practical resource draws upon history, philosophy and literature to provoke students to think, question and wonder. Divided into chapters on the world, self, society and others, the book is designed to give secondary school teachers the means to listen rather than teach – and to allow the ideas and thoughts of students to form the centre of the lesson.

It shares a set of mature and challenging philosophy sessions predicated on the pedagogical methods of The Philosophy Foundation, and which explore, among other things: Wagner and desire, Shakespeare and madness, Joan of Arc and gender, Faust and temptation, and Nostradamus and time. The
sessions dare students to think philosophically, to generate and test ideas, and to gain deeper insights – and raise questions on slavery, consumerism, utopia, the nature of evil, the limits of freedom, belief in God, and a whole lot more.

The book sets out a clear introductory outline on its use both in and out of the classroom, and contains helpful tips and advice to guide teachers to span the curriculum – covering areas applicable to history, geography, religious studies, science, art, English and citizenship. There is also an extensive bibliography for those who wish to explore the topics in greater depth.

Designed for all teachers, whether they are Philosophy for Children (P4C) trained or just experimenting with philosophy, of learners aged 11–18.

There is also a hardback edition available, ISBN 9781845908881.

Picture for author David Birch

David Birch

David Birch works for The Philosophy Foundation, an award-winning charity that brings philosophy to schools and the wider community. He is also a teacher of philosophy and religious studies at both Newham Sixth Form College and Kensington Park School.

He has also been featured in Philosophy Now.

Read David's article featured in The Guardian, September 2014.


  1. Provocations is a superb provocation to philosophy itself -¦ It should be in every schoolroom, and every teacher's hands, as an instrument that will transform students' interest and capacity across the whole range of not just their studies but their lives.
  2. Beautifully written, clearly presented, and drawing from a wide and rich range of original sources, Provocations is a superb resource for secondary school teachers keen to encourage independent, bold and creative thinking from their students (and perhaps give their own critical faculties a tickle while they're at it -¦).
  3. This is a rich, interesting and valuable book, packed full of extremely stimulating, and, at times, provocative, starting points for philosophical inquiry.
  4. In the best tradition of the Socratic gadfly, David Birch challenges many current practices and assumptions in education, and provides an imaginative resource for stimulating debate, critical reflection and creative thinking on a wide and engaging range of topics. His emphasis on the importance of listening as well as speaking, for the teacher as well as the student, is refreshing.
  5. This is an excellent resource - inspiring, clear and well-organised. Anyone thinking of introducing philosophy into the classroom should own a copy.
  6. I love philosophy. I love my students to love philosophy too-¦ and one of my greatest achievements was that from my first A-Level cohort, 3 went on to study philosophy at university.

    At the end of term, many staff do quizzes or show videos. However I now usually do some philosophy. I usually use The If Machine or The Philosophy Shop, both from the The Philosophy Foundation. We do an activity based on philosophical enquiry. Some “don't get it”, some love it, a few hate it, some want to do it every lesson! It's also been handy for the -˜no pens' day that our school has introduced to help improve literacy.

    As such, I was excited to hear about Provocations, which is the latest in The Philosophy Foundation series published by Crown House Publishing Limited. A copy landed on my desk and I found it the perfect distraction from my pile of marking.

    Any philosophy book for the classroom must be user friendly. It must be practical and workable. You've got to be reading and thinking, “This'll work for .... class”. David Birch's excellent book does just that.

    He begins with the basics. I usually brush over the -˜set up' sections as I am experienced at running this kind of lesson, but it is vital to include for those new to philosophical enquiry or those who are being thrown in at the deep end! It can be very daunting, and well out of the comfort zone.

    The book is then split into four sections, “The World, -˜It'”, “Self, -˜I'”, “Society, -˜We'” and “Others, -˜You'”. Each takes a group of topics, many of which feature in GCSE and A-Level syllabi. This is vital, as much as I would love to indulge myself with simply doing philosophy, I have a very real responsibility to enable my students to pass their external exams! However, I have considered running a philosophy club and this would also work perfectly with them.

