Cooperation and competition in the Philosothon

Journal of Philosophy in Schools 9 (2):78-89 (2022)
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Abstract

Philosothons are events in which students practise Community of Philosophical Inquiry, usually with awards being made using three criteria: critical thinking, creative thinking and collaboration. This seems to generate a tension. On the one hand it recognises collaboration as a valued trait; on the other hand, the element of competition may seem antithetical to collaboration. There are various possible considerations relevant to this apparent problem. We can pose them as seven questions. One, do the awards really recognise the best performers? Two, do the students and teachers see the awards as fair and reasonable? Three, do the awards recognise cooperation as a valuable contribution? Four, do Philosothons generate enthusiasm and goodwill? Five, might awards motivate students to try harder to do well? Six, if competition is normal in society, does it follow that it is justified as part of the Philosothon? Seven, do awards have a role in bringing the event to a climax? In this article, we will develop and evaluate the arguments suggested by these questions. Our conclusion is that the competitive element in the Philosothon is not antithetical to the collaborative ideal of philosophy.

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Alan Tapper
Curtin University, Western Australia

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