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July 9, 2010

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Philosophy For Home School Students

Filed under: Home Schooling,Philosophy — cyrellysg @ 2:42 am
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The following is a series of home school units on Philosophy which my children are using.  I am offering it to other home schooling families for their own use.  It includes roughly three to four years worth of in depth study in the subject for the average student.  A more advanced student might work through it at a faster rate. 

The material takes the student through an introduction to classical philosophy and the theories which impacted the world.  Exposure to a good range of theorists is included.  I would recommend coupling this subject alongside a couple years of world history to assist with the context of the development of philosophical theory.


Philosophy Strand I.

** Introduction to Philosophy:  Student will explore philosophy and establish it as a discipline which attempts to explain the human condition.

**  Student will define Ethics and examine ethical theories and representative theorists.

Study topics:

  • Theorist:  Plato
  • Theorist:  Aristotle
  • Theory:  Hedonism (Theorist:  Epicurus)
  • Theory:  Stoicism (Theorists:  Epictetus & Marcus Aurelius)
  • Theory:  Relativism (Theorist:  Spinoza)
  • Theory:  Utilitarianism (Theorist:  Mill)
  • Theory:  Naturalism (Theorist:  Rousseau)
  • Theory:  Pragmatism (Theorist:  Dewey)
  • Theory:  Existentialism (Theorist:  Sartre, Confucius)

Questions to be Studied:

  • What is a Good Life?
  • How should a man behave?
  • What is a Good Society?
  • Which is the higher virtue – Truth or Justice?
  • Upon What premise do each of the philosophers base their conclusion?

Reading for Philosophy I includes:   (the following resources can be obtained online for free)

The Basic Teachings of the Great Philosophers, By SE Frost Jr.

  • Ch 1 The Nature of the Universe
  • Ch 2 Man’s Place in the Universe
  • Ch 3 What is Good and what is Evil?

The Socratic Dialogs, by Plato

Socratic Method?  By Morris B. Kaplan

Crito, by Plato

Nicomachean Ethics, by Aristotle, William David Ross, David Ross, JL Ackrill, JO Urmson.

Epicurus on Happiness (series) video

  • 1 of 3
  • 2 of 3
  • 3 of 3

Epictetus: A Stoic and Socratic Guide to Life, by A.A. Long

The Golden Sayings of Epictetus (audio –

The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius (LibriVox – audio recording)

Spinoza:  Practical Philosophy, by Gilles Deleuze

Utilitarianism, by John Stuart Mill ( )

Discourse on Inequality, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (audio –

The Social Contract, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (audio –

John Dewey:  Pragmatism ( )

Habits and Will (Excerpt from Human Nature & Conduct), By John Dewey  ( )

Sartre’s Existentialism (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy –  )

Existentialism & Sartre ( )

The Sayings of Confucius, Confucious (audio –



Philosophy Strand II

**This Philosophy strand continues as the student defines “politics” as a discipline. 

**Student will study the following theorists:

  • Theorist:  Plato
  • Theorist:  Aristotle
  • Theorist:  Confucious
  • Theorist:  Machiavelli
  • Theorist:  Hobbes
  • Theorist:  Spinoza
  • Theorist:  Locke
  • Theorist:  Rousseau
  • Theorist:  Burke
  • Theorist:  Mill
  • Theorist:  Marx

Questions to be Studied:

  • What is the ultimate justification for any form of government?
  • Who should rule?
  • What should be the limits of governmental power?
  • What should be the limits of individual liberty?
  • For whose benefit?

Resources for Philosophy II includes:   (the following resources can be obtained online for free)

The Basic Teachings of the Great Philosophers, By SE Frost Jr.,

  • Ch 5 Fate vs Free Will
  • Ch 7 Man and the State

Hammurabi’s Law Code

Plato’s The Apology of Socrates (audio –

Plato’s Crito (audio –

Politics, by Aristotle (audio –

The Sayings of Confucius, Confucius (audio –

The Prince, Machiavelli

Leviathan, books I & II, by Hobbes

Spinoza:  Practical Philosophy, by Gilles Deleuze

The Second Treatise on Government, by Locke

The Social Contract, by Rousseau

Discourse on Inequality by Rousseau

On Liberty, by John Stuart Mill

The Communist Manifesto, by Karl Marx

Death By Choice:  Who Should Decide?  Daniel C. Maguire

That Right Belongs Only to the State, Mortimer Ostow


Strand Concept To be Studied:


  • 1 – Rules, boundaries, limitations, and recompense are drawn from a civilizations foundational Ethics.
  • 2 – Law is the codified form of Justice used by civilized societies.
  • 3 – In order for Justice to thrive, laws must be interpreted by humans who understand situations and the human condition.
  • 4 – One person’s Justice is another person’s punishment.
  • 5 – Human behavior has tended to vacillate between practice of the “Golden Rule” and aggressive territoriality.
  • 6 – Justice begins with basic respect for the rights of all persons.