    Quite quickly, I decided that this book would change how I do things. Why not start a unit with some philosophical enquiry? A perfect starter for a philosophy lesson surely?!

    Let's take “The Problem of Evil”. This features on my Edexcel GCSE and AS syllabus. Birch begins with a quote “World is suddener that we fancy it” (Louis MacNeice) before launching into our starter question, “Should there be no suffering in the world?”

    This could easily be on the board at the start of the lesson and students could either write a response or discuss it. There are some questions to take students further if needed, plus a short extract from Mark's Gospel of Jesus on the cross. Birch then offers a selection of -˜Task Questions' as well as an alternative starter, “How might suffering prove there is no God?” which lends itself well to GCSE/AS syllabi. There are useful hints, reminders and guides to setting up the discussion, for example in this section reminding the facilitator to avoid making students feel like they are being given the answer. He gives input, background information on early Christianity, before posing more questions. There is a clear line of thought with his questioning and more than enough for even a non-specialist to fill a lesson.

    Other sections lend themselves well to PHSE or form time. For example, there is a section on “Race”. This has a lot more input, which could be photocopied or even read in advance before again starter and task questions are systematically, and thoughtfully, set out.

    It's easy to overlook appendices, but I urge you to not with Provocations. It includes some scripts which would make great fun and fully engage a small group, or a well-prepped group to perform to a larger group. They primarily explore logic. It also provides some -˜self run' topics for pupils as well as some puzzles (similar to thunks), the real provocations!

    Overall, this is an excellent resource for anyone that wants to bring in critical, creative, independent thinking into their classroom. David Birch was put together a fantastic, user-friendly book that will be well used in my classroom as I readjust my teaching, help my students put down their pens and engage the power of their mind, developing both their thinking, listening and speaking skills.
  7. It is on my desk at all times to dip into and stimulate discussions to improve and differentiate the learning in class and strategies that students can use to make progress.
  8. Oddly, very few books exist to help teachers foster philosophical enquiry among high schoolers. Of these few, David Birch's Provocations is a standout, distinguished by the originality, breadth and richness of its material.

    Any teacher who regards philosophy as a living, breathing practice will find in Provocations a vast reservoir of stimuli for thinking. It unlocks worlds of wonder and contemplation. Although wonderment may seem like a hard sell to a class of eye-rolling teens, this book is very likely to do the trick, reeling them in with tantalising vignettes and hooking them with contentious questions. “[A] question is an invitation,” Birch says and in class discussions, “the best questions are the questions that multiply.”

    Not once underestimating the maturity of high schoolers, Birch broaches sophisticated ethical, logical, political and social topics with characteristic pith and earnestness. He believes in students “speaking to find out what they believe”. Accordingly, he suggests that teachers reinvent themselves, shrugging off the mantle of the expert (and the fluency and assurance that go along with it) in favour of listening generously as their students think aloud.

    When young people are free to experiment with ideas -”-” to propose, evaluate, reject or concede arguments as they see fit, rather than swallow readymade conclusions -”-” philosophy becomes something to do rather than something merely to learn about. It becomes a conscious practice of rationality, balancing open-mindedness and scepticism. Provocations offers prompt after prompt for young people to be curious and receptive learners.

    The book opens with a foreword by A. C. Grayling, reminding us that in philosophy we tend not to find clear-cut answers, just more or less convincing (and always contestable) reasons for our views. Birch's preface sets out his thoughts on the place of philosophy in education. His introduction offers teachers hints on how to encourage meaningful participation in classroom discussion. Much hinges on patient, uninterrupted listening while students explore familiar concepts made strange by their contexts: “Philosophy is a way of relearning language.”

    The substance of the book is a diverse selection of engaging short texts, each followed by a thoughtful series of “catalytic questions”. More than 50 philosophical topics feature within themed sections about the World (It), Self (I), Society (We) and Others (You). Included are such intriguing topics as -˜Imperialism and Magic', -˜Language and Originality', -˜Perfectibility' and -˜The Sacred'.

