Thinks Well With Others: How Philosophy Encourages Collaboration


There’s a list of skills 21st century parents are keen for their children to develop, and the ability to work with others is near the top. Whether it’s at school, at home, at play, or, later in life, at work, our kids are and will be expected to know how to put their heads together with others. Their reality includes social media, interactive learning, and the expectation that they’ll be innovative in their way of thinking. All of these things hinge on being able to not just coexist, but to thrive as a group.

As luck would have it, doing philosophy with your kids can help with this vital skill. Here are some ways in which it lends itself to collaboration:

• At its core, philosophy is a conversation, and not a solo pursuit. Part of thinking rationally means being willing to share our own ideas, but also being open to new ideas from others. A one-sided conversation in philosophy isn’t really philosophy at all.
• Philosophy involves active listening. In order to fully understand an idea, we’re required to fully tune into explanations of it. Simply listening for an opportunity to speak isn’t sufficient in philosophy.
• Philosophy teaches us to ask thoughtful questions, of ourselves, and of others. It also opens the door for us to ask questions as a group.
• Some of the key rules of doing philosophy centre around respecting others. We don’t get angry just because someone disagrees with us, we don’t launch personal attacks, and we don’t exclude new ideas without giving them due consideration.
• A number of the branches of philosophy, like ethics and politics, are chiefly concerned with examining how we get along with others. They ask questions like “What are my responsibilities towards others?”, “Who gets to decide?”, and “What is fair?”
• Philosophy teaches all of us to communicate clearly and creatively. It helps us to focus on ideas, organize them, and put them into words that others will understand.
• At some point or another, every philosopher has to admit that they don’t know and/or that they’re wrong. Working with others requires this of us as well. Believe it or not, in philosophy, being a little in the dark or off-base can be a good thing.

Ready to help your little thinker become a great collaborator? Give philosophy a whirl with them, and be sure to check out our Teach page for free resources for teachers and parents!