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  • Writer's pictureGina Parker (Mullarkey)

Just Think!

Philip West recently got in touch to introduce me to his book 'Just Think', aimed at 9-14 year olds, their parents and of course teachers. I really enjoyed looking through this book and can't wait to try a couple of the puzzles. The puzzles are linked to the 6 major branches of philosophy and include further supporting discussion ideas after each puzzle, including perspectives from famous philosophers. So, I am really pleased to introduce Philip West for a guest blog to share one of my favourite puzzles from his book.

Hi! My name is Philip West, and I’m the author of a new book of 30 philosophy puzzles for children aged 9 – 14 called Just Think. The puzzles can be used by children on their own, or by parents or teachers leading discussion groups.

The key feature of each puzzle is a starting dialogue between Philip and Phoebe, the terrible twins. The twins argue convincingly for opposite points of view, and the reader is then invited to join in. Here is an example: the puzzle entitled “Do all species matter?”

Phoebe is concerned about species on the edge of extinction, like the Mountain Gorilla. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) lists 19 of these, with many more also under threat.

‘Look, Philip.’ She shows him the latest figures. ‘Isn’t it terrible that we are killing off so many other forms of life? Surely, they have as much right to live on the planet as we do.’

But Philip is not convinced. ‘Huh! I notice all the ones on the list are attractive and cuddly. You wouldn’t get upset if slugs or scorpions were about to be wiped out, would you? And what about the Covid-19 virus? No one is up in arms because we are trying to eradicate that.’

‘It isn’t only because animals look nice, Philip,’ Phoebe responds. ‘All species have roles to play in their ecosystems. If we kill some off, who knows what damage we may do to ourselves in the long run.’

After each dialogue, the book explains, in child-accessible language, what philosophers have said on the issue. It then gives follow-up questions and research suggestions. In this case, the discussion covers:

· the distinction between species having intrinsic value and being useful to us,

· the fact that species have died out throughout evolutionary history,

· whether it is individuals, species or ecosystems that should be conserved,

· and the problems posed by the expanding human population worldwide.

At the back of the book is extra commentary for adults seeking greater depth. In this case, the philosophy of Peter Singer is explained. Singer, who is currently Professor of Bioethics at Princeton, is an animal rights sympathiser, In The Expanding Circle (1981) he suggested that, in years to come, we will view our present treatment of animals with the same horror now reserved for the human slavery of the past.

Just Think: Philosophy Puzzles for Children Aged 9 to 90 is available from and through bookshops. Philip has a website at where extra puzzles are posted every two weeks.

Philip West

Mountain Gorilla

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