The Philosophy Shop: Ideas, Activities and Questions to Get People, Young and Old, Thinking Philosphically


A veritable emporium of philosophical puzzles and challenges to develop thinking in and out of the classroom.

Imagine a one-stop shop stacked to the rafters with everything you could ever want, to enable you to tap into young people’s natural curiosity and get them thinking deeply. Well, this is it! Edited by philosophy in schools expert, Peter Worley and with contributions from philosophers from around the world, The Philosophy Shop is jam-packed with ideas to get anyone ...

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The Philosophy Shop: Ideas, activities and questions to get people, young and old, thinking philosophically

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A veritable emporium of philosophical puzzles and challenges to develop thinking in and out of the classroom.

Imagine a one-stop shop stacked to the rafters with everything you could ever want, to enable you to tap into young people’s natural curiosity and get them thinking deeply. Well, this is it! Edited by philosophy in schools expert, Peter Worley and with contributions from philosophers from around the world, The Philosophy Shop is jam-packed with ideas to get anyone thinking philosophically. For use in the classroom, at after school clubs, in philosophy departments and philosophy groups or even for the lone reader, this book will appeal to anyone who likes to think. Take it on journeys and dip in; use it as a classroom starter activity, or for a full philosophical enquiry – it could even be used to steer pub, dinner party or family discussions away from the same old topics.

The proceeds of the book are going towards The Philosophy Foundation, a charity bringing philosophy to schools and communities.

Peter Worley leads The Philosophy Foundation in its mission to transform thinking in education. He lives and works in South East London with his wife Emma and their daughter Katie.

“The Philosophy Shop is on a mission to bring philosophy into our schools. This book brilliantly shows how accessible philosophy is, and how fun and mind-expanding it can be, for any ages.”
Jules Evans, author of Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations, co-organiser of the London Philosophy Club and policy director of the Centre for the History of the Emotions

“I’ve just started a philosophy-based scheme of learning for my year nines next year, and this book will be a massive part of that. The ‘works well with’ suggestions for each exercise make translating the ideas in the book into a well structured sequence of lessons a joy. I completely agree that introducing core philosophical issues to students with a ‘hook’ that grabs them is the best way to approach the subject. I do the same with my A level groups and it enthuses them to approach the core issue in creative ways. A very practical tool for teachers.”
Ian Tustin, lead teacher of religion and philosophy, Wadham School

“This book should get anyone thinking.”
Nigel Warburton, The Open University

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

The Philosophy Shop won the Education Resources Award for Best Educational Book in 2012.
Won the New England Book Festival 2012 Winner for Compilations/Anthologies category.
Finalist for ForeWord Review Book of the Year 2012 Awards.

Reviewed by Deborah Perron Tollefsen, Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy, University of Memphis.
I used The Philosophy Shop with my third graders this spring and it worked really well. Third graders do well with exercises that involve tactile elements and this book offers a number of these. A very, very, nice collection that I found easy to use. I could flip through it and find a juicy philosophy bite with which to tempt their curious minds.

Reviewed by Ian Tustin, lead teacher of religion and philosophy, Wadham School.
Very impressed, I've just started a philosophy based scheme of learning for my year nines next year, and this book will be a massive part of that. The 'works well with' suggestions for each exercise make translating the ideas in the book into a well structured sequence of lessons a joy. I completely agree that introducing core philosophical issues to students with a 'hook' that grabs them is the best way to approach the subject. I do the same with my A level groups and it enthuses them to approach the core issue in creative ways. You then get a second bout of learning when they compare their own approach to those of famous philosophers. A very practical tool for RE teachers.

Reviewed by Jules Evans, author of Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations.
The Philosophy Shop is on a mission to bring philosophy into our schools. This book brilliantly shows how accessible philosophy is, and how fun and mind-expanding it can be, for any ages.

Reviewed by Nigel Warburton, The Open University
'This book should get anyone thinking.'

Reviewed by John T Morris BA(Hons),MEd,MPhil,CertEd Director JTM Educational Consultants.
This book is a timely and welcome text for teachers, in order to gain the added skills and understanding of moving learners forward, from passive receivers of information, to active engagement in learning, discovery and collaborative thinking. It is essential reading for schools that want to move teaching and learning to ‘outstanding’ and improve the questioning skills for staff and students.

