Philosophy Lesson For Kids: Definition & Questions

Instructor: Shoshana Yarin

Shoshana has taught all grades with an emphasis in science and has a master's degree in science.

What do you think about? Do you only think about what you learn, or do you dream ideas that seem to be specially yours? You may be a bit of a philosopher. Read this lesson to see how philosophy plays a role in history, art, science and religion.

What Is Philosophy?

Have you ever seen the statue of a man sitting on a rock with his chin in his hand? If you have, you might have observed that he was deep in thought. This is often the picture that is used to represent philosophy. The word philosophy means the 'love of wisdom.' It is basically the study of knowledge, how we think, what we value and even just how we are. It requires a lot of thinking!

Statue of the Thinker by Rodin
The Thinker

Even though philosophy was the beginning of science, it did not start out with experimentation. That's a big word for testing things out. Testing something with the scientific method is experimentation, and not just thinking about an idea. But philosophy often can't be tested since it is sometimes just a way of thinking.

Instead of testing an idea with experimentation, a philosopher would argue his or her point, and often just use logic. Logic actually means word or thought with reason; in other words, common sense! For example, it would not be logical to put dirty socks in the clean socks drawer, but it would be logical to put them where they will be washed. So, you see, philosophy can also say how a person should think.

That doesn't mean everyone agrees about philosophy, though. Philosophy has created many different branches, and even affected art, science and religion. Eastern philosophy comes from countries like China, India and Japan, and they have their own unique ideas, too. But most philosophy we think about in the U.S. is Western philosophy, which originally came from Ancient Greece. Let's look a little at its history.

Socrates and Fellow Philosophy Students

History of Western Philosophy

600 B.C. Probably the first person noted as a philosopher was a Greek man named Thales of Miletus, who began explaining the natural world with more scientific ideas instead of mythology.

500 B.C. Another famous Greek philosopher was Pythagoras. Pythagoras was a mathematician, but he also taught a whole new way of thinking and living, like being a vegetarian!

400 B.C. Then Socrates, who was also Greek, came along, teaching more about how people should behave than how the world works. He never wrote anything, but his student Plato wrote a lot about what he said. Perhaps some of these names are familiar. (If not, now know them and you can sound pretty smart!)

300 B.C. If you haven't been familiar with any of these names yet, maybe you have heard of Aristotle, yet another of our ancient Greeks? He philosophized on topics like astronomy, medicine and physics. He also came up with a way of thinking called 'deduction,' which means you solve a problem using the clues or facts that you have.

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