    The author doesn't shy away from raising confronting subjects like gender, suicide and torture, nor does he overlook classic tropes like the nature of time, freedom and autonomy, all presented in fresh and surprising ways. It's easy to see why the questions of tradition and change, desire and boredom, and belief in God may be especially gripping for students in their adolescent years. Additionally, the inclusion of topics like mass surveillance, consumer marketing and the ethics of eating animals makes Provocations acutely relevant to our contemporary world.

    Cerebral but never stuffy, the book introduces complex themes in unpredictable ways. It taps rich veins of cultural and scientific history, ranging freely across historical periods. It interweaves ancient and modern perspectives, philosophies and mythologies of the West and East, events from pivotal moments in world history and recent case studies. 
    To help students begin to understand death, for instance, Birch marshals contemporary ethnological observations; ideas distilled from the Buddha's teachings and from Seneca's writings; modern European philosophies from the idealist, psychoanalytic and existentialist traditions; and even a quote from Hamlet.

    The book pulses with interest. Psychiatric reports, a Wagnerian opera narrative, futurologists' predictions, logic puzzles, boundary-pushing poetry and invented dialogues all rub shoulders with accounts of disputes over workers' strikes, prisoners' voting rights, eugenics experiments and the enactment of secularity laws in French schools.
    Provocations asks you to “suspend your certainties” and to celebrate the spontaneity and confusion that follows. A sorely-needed antidote to an increasingly results-orientated education system, this book offers much of value not only to philosophy teachers but also to teachers of English, humanities and the arts. Beyond the school gates, this book will find a wider audience among reflective adults. Parents, book clubbers and Philosophy CafÃ'© enthusiasts are all in for a treat.

    Provocations -”-” so fittingly titled -”-” will inspire fresh conversations that “crack things wide open”. I expect it will push many young people (and adults, too) to challenge and refine their intuitions, identities and worldviews.
  9. This is an excellent and thoughtful approach to providing some structure for secondary philosophical enquiry. Instead of simply teaching the great philosophers, it provides support for teachers and students to ask philosophical questions and problematize their experience. I would like to use this in my introductory college classes as a way to move students beyond a passive model of education to one of active engagement.
  10. -˜Provocations' is an attempt to present a systematic philosophical exercise for the Secondary School. It challenges the budding minds to think creatively and critically. It impels them to generate and test ideas; and help them to make sense of what is at stake and to gain deeper insights.