Reviewed by Anthony Seldon, Master of Wellington College and author of many books.
Schools in Britain, and indeed the world over, are being subordinated to a central diktat, which values the passing of exams above any other benefit. International studies which rank schools, such as PISA, encourage governments to subordinate everything to the optimisation of performance in these international tests. Learning becomes a sequence of “teaching for the test”, with rote-learning replacing genuine open-ended learning. The schools become like factories, and teachers become operatives, encouraging their students along a conveyor belt. The “Philosophy Shop” is a much needed corrective, because at its heart it is encouraging young people to think, and to think independently of exams. The book wants to see thinking for thinking’s sake, the development of the intellect for the sheer love of learning, and the formation of enquiring minds which want to probe and are unwilling to accept authority unless grounded on good argument. This is dangerous stuff, and is likely to get the purveyors of the material locked up by the Department for Education. The book is conceived by the Philosophy Foundation, whose aim is to bring the study of philosophy to communities beyond universities, and in particular to introduce it to disadvantaged school students. It believes that the teaching of philosophy at early ages helps develop autonomy and creative thinking, rational reasoning skills amongst children and adults, and will help them to become better thinkers and contributors for the rest of their lives.
The book eschews the traditional approach of philosophy, which is to be instructive, and to lay out in great swathes of text received views on a whole range of philosophical problems. Rather, the inspiration is the philosophical approach of Plato as mediated through Socrates. The book is full of questions, which uses the prompts of a story, or occasionally a poem or activity. The book is divided into four sections, following a methodology that the book’s editor, Peter Worley, first heard used by A C Grayling: “Metaphysics or What There Is”, “Epistemology or What Can Be Known About What There Is”, “Value or What Matters in What There Is” and “Language and Meaning or What Can be Said About What There Is”. A typical story, and one of my favourites, is “The Butterfly Dream”, which comes in section two on epistemology, and is inspired by Chuang Tsu’s dreaming he was a butterfly, but when awaking asking himself whether he was in reality a butterfly dreaming now that he was a man. The guided questions begin with “How would he [Chuang Tsu] be able to tell?”, and finishes with a more abstract “Is a butterfly free when it is blown about by the wind?”
As a head of a secondary school, I welcome this book, and would hope that it will be used widely in schools, families and elsewhere. It is so much more conducive to stimulating thought than the pedestrian philosophical training I received at Oxford in the 1970s as part of “PPE”. I went up to university with my head buzzing with the kind of questions which fill the pages of “The Philosophy Shop”. Within four or five weeks, my enthusiasm for the subject had been drummed out of me by dull teachers teaching philosophy in a dull way. The philosophy component of the first year consisted merely of reading Bertrand Russell’s Problems of Philosophy and J S Mill’s Utilitarianism. After a year of my philosophical interests being sucked dry, I gave up the subject, to my enduring regret. “The Philosophy Shop” will have the opposite effect on young people, and I applaud the thinking behind encouraging young people as early as possible to think philosophically. My worry is that the education system in Britain is so fixated on exams that there will be little time available, money or indeed incentive to give the approach of this book, and others championing the teaching of philosophy in schools, the fair wind that they merit.

Reviewed by Karen Taylor, Head Teacher Update.
This book provides a treasure trove of ideas to develop children’s thinking in the concepts of philosophy from as young as five, along with the opportunity to “advance” thinking for the more able children.
Each chapter provides a story, poem or activity which leads to a start question and then you are guided through further questions which allow the children to work through the concept until they reach central questions including existence, belief, truth and happiness.
A personal favourite is the humorous A Hole Load of Nothing involving an owl who was afraid of a dark hole because it was full of “Nothing” – a great opportunity to discuss fear along with the possibility of being afraid of nothing for young children. A particular strength of the book is the opportunity to record your own questions during personal thought or the discussion, and the section “works well with” which provides linked discussions.
It is a great introductory book for anybody who is interested in developing an opportunity for children to talk or think without there being a “right or wrong” answer.

