I Think, Therefore I Am

I. Course Description

“I Think, Therefore I Am” asks students to explore the roots of modern philosophical questions by examining the history of Western philosophy, Eastern thought, and modern scientific and sociological developments.

II. Instructor

Joyce Halsey

  • Joyce_halsey@hotmail.com
  • B.S. Ed. English, Central Missouri State University
  • M.A. in English, Central Missouri State University
  • International Baccalaureate/Advanced Placement Coordinator
  • IB English and IB Theory of Knowledge instructor
  • Lee’s Summit North High School, 901 NE Douglas, Lee’s Summit, MO 64086
III. Rationale

Bright and able students ask questions. . .lots of questions. Philosophy allows them to ask deeper questions and to develop their ability to reason, to construct and articulate a sound argument, and to further their own curiosity along with their knowledge base.

Few high schools offer philosophy courses, and fewer still have courses and teachers suited to a dialectic method of teaching and learning. At MSA, students and their teacher are able to achieve this atmosphere of collaborative learning and thinking, which raises each individual’s cognitive activity and engagement with the group.

IV. Major Topics
  • Knowledge as “justified true belief”; other types of knowledge
  • Western philosophers from Plato to the 21st century
  • The aboriginal world view
  • The East: Confucianism and Taoism
  • Twenty Philosophical Questions for further study
  • Getting Lost: Knowledge from creative impulse and inspiration
  • Toward a personal philosophy
V. Prerequisite Knowledge


VI. Learning Objectives
  • Students will define for themselves the parameters of knowledge, belief, truth, philosophy, and religious faith.
  • Students will, through reading and discussion, understand the development of Western philosophy, beginning with Plato.
  • Students will choose one of twenty philosophical questions for further study, examining how different thinkers have explored the question over the ages and in different parts of the world.
  • Students will explore philosophical approaches from regions other than the West: Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism, and Buddhism.
  • Students will engage in active inquiry to pursue areas of interest in current philosophy: chaos theory, quantum physics, etc.
VII. Primary Source Materials

Durant, Will. The Story of Philosophy
Gaardner, Jostein. Sophie’s World

VIII. Supplementary Source Materials
  • Hoff, Benjamin. The Tao of Pooh
  • Johnson, Cathy. Getting Lost: A Naturalist’s Search for Meaning
  • Morris, Thomas. Philosophy for Dummies
  • A Bluffer’s Guide to Philosophy
  • Abel, Reuben. Man is the Measure
  • Gleick, James. Chaos: Making a New Science
  • Pirsig, Robert. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Videotapes from MU Holdings:

  • The Fifth Gate Hopi myths and worldview
  • Nietszche Biography of the philosopher
  • Confucianism in America Bill Moyers interview

Waking Life Selected clip: free will vs. determinism

IX. Computing and the Internet

Students used the Internet to find additional reference material on their presentations (see Objectives).

X. Classroom Strategies
  • Small/large group brainstorming of philosophical questions
  • Independent reading followed by group discussions
  • Independent reading/research followed by
  • Paired informal presentations
  • Visit to Hillel Center (Judaism)
  • Presentations by Ted Tarkow (the trial of Socrates) and Bill Bondeson (medical ethics)
  • Group discussions (Socratic method)
  • Capstone activity: individual philosophy