Additional Study

1 – Student will select a topic, use a variety of sources expressing opposing viewpoints, organize the information and produce a library research report.

2 – Human Nature (Article), Source:  Wikipedia (internet)

3 – Let Freedom Ring: the Life & Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., Source:  Edsitement (internet)

4 – Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird”, Source:  Edsitement (internet)

5 – Special Research Topics:

  • a.  Celtic interpretation of human behavior
  • b.  Comparison of Ancient Celtic Ethics & Modern Ethics
  • c.  The Old Irish concept of Respect
  • d.  Ancient Irish management of human error vs modern management of human error
  • e.  Rank vs Social Responsibility in Ancient Ireland.

6 – Source Document:  “Instructions of King Cormac” translated by Meyer

7 – Essay:  “Ethics of the Ancient Celts” by Erynn Rowen Laurie, concepts:  societal values, beliefs, ethics

8 – Project:  “You Make the Rules”, Source:  Big Apple History (PBS Teachers)

9 – Film:  Twelve Angry Men

10 – Activity:  The Holmes Case, Source: unknown, see addendum A to article)

Explore – Topics:

  1. Maritime law (comparable disaster cases)
  2. Development of law in a society (case law)
  3. Navy – ships, navigation, historical background
  4. English society
  5. Comparative legal systems (moral dilemmas)
  6. Travel routes (geography, oceanography)
  7. Law vs lawlessness

Explore – skills

  1. Decision-making skills
  2. Analysis skills
  3. Evaluation skills
  4. Generalization skills

Explore – issues, themes, concepts

  1. Justice (right vs wrong)
  2. Spirit of law vs letter of law
  3. Comparative perspectives on law
  4. Conflict and change
  5. The issues of the individual vs society
  6. Value of human life
  7. Authority
  8. Moral integrity
  9. Probability and chance

Explore – study product alternatives

  1. Debates
  2. Mock trials
  3. Theme paper
  4. Creative writing piece (poetry, drama, etc)
  5. Reenactment
  6. Role playing simulation

Explore – purposes inherent in this activity

  1. recognize multiple points of view on a given issue
  2. experience the practice of decision making skills
  3. establish the relevance of the past to the present and the future
  4. explore moral & ethical issues at a personal level
  5. demonstrate the relevance of law to the individual
  6. gain an understanding of legal procedures
  7. practice analysis, synthesis, evaluation
  8. experience the historical context for an individual case

11 – Review: “The Rules George Washington Took As The Guide of His Youth” (excerpt), Source:  Life of George Washington, by Josephine Pollard, pgs 10-11

12 – Essay Abstract:  “How Shall We Live In Space?  Culture, Law, and Ethics in a Space Faring Society”  Source:  Linda Billings,

13 – Project:  The Virginia Declaration of Rights: a blueprint for liberty (PBS Teachers, project) 

Explain how John Locke’s philosophies and the Founding Fathers’ British roots influenced their ideas about both natural and political rights. List specific examples of these views of constitutional government reflected in the Virginia Declaration of Rights.



Philosophy Strand III

**The Student will define “aesthetics” as a discipline.

**Student will study the following theorists:

  • Theorist:  Plato
  • Theorist:  Aristotle
  • Theorist:  George Santayana
  • Theorist:  Alexander Baumgarten
  • Theorist:  Thomas Monroe
  • Theorist:  Benedito Croce
  • Theorist:  John Dewey

Questions to be Studied:

  • What is beauty?
  • Where does beauty reside?
  • What is art?
  • What is the purpose of art?
  • What is the value of art?


Resources for Philosophy III includes:   (the following resources can be obtained online for free)

The Basic Teachings of the Great Philosophers, By SE Frost Jr.,

  • Ch 9 Mind and Matter
  • Ch 10 Ideas and Thinking

Ovid’s Metamorphoses

Internet Collection on Aesthetics Philosophy

Hesiod’s Theogony

Aristotle’s Poetics

Sappho of Mitylene on love & loveliness

The Art of Courtly Love (The Rules of Love), Andreas Capellanus

Sumer Is Icumen In, (Medieval English Song – the first known example of a canon)

Art Masterpieces by Jean-Francois Millet, (audio –, with supplemental material of images)


Internet Research – Explore Topics

  • –         The Image of Man in Ancient & Medieval Art
  • –         The relationship of art in modern philosophy
  • –         Art in various civilizations
  • –         Religious art examples
  • –         Utilitarian art forms
  • –         Purpose of Art in Science
  • –         Expressions of intuitive knowledge past & present
  • –         Sensory perception limitations & aesthetic expression
  • –         Idea development under Sensory Perception limitations
  • –         Environmental factors influencing aesthetic values & disciplines



1 – formulate a list of ten cultures; explore & describe what they consider beautiful.  How they define beauty.  Where for each of them beauty resides; in objects (?), in people (?), in the land (?), in the Soul (?).  Give a brief description and examples of their art such as sculpture, music, literature, & utilitarian objects.