    The author David Birch has lucidly presented in the introduction the task and responsibility of a teacher. “The approach expounded to education advocated in this book is that of listening; listening neither to console nor to redeem but to crack things wide open” (vii). Here the role of the teacher is not only to teach what to think but rather more importantly how to think and thereby give the pupils a sense of direction to a unique and authentic way of life. Birch invites his pupils to be more expressive for in philosophy no one is more intelligent than any one else. The introductory note also presents the basic requirements with regard to class set-up, material and discussion so as to facilitate the process of dialogue.
    Apart from introductory note and appendices at the end, the book is divided into 4 parts and each part contains several sub-topics. Furthermore, each sub-topic is presented systematically featuring basically 3 types of questions: first, Starter questions -” introduces the topic; second, Hermeneutic questions -” gives the class time to ponder on a text; and third, Task questions -” enquires about the opinion of the pupils. These questions are formulated in such a way that they deepen the thought process at each level.
    Part A deals with the “World, -˜It'.” It covers 14 topics viz. imperialism and magic, madness, time, art and reality, belief in God, the problem of evil, the nature of evil, skepticism, logic, human omniscience, facts and opinions, objects and essences, erasure and newness. This section grapples with the fundamental issues of the ground reality of everything in the presence of the religious differences as well as in scientific findings. It basically enquires as to whether there is the truth of reality after all in the face of multifaceted embedded meanings when each one interprets differently. It also questions the very nature and the existence of God in the presences of untold sufferings or evils.
    Part B deals with the “Self, -˜I'.” It covers 14 topics viz. privacy, the soul, gender, suicide, understanding death, freedom, responsibility, thinking, language and originality, autonomy, mind and body, conviction, emotion and desire. This section challenges one to investigate the complex nature of a human person in its various aspects. It attempts to explore the -˜who' aspect of a person by putting forth the questions that concern the existential reality of a person. The questions concerned are like, is a person only a soul, or mind or body? Why do human beings act differently when they are being watched? This section also questions gender differences and the role play by nature and society in the making of it.
    Part C deals with “Society, -˜We'.” It covers 12 topics viz. perfectibility, utopia, property, intelligence, morality and law, money, street art, consumerism, power tradition and change, race, democracy and difference. This section emphasizes the social nature of a human person and by positing appropriate questions which makes an individual to confront the real situation of the society. It particularly questions the possibility of transforming the prevailing flaws of the society; as well as the issue of tradition, law and morality as against the question of human rights and freedom.
    Part D deals with “Others, -˜You'.” It covers 12 topics viz. animals, the sacred, egoism, lying, torture, other minds, language and discrimination, nature, temptation, sin, feelings and rights, the senses. This section confronts the inner struggle between good and bad, a conflict of desires that each individual goes through in life. It presents the ethical and emotional dichotomies that which hinders the very being of a person due to its ambiguous nature. 
    The presentation of the book is very simple, lucid and valuable. The book truly provokes the reader to think differently and gives rise to insights into the various existential problems and challenges of World, Self, Society and Others. The author has rightly recommended this book for the Secondary students and it could also be of great help for the beginners in philosophy. The book could have facilitated the reader by presenting a case-study so as to contextualize the process of thinking.
  11. Spending time in such a packed curriculum to explore more creative aspects of learning (and life) within secondary schools can be terribly challenging. With inspections and league tables deliberating over literacy and maths results, it is easy to see how school are not investing as much time in lessons which allow pupils to stop, develop their thinking, or explore their creative sides -” much to the frustration to many teachers who want to ensure pupils become well-rounded individuals who can think logically and safely challenge many aspects of their own deliberations.

    Many colleagues are well versed and understand the benefits of using philosophical thinking in their lessons, but various constraints restrict such a diversion. Cleverly managing time in the school day can allow for such thinking with the ideas suggested in “Provocations: Philosophy for Secondary School” by David Birch (edited by Peter Worley) a fantastic place to start. Philosophical session are invariably difficult to plan, as you do not know which direction discussions will turn -” be prepared to change direction and improvise. “Lesson plans are only for the omniscient”, claims the author.

    As you would expect, as this book is aimed for the benefit of secondary school pupils, some challenging provocations are contained within the four main sections of the book:

    World, -˜It' -” Includes philosophical tasks such as: Belief in God; The Nature of Evil; Logic; Imperialism and Magic.
    Self, -˜I' -” Privacy; Gender; Understanding Death; Autonomy; Emotion.
    Society, -˜We' -” Utopia; Morality and the Law; Street Art; Power; Race; Democracy and Difference.
    Others, -˜You' -” Animals; Egoism; Lying; Torture; Language and Discrimination; Sin; Feelings and Rights.

    We have not included all the contents here, but given you a flavour of some of the interesting challenging debates and issues which this book can support you in managing.

    Philosophy DOES have a place in modern day classrooms, but finding the time in an already packed school day is a challenge -” there is no denying that. But this book shows teachers the importance to help pupils develop and justify their thinking (something that some in society are unable to achieve). Whether philosophical sessions take place within a PSHE curriculum, class assembly time, tutor time, or even within mixed in other subjects, teenagers need to have time to think about their thinking, with the provocations within this book being a fantastic place to start. An indispensable resource for any secondary teacher who wants to support develop their pupils thinking.
  12. “Learning is a matter of desire, not a question of cognition; of magnetism rather than machinery” (p. 1). As David Birch underlines, teaching should not be about handing down knowledge from on high, but instead should be a response to the student's curiosity, interest and desire to learn-”and should reach these outputs by being inspirational and listening.