Reviewed by Ulrike Thomas, Learning and Teaching Update, Issue 63 April 2013.
We may have entered the era of ebooks, but in my opinion there is still nothing nicer than a high quality hardback book. The Philosophy Shop is one such book - it's high in quality not only in design but also, and more importantly, in terms of its content. The title refers to the fact that it is intended as a 'shop' (and no ordinary one at that) made up of 'shelf upon shelf of philosophical ideas, thoughts, puzzles and problems made accessible and enjoyable'. It is designed for groups, the lone reader, for teachers - in fact, for anyone who is interested in thinking, problem-solving and conversation. The stimuli are made up of stories, poems and thought experiments which address themes such as 'existence', 'personal identity', 'freedom' and 'knowledge'. Each stimulus is followed by a 'start question' which is designed to take participants 'straight to the problem' and then continues with 'questions to take you further', ie questions into the problem. Space is also provided for you to add your own questions (if you don't mind writing in a beautiful book), as well as further reading. I read and discussed the story of 'What Zeus does when he's bored' (which encourages you to examine the question of free will) to my 11-year-old son and couldn't believe it when he carried on the conversation the next day! This book can provide ideas for whole lessons, assemblies or conversations around the dinner table. The added bonus is that it will look great on your bookshelf.

Reviewed by Sirkku Nikamaa-Linder, Educator and Lecturer in Finland.
The winner of the Educational Book of the Year, the 2013 Education Resources Award, The Philosophy Shop, is an outstanding resource, which provides active engagement instead of passive receipt of information. It can be used in various subjects on all levels for development of thinking- and interaction skills and for development of reasoning and language skills.
This book is is a one-stop shop for all teachers who want to engage their children, improve interaction in class and encourage students to reflect and also to express their thoughts.
The philosophical exercises are constructed in a way that puts the student in a key role, while the teacher acts as a facilitator and a guide. It is important that the teachers refrains from revealing his or her own thinking as it is likely that the students then would repeat the teacher’s view or create variations of it.
The book consists of a large number of exercises, which start with with narrative or a literary context in which the philosophical idea or problem is presented. The introduction can be a poem, an image, an activity, a short story, a thought experiment or a scenario. This “frame” contextualizes the problem and motivates the participants to solve the problem. Problem solving, thinking and reasoning begins with the ‘Start Question’, which is linked to the frame. The start question is the “You are here”- arrow on a map: This central and explicit question is something the participants are trying to answer.
After the initial discussion the book offers Questions to Take you Further, which are carefully chosen to lead the participants deeper into the problem or the puzzle in such a way that they do not get lost. The Philosophy Shop also encourages participants to ask their own questions and seek answers to them in their discussion groups.
Teachers who have not conducted philosophical discussions in class are well supported and guided. There is a quick guide to running a Philosophical Enquiry and references to further reading.
Many of these activities and discussions work well as a warm up or as an extra activity in many subject areas.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781781350492
  • Publisher: Crown House Publishing
  • Publication date: 1/1/2013
  • Pages: 200
  • Sales rank: 1,369,518
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter has recently been made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He read philosophy at University College London and Birkbeck College, and is currently studying for a PhD at King’s College London. He has been working with children in education since 1993 and has been doing philosophy with children since 2002. Peter developed the method of Philosophical Enquiry (PhiE) that is at the heart of The Philosophy Foundation's work. As CEO he represents the charity worldwide, trains specialists and teachers, and heads the Senior Leadership Team.
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Read an Excerpt

Excerpt taken from The Philosophy Shop:


Philosophy Shopping

‘Look at all these things I don’t need!’ the philosopher Socrates is said to have declared as he stood before the many stalls filling the marketplace of ancient Athens. In contrast to the stalls in the agora (Greek for ‘marketplace’), and by engaging the citizens there with big, philosophical
questions, Socrates offered an exchange of a very different kind. His currency was ideas; a wiser, more reflective person housed within a life well-lived was his aim. This anecdote shows how one can trace the origins of philosophy – as we know it in Western Europe at least – back to shopping.

We can perhaps identify with Socrates here as we too stand amid a dizzying marketplace – albeit a much larger, global one – bombarded from all sides by promises of a better life from ‘pedlars of wares’. And we too may feel the need for an alternative kind of shop as an antidote to the pressures and promises of the modern-day agora – one that guards against the many ‘snake-oils’ on offer by insisting on an ‘account’ or ‘reason’ or logos in Greek. Perhaps we need
an alternative shop such as this in order to reach that ‘better life’ by other than financial, consumerist means.

