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Learning the Art of Reason at Philosothon 2023

Some of life's most pressing, urgent, divisive, relevant and important questions underscored the summit of ideas that was All Saints Philiosothon 2023.

All Saints Year 11 and 12 students of Philosophy and Reason came together at the Philosothon for a Socratic-style exchange of knowledge; a type of debate called a community of inquiry.

In an era permeated by fake news, trolling, blind acceptance, online bullying and many other toxic trends, studying Philosophy and taking part in events like the Philosothon teach an immeasurably relevant skill.

Philosophy teacher Adriana Hull says rather than being told or telling others what to think, studies like these encourage students to learn how to think.

"I always tell my students that learning is about a constant movement of ideas and if someone tells you what to think, that flow is halted," says Mrs Hull.

"The aim is to exchange ideas in a charitable and clear form of argument to learn more truth and get closer to truth without 'biff' over disagreement."

The day-long Philosothon saw students engage in several deep discussions on questions including 'Are traditional gender roles harmful?', 'Are we responsible for the mistakes of the past?' and 'Do we have an obligation to improve the genetic quality of the human population?'

While it's easy to skirt discussion on these topics for fear they are politically charged magnets for 'biff', our students embraced all sides and arguments with profound maturity and insight.

Zachary Stevenson (Year 12) was named Most Promising Philosopher on the day with runner-up awards going to Koko Stephens (Year 12) and Zac Demchenko (Year 11).

Even though passionate discussions and strong opinions abounded, particularly on topics concerning genetic modification and gender, Zac Demchenko emphasises how helpful the conversations were.

"We need to talk about these polarising issues so we can find the truth; who is right on these issues and on what grounds is this predicated?" says Zac.

"If we don't talk about these kinds of things, then the issues just become more and more divisive with people moving into their own little echo chambers or systems of dogma."

Zac believes that all young people have an inherent responsibility to be truth-seekers and not accept biases or prejudgements.

"If we go into any philosophical discussion with a closed mind, a preconceived conclusion and a plan to argue certain points to get to said conclusion, that's not philosophy - that's just politics," he says.

"Studying philosophy allows you to really sharpen your critical thinking skills and it cleanses you of what's not actually an argument; appeals that are fallacious, and not predicated on logic."

Mrs Hull welcomes all students to join the Philosophy and Reason class when it becomes available to them, as the soft skills it imparts are essential to just about any career path.

"Philosophy teaches that scepticism is not a negative term but a critical positive one, that critical thinking is not criticising," she says.

"We do not accept anything as a given because it's not wisdom so we ask for more information and clarity, and we accept good judgment and are grateful for any new truth we might gain and if we are not convinced, we can suspend our judgement until there is more evidence."

"This thought process is not only valuable for law, politics, trades, medicine, arts, business and science - it's valuable everywhere."