    From Birch's perspective, having involved students comes mainly by listening-”that “endows speech with reality.” To listen is to be involved, many times without knowing what we are involved in. Lis-tening to the students, encouraging them to question the world-”by conversation, exploration and experimentation with different ideas and perspectives, even if contradictory and unfinished-”can contribute enormously to have them looking at the world like “something to be customized rather than complied with,” or at least something uncertain and ever changing (p. 1).
    As Birch argues, the focus on listening dissolves the dichotomy of child-centered or teacher-led learning: it provides a substantial help to dissolve the idea of a source, an originator. Speaking and listening mixes and merges. From such a pedagogical perspective, learning is mainly a situated and socially constructed process: it develops in dialogic and interpersonal terms, through forms of col-laboration and sharing. Even if schools sometimes promote the “pleasures of togetherness” (p. 1), as Birch observes, mainly today we can say that learning is a dynamic process involving complex cognitive and emotional elements for both its acquisition and use: this includes perception, com-munication, association and reasoning. Ultimately, learning derives mainly from minds at work thanks to a process of social action and engagement involving different ways of thinking, doing and communicating (Montessori 1903, 1909, 1912, 1914, 1947, 1949; Dewey 1916, 1929, 1938; Popper 1945, 1972; Polanyi 1974; Gardner 1983, 1991, 1993, 1999; Alston 1986; Guarini 1989; Harré & Gillett 1994; Morin 1992, 2008, 2014; Sawyer 2006; Sosa 2009; Bertagni, La Rosa & Salvetti 2010; Lynch 2012; Shell 2013; Salvetti 2014; Gardner & Davis 2014; Stiglitz & Greenwald 2014).
    Philosophy requires teachers to lead by questioning and listening. The focus on listening “dissolves the idea of a source, an originator.” Speaking and listening mixes and merges. Encouraging students to look at the worlds through some windows opened by a philosophical approach is very interest-ing: first of all because “philosophy says it is okay to be incomplete,” so dealing with philosophical issues-”something that has the form “I don't know my way about”-”brings students dealing with ambiguity and incompleteness, that are dimensions that can boost the enterprise of being open and exploratory (Wittgenstein 1921; Rorty 1962, 1979, 1989; Nozick 1981; Baggini & Fosl 2010; Wor-ley 2010; Evans 2012). Accepting that certainties are hard to come by and that complexities often remain after much debate facilitates teachers' jobs that implies not only teaching what to learn but also how to learn-”putting the teachers in an inconclusive position because to teach philosophy means, for a teacher, adapting to the idea you might not be able to identify what, if anything, was achieved. As Birch writes, the teachers may have “a sense of how to get a conversation going, an idea of where the catalytic questions lie, but they don't know where the conversation might lead or how they can end it.” Questions take on a life of their own, the teachers are in no position to be conclusive, “confusion is its currency of exchange” (p. 2).
    If philosophy is mainly conceived as conversation, exploration and mutual listening, no one is an expert and no one is smarter than anyone else. Provocations is a set of philosophy sessions designed for secondary school and predicated on the pedagogical methods of The Philosophy Foundation. The lessons in the book are based on talking, “that is a simple yet peculiarly radical approach” (p. 5). These sessions are mature, challenging and provocative, using history, literature, myth and the world today as their basis. Each session contains particular pedagogical tips and advice and sug-gestions as to how they can be effectively delivered. For instance, there are very valuable guidelines regarding the classroom's set-up: circle, horseshoe or remain at the desk? And there are interesting guidelines regarding how to manage the verbal turns during a discussion-”such as a ball passed round the group to allow someone to speak. Another relevant tip provided about the classroom deals with the use of the board, which in philosophy is “no longer an instrument of information but a medium of experimentation” because it is not performing its usual function: what is written on the board is “not what the class is being taught, but what they are being asked to consider” (p. 4).
    This difference in role also applies to the teacher's voice, which is expected not to be used to direct or dictate but mainly to suggest alternatives and multiple directions-”suspending the teacher's own certainties. So, as Birch points out, “speech is not a medium of consensus or conformity, of falling into line,” nor a declaration of individuality. Instead, it is mainly a medium used to question the most commonly provided answers, to keep people in a space open to doubts and incompleteness (thanks mainly to the tripartite questions provided in each section: -˜starter,' -˜hermeneutic' and -˜task' questions).