The Philosophy Shop stands as Socrates to the reader: sometimes beguiling, humorous and inspiring; other times irritating, like a gadfly, goading us into wakefulness; and sometimes frustratingly circular or inconclusive. But always – it is hoped – stimulating.

This book aims to guide the reader through it with as few words as possible and without the reader necessarily knowing what it is they want. One way I hope to have done this is through the structure – or topography – of the book. The main body has been divided into four sections,
or ‘departments’, each with its own series of subheadings:
1. Metaphysics or What There Is
2. Epistemology or What Can Be Known About What There Is
3. Value or What Matters In What There Is
4. Language and Meaning or What Can Be Said About What There Is

Finally, there is a small collection of entries under the heading ‘Afterthoughts’ that may well benefit from being visited after reading through the rest of the book. That said, the entries in the book can be read in almost any order, but to help the reader/participant(s) further, I have provided a ‘Works well with …’ section at the end of each entry that aims to provide the
reader with a multitude of thematic maps through the book (and beyond). The ‘Start Questions’ and the ‘Questions to take you further’ are also structured so as to guide the reader or participants (see ‘What is this book?’ on page 1 for more on this). ‘Afterthoughts’ contains some useful information and guidance on developing philosophical writing of different sorts: Dr John Taylor has provided some helpful notes on how to produce good philosophical writing
for philosophy papers and projects; although written primarily for school projects many of the tips would be relevant for first year undergraduate students as well. David Birch introduces the writing of philosophical poetry to children and teachers; ideas that lend themselves to all kinds of development and variation at the hands of creative teachers and pupils.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements iii

Preface v

Introduction 1

What is this book? 1

Who is this book for? 7

A quick guide to running an enquiry 10

The Shop Part I Metaphysics or What There Is 13

Metaphysics: Ontology (or Existence) 15

A Knife Idea (ontology, words and things) Peter Worley 15

The 2 Square (ontology of numbers) Peter Worley 17

Doughnut: Experiments with a Hole (the ontology of holes) Alfred Archer 18

Immy's Box (a priori space and time) Peter Worley 20

A Hole Load of Nothing (ontology of darkness/nothing) David Birch 22

The Sound of Silence (ontology/phenomenology of sound) Peter Worley 25

A Heap of Exercises? (vagueness) Peter Worley 26

Across the River and Into the Trees (identity) Angie Hobbs 29

Dis-ingenious (the paradox of omnipotence) Peter Worley 31

Just Testing! (relational concepts/quantity) Peter Worley 34

A Pageful of Nothing (the ontology of nothing) Sophia Nikolidaki 35

Buridan's Asteroid (logic, freedom and identity) Robert Torrington 36

Phil and Soph and the Ice Cream (the nature of things) Philip Cowell 39

Introducing Pencil Person (mereology) Peter Worley 41

Disappearing Pencil Person (existence) Peter Worley 43

Pencil Person Meets Pencil Person! (type/token identity) Roger Sutcliffe 46

Metaphysics: Time 49

Thoughting: A Birthday Surprise! (time travel paradox of meeting yourself) Peter Worley 49

The Time Diet (ontology of time) Peter Cave 51

Empty (time and space) Peter Worley 52

Superbaby Time! (movement of time) Peter Worley 54

The Telly-Scope (time and the speed of light) Peter Worley 55

A Poem By You? (the paradox of origination) Peter Worley 58

The Time-Freezing Machine (phenomenology of time) Peter Worley 60

Time-Stretching (phenomenology of time) Peter Worley 63

The Non-Existent Hero (the grandfather paradox) Peter Worley 64

The Big Time Experiment (time/measurement of time distinction) Peter Worley 66

Thoughting: The Time Machine (the nature of time travel) Peter Worley 67

The Girl from Yesterday (ontology of time) David Birch 69

The Butterfly Effect (temporal causation) Peter Worley 72

Metaphysics: Freedom 75

The Queen of Limbs (determinism) Peter Worley 75

Prisoner (the nature of freedom) Georgina Donati 78

Are There Cogs Beneath the Wind? (determinism and chance) David Birch 79

The Clockwork Toymaker (complexity and free will) Peter Worley 81

Immy's Interesting Invention (freedom and morality) Peter Worley 84

The Otherwise Machine (contingency) Peter Worley 86

What Zeus Does When He's Bored (free will and contingency) Peter Worley 88

Metaphysics: Personal Identity 91

Identity Parade 91

Identity Parade (1): Memory (the role of memory in personal identity) Andrew Routledge 93

