Teacher and author of "El niño filósofo" (The philosopher child)
"Philosophy is a basic element of citizenship that should be taught in all schools."
Defending humanities as an essential part of the academic curriculum.
Philosophy is a type of wisdom that makes us critical, creative and careful. If I had to explain what philosophy is to a child, I wouldn't. What I would do instead is ask them some questions. For example, I might ask: "What's your name?" Then, I would ask if they think their name is important to who they are, if it makes them unique. From there, I would ask them to think about what else makes them unique. If you had to summarize what philosophy is for the whole world, you would say that it's the knowledge we have that enables us to question our ideas and that helps us make sense of things and act. Action must follow comprehension. Philosophy shouldn't just be theoretical thinking that remains in the ether floating around forever. It should be used as a basis on which to act in order to address the world's numerous and very important injustices.
Philosophy can be used to determine what our prejudices and stereotypes are and to analyze the preconceived ideas that we carry around with us. This is very important, as it enables us to understand what our prejudices are. I also think studying philosophy helps build character. Because the type of philosophy I advocate doesn't involve a child thinking and reflecting on things in a vacuum. It involves communicating with others, such as family members, but mostly other children in class, as this introduces a child to the diversity and variety of ideas out there, and to the fact that anyone can teach you something new. People have different opinions, some of which are more substantiated than others. This is what helps to build character. When a child or young person practices philosophy, I think this helps them to understand that they have to try to change things that are unfair or that don't work. Ultimately, this makes us better citizens.
Careful thinking involves many different elements, such as curiosity, empathy, trust, dreams and the strength to overcome adversity. It's about being curious about other people and wanting to understand them, to be able to put yourself in their shoes and to focus on justice.
People are like an unfinished jigsaw and, unfortunately, what our society teaches us is that we can buy the pieces we need to complete the jigsaw. I think this is wrong. I think that other people have the missing pieces. Equally, we might be surprised to learn that we have pieces that other people need. By caring about and loving someone, you complete them, because you can provide them with the pieces they need to complete their jigsaw and at the same time, they can give you some of the pieces you're missing.
Art can be used to make a philosophical statement, just has philosophy can be used to create art. I think we should think about artistic works as ways to communicate. Each piece has a creator, a receiver, a code, a channel and a context. This is what communication is based on and therefore, art is communication. There's a dialogue between the creator of the work and the audience, whereby the creator wants to have an impact on the audience's emotions. Basically, all art aims to have an impact on the audience's emotions. However, it also affects how the audience thinks, which is where the association with philosophy arises. When you stand in front of a work of art, you stop to think.
At a technology level, companies and businesses are becoming more interested in employing people with humanistic profiles. This is because all products throughout the world are designed for people. So, companies need someone who can make decisions and talk about what people need and what their requirements are. This is a totally philosophical way of thinking. That's why I believe that a new field is emerging, which will flourish as we increasingly look to philosophy to help resolve issues that we seem unable to deal with at the moment.
Find out more about Jordi Nomen
- Jordi Nomen teaches philosophy and is Head of the Humanities Department at the ‘Escuela Sadako’ in Barcelona. He also has a Master's Degree in Philosophy and a Degree in Contemporary History. Mr. Nomen wrote the book ‘El niño filósofo. Cómo enseñar a los niños a pensar por sí mismos’ ('The philosopher child. How to teach children to think for themselves) and is passionate about making sure humanities continue to play an important role in education, as they help people develop certain values.
- What values do you think it is important to instill in children today?
Values are like the sun. You feel their effects, but they remain out of reach. They are ideals that we try to achieve, even though we know they are unattainable. What's clear is that there are different degrees of good and bad, and that's where philosophy comes into play. If you look at things philosophically, you'll see that, sometimes, bad things happen due to necessity, while something that appears to be good might not be. In my opinion, values have a part to play in determining 'the direction we want to go in'. Teachers must have a clear idea of what direction they want students to head in, even though they know it will be incredibly difficult to achieve the ideal they propose.