2 – Landscape and Place (PBS Teachers, project)

Examine the relationship between evolving philosophies about nature and landscape and representations in visual art

3 – Jeff Bizzell, Photojournalist (PBS Teachers, project)

Learn about this photojournalist’s philosophy of art while watching him at a photo shoot of a music festival. Discover what he looks for first when setting up a shot.

4 – Create an art project using any form and/or any materials you choose to express you philosophy regarding your personal definition of aesthetics, aesthetic value, and where you feel beauty resides.  Explore your own expression of ideas through your own creation.



Philosophy Strand IV

**This strand continues the study of Philosophy through an introduction to Semantics:  student will study logic as a means of argument.

**Student will analyze propositions for truth, validity, soundness and will study inductive and deductive reasoning.

**Student will study the medium of language in terms of the relationship between:

  • 1 – language and thought
  • 2 – speech and language
  • 3 – Signs and symbols
  • 4 – words and things

**Student will be introduced to the informal fallacies of ambiguity, presumption, and relevance.

**Student will examine the following theorists:

  • 1 – Wilfrid Sellars
  • 2 – John Stuart Mill
  • 3 – Locke
  • 4 – Gottlob Frege
  • 5 – Rudolf Carnap
  • 6 – Bertrand Russell
  • 7 – Ludwig Wittgenstein
  • 8 – Alfred Tarski
  • 9 – W.V.O. Quine
  • 10 – Immanuel Kant


Resources for Philosophy IV includes:

Socratic Method?  By Morris B. Kaplan

The Philosophy of Language (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Conceptual Role Semantics (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Logic, Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia

Logical Arguments, Garth Kemmerling:

  • –         The Discipline of Logic
  • –         The Structure of Argument
  • –         Recognizing Arguments
  • –         Deductive Inferences
  • –         Inductive Inferences
  • –         Truth and Validity

Fallacies, The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:

  • –         Arguments
  • –         What are fallacies?
  • –         So what do fallacies look like?
  • –         Hasty generalization
  • –         Missing the point
  • –         Post hoc (also called false cause)
  • –         Slippery slope
  • –         Weak analogy
  • –         Appeal to authority
  • –         Ad populum
  • –         Ad hominem and tu quoque
  • –         Appeal to pity
  • –         Appeal to ignorance
  • –         Straw man
  • –         Red herring
  • –         False dichotomy
  • –         Begging the question
  • –         Equivocation
  • –         So how do I find fallacies in my own writing?
  • –         Can I get some practice with this?

Constructing a Logical Argument:

Truth, Validity, and Soundness:

Inductive and Deductive Reasoning.  (handout University of Texas)

Ethos, Pathos, and Logos:  Language choice affects the audience’s emotional response, and emotional appeal can effectively be used to enhance an argument.

Relationship Between Language and Thought: from a Cross-Cultural Perspective

By Brian Skotko:

Language and Thought:  Examining Linguistic Relativity, by Stacy Phipps

Language and Mind, Noam Chomsky

Linguistics, Wikipedia

Philosophy of Language – definition from

The Unfolding Script of Speech and Language, by Harry Young

Semiotics, Wikipedia

Semiotics, definition from

Charles S. Peirce’s Theory of Signs:

Representing Thoughts, Words, and Things in the UMLS, by KE Campbell

From the Journal of the American Medical Infomatics Association

Ancient and Philosophy of Medieval Language – Words And Things: Plato And Aristotle

Read more: Ancient and Philosophy of Medieval Language – Words And Things: Plato And Aristotle

Thoughts, Words, and Things:  And Introduction to Late Mediaeval Logic and Semantic Theory, by Paul Vincent Spade.

Philosophy of meaning, knowledge and value in the twentieth century

 By John V. Canfield:  Ch 1 Philosophy of language by A.P. Martinich,+philosophy&source=bl&ots=a7zTPzdlfj&sig=ZE9C6u0opYFjBCr2msCLlh7PVxQ&hl=en&ei=eKM2TJruGsaznAf93NWMBA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=9&ved=0CDUQ6AEwCA#v=onepage&q=the%20relationship%20between%20words%20and%20things%2C%20philosophy&f=false

Gellner E (1968) Words and Things, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books Ltd (Review)

Project:  Student will select a topic in this strand and use a variety of sources expressing opposing viewpoints, organize the information, and produce a library research report.

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