Identity Parade (2): Body (the role of material change in personal identity) Andrew Routledge 94

Identity Parade (3): Body Copy (the role of body in personal identity) Andrew Routledge 96

Identity Parade (4): Brains (the role of the brain in personal identity) Andrew Routledge 97

Identity Parade (5): Cloning (the role of uniqueness in personal identity) Andrew Routledge 99

Identity Parade (6): Change (the role of change through time in personal identity) Andrew Routledge 100

Backtracking (origin of the self) Peter Worley 102

Who Do You Think You Are? (selfhood and self-knowledge) Nolen Gertz 103

All That Glistens ... (memory, personal responsibility and identity) Emma Worley 105

Whose Bump? (memory and identity) Peter Worley 107

The Copying Machine (cloning and identity) Peter Worley 109

Not Half the Man He Used To Be (numerical/material identity) Peter Worley 111

Metaphysics: Philosophy of Mind 113

Pinka and Arwin Go Forth (1): Of Macs and Men (human/animal/machine dichotomy) David Birch 113

Pinka and Arwin Go Forth (2): Making Up Their Minds (mind/body identity) David Birch 116

Thoughting: Can I Think? (subjectivity and AI) Peter Worley 118

Trying to Forget and Not Bothering to Remember (the nature of forgetting) Robert Torrington Peter Worley 120

Mind the Planet (consciousness) Peter Worley 122

Revelation (AI and identity) Dan Sumners 124

Only Human (AI and love) Peter Worley 126

Metaphysics: Fiction 131

Wondering About Wonderland (truth value in fiction) A. C. Grayling 131

I'm Glad I'm Not Real (ontology of fictional entities) Amie L. Thomasson 133

Fictional Feelings (emotional responses to fiction) Berys Gaut Morag Gaut 136

Feelings About Fiction (paradox of fiction) Anja Steinbauer 137

Phil and Soph and the Stories (the nature of fiction) Philip Cowell 139

The Shop Part II Epistemology or What Can Be Known About What There Is 141

Epistemology: Knowledge 143

Pinka and Arwin Go Forth (3): Different Animals? (gender classification) David Birch 143

Tina's Ghost (belief) Philip Gaydon 145

The Confession (Occam's razor) Peter Worley 147

The Adventures of Poppy the Bear (knowledge, evidence and cognitive bias) Lisa McNulty 148

The Pencil (inference and knowledge) Michael Hand 151

The Flying Man (knowledge) Peter Adamson 152

The Traffic Light Boy (1) (causation/constant conjunction) Peter Worley 153

The Traffic Light Boy (2) (causation and 'if and only if') Peter Worley 154

The Traffic Light Boy (3) (autonomy of belief) Peter Worley 155

Jean-etic (correlation and causation) Saray Ayala 157

Knowing Stuff (knowledge and justified true belief) Peter Worley 158

Phil and Soph and the Meeting (knowledge, memory and writing) Philip Cowell 161

The Broken Window (causation, necessity and the problem of induction) Emma Williams 163

Little Thea's Tricky Questions (justification and explanation) Peter Worley 165

What Goes Up ... (the principle of sufficient reason/induction) Peter Worley 167

The Butterfly Dream (epistemological scepticism: the dreaming argument) Peter Worley 169

