Philosophy in the Sixth Form

The Sixth Form has been following a stimulating two week Main Lesson in Philosophy, taught by Mrs Kathy Davies, highlighted by visits from Faith Leaders from Buddhist, Christian and Islamic Communities in Gloucestershire and a most illuminating visit to the Masjid E Noor mosque. 

We started with a study of Plato and got to grips with his Theory of Forms by interpreting the allegory of the cave in The Republic. During the highly enjoyable visit of the Reverend Pelwatte Dhammananda, we were intrigued to discover that the Buddha had taught the same allegory of reality and illusion in the fable of the fish and the turtle, so several of us are inspired to follow up our studies by researching links between Buddhist and Platonic thought.  We discussed Plato's Form of the Good and the abstract concepts like Justice, Mercy, Truth etc that display the strongest aspects of good. We went on to contrast this concept with Aristotle's idea of The Prime Mover and his Theory of the Four Causes. Students were very surprised by how relevant the ideas of Plato and Aristotle are in contemporary scholarship 

By popular request, we then delved into the dangerous thoughts of Nietzsche: 'God is Dead' and the Superman which, although he recanted in the end, were so influential in Nazi ethics and eugenics. This divided the class, some of whom were thoroughly depressed by such a selfish philosophy and others who enjoyed studying the unfamiliar concepts which nonetheless seem also to be relevant to the more meretricious aspects of contemporary society.

We followed this with a wide-ranging discussion of the problem of evil and discussed different philosophical positions and theodicies throughout the centuries, using passages from Dostoevsky as well as philosophers, a topic that the class found both very disturbing and a serious challenge to Faith. This led us into discussions about the nature of God, touching on Zoroastrianism and Blake's Urizen, as well as Gloucester's line in King Lear: 'Like flies to wanton boys are we to the Gods / They kill us for their sport'.

The Imam Hassan then visited us to discuss true Faith from a Muslim perspective and the contemporary problem of Muslim terrorism. He warmly invited us to the Mosque, reassuring us that our dress would not be a problem. Most of the girls decided to wear a head scarf in the mosque. Imam Ishmael was very welcoming. His friendliness and humour put us all at ease and his talk was fascinating. We were amazed that he had learned all 850 pages of the Koran in Ancient Arabic by heart, by the age of thirteen! He sang the first page for us which conjured up images of soaring eagles and minarets in the hot desert air.

In complete contrast, our third Faith visitor was Sister Mary Stephen Bell, a nun from the Bernardine Monastery in Brownshill - an enclosed, contemplative order that spends most of the time in complete silence and prayer. She came to talk to us about her personal Faith and vocation. For many of the students, as in previous years, she was the most influential and inspiring of our visitors and many wrote to her afterwards. She gave us insights into the inextricably of love and suffering. The one thing all faith speakers had in common was their confidence in the power of a life dedicated to love.

 

Kathy Davies