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December 18, 2007



Thank you for that Nigel. I see the 2007 UNESCO Study “Philosophy: A School of Freedom” is available for free download here:


I note that, amongst other things it "offers a glimpse into an entirely new field of teaching: introducing philosophy at the pre-school and primary levels". This is an area I am quite interested in, and I wonder if you could recommend any books or resources aimed at introducing philosophy to young children?

Mark Vernon

Forgive me, but the post reminded me of George W Bush's comment that Jesus is his favourite philosopher because he changed his heart. Maybe we can still be thankful for philosophy, since God knows what his heart was like before!

Tim Crane

I'm all for being against extremism and fanaticism, and I'm all for peace, but ... these two quotations represent the value of philosophy as purely instrumental. I think we should be asking for more than that.

You are right that philosophy can change people's lives -- but one good way is by teaching them philosophy, which is an end in itself.

I think I will start taking lessons in the value of philosophy from UNESCO when I start taking lessons from the the ineffectual and corrupt UN itself!

Happy christmas, Nigel!

Nigel Warburton

Thanks for the comments, Tim.

Studying Philosophy for its instrumental values doesn't seem such a bad idea to me. If you study Philosophy because it is enjoyable then that's an instrumental value too. Ditto if it increases our understanding of the human condition and the nature of reality. But if it isn't enjoyable and doesn't produce any benefits, what's the end-in-itself value?

And surely your comments about the UN's integrity (whether or not they are accurate about the UN) are confusing the argument and its source...The fact that Hitler was a vegetarian isn't a good argument against vegetarianism...

Happy Christmas to you too.

Tim Crane

Hi Nigel
Sorry, I didn't mean to suggest that it would be a bad thing if philosophy had instrumental value; just that this is not the only value it has. I was thinking of the value of understanding the world and the human condition as a non-instrumental value -- i.e. its value does not consist in its being a means to some further end, even if it may also have some valuable effects.

But I suppose you could construe this understanding as the end, and philosophising as a means, and in that case the value of philosophy would only be as a means to that end. It depends on what you are calling philosophy, I suppose.

What I objected to in the UNESCO remarks you quoted was the suggestion that the value of philosophy largely consisted in extra-philosophical effects.

Point taken about the argument and the source!

But I thought it was a myth that Hitler was a veggie -- his favourite food was Bavarian sausage. (I realise that having this as one's favourite food is consistent with being a vegetarian. I lived in the vegetarian wilderness for ten years and it was in a way true that sausage was my favourite food.)

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