Bat-Girl (phenomenal consciousness) Andy West 170

Become a Sceptic in Three Steps (scepticism) Milosh Jeremic 172

The Three-Minute-Old Universe (falsifiability) Peter Worley 174

Epistemology: Perception 177

How Many Dogs? (representation) Georgina Donati 177

Rose-Tinted Speculations (primary and secondary qualities) Guy J. Williams 178

More Colour Conundrums (primary and secondary qualities) Peter Worley 180

The Duck and Rabbit (perception and meaning) Harry Adamson 181

The Shop Part III Value or What Matters In What There Is 183

Value: Ethics 185

Teenage Angst (family resemblances) Andrew Day 185

Perfect People (post-humans and perfection) David Birch 186

Thoughting: The Wicked Which (moral motivation) Peter Worley 187

Bobby the Punching Bag (harm and respect) Phillip Gaydon 189

Not Very Stationary Stationery (moral principles) A. C. Grayling 191

Classroom Punishment (fairness and punishment) Michael Hand 193

Nick of Time (determinism and moral responsibility) Peter Worley 194

A Bad Picture (politeness and truth) Peter Worley 196

Lucky and Unlucky (moral luck) Peter Worley 198

Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (acts by omission) Peter Worley 200

Ooops! (unintended consequences) Peter Worley 202

The Good Daleks (unintended consequences) Peter Worley 203

The Ticklish Grump (need for others) David Birch 204

The Grumpiest Poet in The World (relationship between happiness and sadness) Peter Worley 206

The Tadpole and the Pike (change and friendship) David Birch 208

Phil and Soph and the Egg (looking after things) Philip Cowell 211

Jemima or James (nature of gender differences) David Birch 212

The Pill of Life (ethics of immortality) Miriam Cohen Christofidis 214

Charlie's Choice (moral dilemma) Peter Worley 215

Arete and Deon (virtue and duty) Peter Worley 217

Louis' Goodness Detector (moral facts) Peter Worley 220

Thoughting: Gun (force and arguments) Andrew Day 223

The Salesman (game theory and egoism) Peter Worley 225

Value: Aesthetics 227

Louis' Beauty Detector (objectivity/subjectivity of beauty) Peter Worley 227

Much Ado About Nothing (nature of art) Peter Worley 229

'Music To My Ears!' (nature of music) Peter Worley 231

The Piano Music (ontology of music) James Davy 233

Value: Politics 235

Who Gets What and Why? (distribution of wealth) Anja Steinbauer 235

The Magic Crown (who should rule?) Peter Worley 237

Happiness and Truth (experience machine and amenities) Anja Steinbauer 239

The Magician's Misery (immortality and egalitarianism) David Birch 240

A New World (rules) David Birch 242

The Sky's the Limit (private property) David Birch 244

Property Thus Appalled (private property) David Birch 246

A Fairer Society (Rawls' veil of ignorance) Martin Pallister 247

Of Fences (origin of private property) Peter Worley 249

Acorn (ownership) Emma Worley 251

The Shop Part IV Language and Meaning or What Can Be Said About What There Is 253

Phil and Soph and the Funny Photo (nature of humour) Philip Cowell 255

Thoth and Thamus (philosophy of writing) Claire Field 256

The Questioning Question (reflexivity, meaning and understanding) Grant Bartley 258

Green Ideas (relationship between thoughts and language) A. C. Grayling 259

Thoughting: Said and Unsaid (implication and illocutionary force) Peter Worley 262

Thoughting: It Started in the Library (words and things) Andrew Day 263

Thoughting: Tralse (bivalence and law of excluded middle) Peter Worley 265

Zeno's Parting Shot (Zeno's 'Stadium Paradox') Peter Worley 267

Dizzy! (frames of reference) Peter Worley 269

Phil and Soph and the Three-Legged Race (vagueness in language) Philip Cowell 271

Phil and Soph and the Numbers (meaning, sequences and rules) Philip Cowell 273

A Random Appetizer (randomness, meaning, probability and chance) Peter Worley 274

Negative Nelly (negative expressions, logic and intention) David Jenkins 278

The Accidental Confession (negative expressions, logic and intention) Peter Worley 279

The Txt Book (vagueness in language) Peter Worley 280

Thoughting: Itselfish (Grelling-Nelson paradox) Peter Worley 281

C'est de l'or (words and things) David Birch 284

What We Talk About When We Talk About Words (purpose of words) David Birch 287

Some Sums with Zero (undefined terms) Peter Worley 291

Jack's Parrot Peter Worley 294

Wind-Spell Peter Worley 296

After Thoughts 297

Who's the Philosopher? (nature of philosophy) Nolen Gertz 297

Philosophical Poetry David Birch 299

Writing a Philosophy Project John L. Taylor 301

Further Reading 305

About the Authors 311

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