    Humans are physical, biological, psychological, cultural, social, historical beings. This complex uni-ty of human nature has been so thoroughly disintegrated by education and divided into disciplines, that we can no longer learn what human being means because of the compartmentalization of dis-ciplines. This awareness about the complexity of human nature-”as Morin (2014) argues-”should be restored. But restoring the awareness of the unity of the human nature means moving away from the great Western paradigm-”the mind-body dualism-”formulated by Descartes and imposed by developments in European history since the 17th century. The Cartesian paradigm disconnects subject and object, each in its own sphere: philosophy and reflective research here, science and objective research there. It is indeed a paradigm that unconsciously irrigates and controls our con-scious thought, making it also super-conscious. This paradigm determines a double vision of the world, in fact a doubling of the world. One is a world of objects that can be observed, experiment-ed, manipulated; the other is a world of subjects that raise problems of existence, communication, conscience, destiny.
    A paradigm institutes primordial relations that form axioms, determine concepts, command dis-course and/or theories. It organizes their organization and generates their generation or regener-ation (Bachelard 1927; Kuhn 1962; Foucault 1966, 1969; Morin 2008). A paradigm may elucidate and blind, reveal and obscure. There, deeply ensconced inside the paradigm, lies a crucial factor in the game of truth and error. In short, a paradigm determines the sovereign concepts and prescribes the logical relation of disconnection. Disobedience to this disconnection is necessarily clandestine, marginal, deviant: that is the risk incurred by Birch's proposal of fighting against what we can call the cult of the separate disciplines. Even if the Cartesian body-mind dualism historically lost its attraction very early on, the notion that mental life is “internal” and separate from behavior, which is “external,” survived much longer and can still be found today in many psychological, pedagogical and andragogical approaches. This situation results in a uniting and managing of impoverished, simplified models and conceptual human action that cannot be used in the dense and polysemic dynamics of our daily lives. Perhaps it is no coincidence that we still often bring into account learn-ing environments that, doing a little archaeology of knowledge, we could trace back to the model of the Panopticon described by Jeremy Bentham (1843), or rather prison (and then hospital, factory or learning institutes), “that shows everything” thanks to the spoke shape of the building: an envi-ronment where ideally a single observer may watch everything all the time, adding to the percep-tions of the inmates (or patients, workers, students), a sort of omniscience and generalized control by the guardian. This occurs in an environment-”the Panopticon-”where learning is conceived as a passing of information from the lecturer to the student, following a communicative process that tends to be one-way (top-down) and within which the “retroactions,” the feed-back (bottom-up), take on the role of interrogations (Foucault 1975).
    Instead of being inspired by the Panopticon, we should consider both educational environments as well as the human mind to be complex systems. In particular, the human mind works as a meeting point for a wide range of structuring influences whose nature may only be represented on a much larger canvas than that provided by the study of individual organisms. And therefore, we should remember that each one of us lives many different discussions, each of which has its own set of meanings. Some of these discussions may be put into conflict among themselves, necessitating a negotiation and an adjustment to try and make them compatible. The discussions regard symbolic interactions, as well as conventions and relationships in which these same interactions are bound by informal rules and are interconnected to each other in ways that reflect that which Michel Fou-cault (1971) called “the order of things.” People operate continually in the middle of evaluative and interpersonal influences that shape and manage their activities. People are “agents” who must produce their own constructive interpretations and the expressive acts starting from the contexts in which they are rooted and within which we all live, move and realize our being.
