Four Lower Sixth Form boys narrowly missed out on becoming champions in the national philosophy debating competition: The Philosothon, which encourages students to explore philosophical and ethical issues. 

A team of seven Bedford School boys took part in three rounds of debate via Microsoft Teams, with four of the boys, Daniel Bello, Sami Haroon, Nathanael Hylton and Deimis Sukys making it through to the final. Despite a strong performance from the boys, Monkton Combe School in Bath ended up the overall winners.

The boys chose philosophical inquiries based around three stimuli to debate, with the idea being to enable the students to move towards awareness of underlying concepts inherent within the stimulus and demonstrate critical understanding of different positions and arguments that arise as a result of dialogue around the stimulus.

The boys used what they learned as part of their International Baccalaureate studies to prepare for the competition and undertook research beyond the classroom further to engage with the philosophical stimulus. The competition was put to the boys by their tutor Ms Rattab as an excellent extracurricular activity to help them go beyond the philosophy course scope.

The three stimuli chosen were:

  • If a tree falls in a forest and there is no one there to hear, does it make a sound?
  • Inspired from the film The Island – is it ever morally permissible to harvest organs from clones?
  • Exploring the wider impacts, should mandatory vaccination be necessary, or does this clash with ideas of liberty and freedom prevalent in the modern world?

The debates were lively and entertaining with particularly good arguments brought forward by either side. The debate style was useful for these stimuli as it allowed the students to be open to criticism, and therefore more open-ended questions were asked and answered. The boys were also able to learn the valuable skill of justifying their arguments.

Sami, one of the finalists, said, “Taking part in the annual Philosothon was an intellectually nourishing experience which challenged my thinking, analytical, and argumentative skills.”

The finalists also wrote an interactive essay. Each student wrote or researched part of the argument and put into an essay and were filmed presenting each part of the argument. Their video essay explored the ideas of Philosophers: JS Mill, Friedrich Nietzsche, John Bentham, and more modern ones such as Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. These philosophers are regarded as the main influences of Postmodernism. The boys’ video essay aimed to rationalise that choice to vaccinate is the right thing according to Postmodernism, which proved extremely topical due to recent events. Postmodernism is also the philosophy closest to society today.

Ms Rattab told us, “It was a pleasure to organise and run Bedford School’s first Philosothon. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing my students apply their philosophical knowledge outside of a classroom environment. For me, it only cemented the importance of fostering philosophical enquiry in our students, which will prepare them to make informed and reasoned decisions in later life. I am already looking forward to putting together a team for next year’s Philosothon!”

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