    What Birch reminds us of (and provides us guidelines to do so) are new ways of thinking that are able to process peculiarities, individualities, oddities, discontinuities, contrasts and singularities. We need ways of thinking that are able to understand the variety, plurality of belonging and ways of being part of the many local worlds in which we live, study and work. We need to learn how to learn a potentially relativist (but not destructive or nihilistic), relational and self-aware thought that knows its requirements and that is left unsaid-”A thought that is able to consider the cognitive re-straints that make it up, that sometimes command and control it blindly and fideistically, a thought that is aware that knowledge is a mélange of rationality and rationalization, of true and false intu-ition, inductions, syllogisms and paralogisms, ways of saying and doing things, personal opinions and shared beliefs. People have many different and discrete facets of cognition, so they have differ-ent cognitive strengths and contrasting cognitive styles. A radically different view of the mind and intelligence that yields a very different vision of education is needed today, because a revolution is under way due to a number of big changes that are emerging at the same time: high-speed mobile networks, cheap tablet devices, the ability to process huge amounts of data cheaply, sophisticated online gaming, adaptive-learning software, “stellar” contents available, often for free. The job of the classroom's teachers and trainers, at every educational and training stage, will move from orator to coach and learning facilitator (Gardner & Davis 2014, Salvetti F. 2014, Bertagni & Salvetti S. 2014).
    Divided into chapters on -˜The World', -˜Self ', -˜Society' and -˜Others', Birch's book is a valuable resource for secondary school (such as GCSE and A-Level in the UK). It is written to give teachers the means to listen rather than teach, to allow the ideas and thoughts of students to form the center of the lesson. The clear introductory outline contains tips and advice on how to use this book both in and outside the classroom and across the curriculum. It offers teachers from all subjects the opportuni-ty to introduce a student-centered approach to their lessons. There is also an extensive bibliography for those who wish to explore the topics in greater depth. Last, but not least, there are useful hints, reminders and guides to setting up the discussion, for example reminding the teacher to avoid making students feel like they are being given the answer. And there is a clear line of thought with his questioning and more than enough for even a non-specialist to fill a lesson. Overall, this is an excellent resource for anyone that wants to bring in critical, creative, independent thinking into their classroom - helping students put down their pens and engage the power of their mind, devel-oping their thinking, listening and speaking skills.
    In such a perspective, philosophy is conversation à la Rorty (1989), exploration and experiment with ideas as suggested for instance by Nozick (1981): an effort to achieve greater understanding of whatever topic is under discussion-”by listening to other points of view and following where the best arguments lead. That is mainly why this book is made up of questions aimed at being invita-tions, because “in philosophy the class does not take, but rather becomes, the subject” (p. 1)-”in a situated and socially constructed process. From the fall of Icarus to the rise of Caesar, this practical book draws upon history, philosophy, literature and the world today to provoke students to think, question and wonder. It raises questions on the nature of evil, the power of science, belief in God, consumerism, utopia, the limits of freedom and a whole lot more. Are human beings flawed? Is murder an act of insanity or just plain thoughtlessness? Do we need a soul?
    User friendly, practical and workable, Birch's book is very useful also for practical philosophers engaged with people new to philosophical enquiry-”committing to a particular attitude of open inquiry being aware that commitment is distinct from belief (Lynch 2012; Popper 1945, 1972). The exercises are designed to invite reflection and generate debate, making people understand how partial, incomplete and open-ended almost all enquiry is; and that in many areas of enquiry there are no right and wrong answers, only better and worse reasons for taking this view or that-”subject always to scrutiny and challenge. If philosophy is “the enterprise of being open and exploratory, of accepting that certainties are had to come by and that complexities often remain after much debate” (Grayling 2014), this book also teaches the important lesson that openness, uncertainty and incom-pleteness can be highly productive.

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