Expanding the Teaching of Philosophy

Link post

Note: This is a linkpost to the post by JackM. The objective of this linkpost is to highlight the key points mentioned in the initial post. I focus largely on the inherent benefits, importance, and subsequent need to integrate philosophical education in schools, with limited emphasis on the contributions to the EA movements even though that is a large aspect of the the initial post. This summary involves extracting some key points of information from the initial post and my interpretations, so feel free to let me know if I missed anything crucial or misrepresented something.

In summary of the post as a whole, it largely explores the following:

  • The importance of teaching and promoting philosophy in terms of the benefits to students

  • The potential increase in moral development amongst the youth as a result of philosophical education

  • The link between teaching philosophy and being more altruistic and empathetic, which can advance the EA movement.

  • The relatively positive impact of teaching philosophy in terms of a longtermist perspective

  • The currently limited progress in the integration of philosophical education particularly within the UK

  • Suggestions to promote teaching philosophy − 1) advocating for changes in policies to accommodate/​ integrate philosophy in curriculums, 2) encouraging philosophy graduates/​ philosophers to pursue teaching, 3) influencing philanthropists with an interest in education to increase investment, particularly in philosophical education

The core framework of determining the priority of issues and what can be classified as a pressing problem, according to Will MacAskill, is the scale of the issue, the solvability, and the neglectedness.

The post mentions explicitly that the problem is neglected, particularly in the UK, because of limited interventions and integration of philosophy within schools. For example, this was highlighted by the government’s rejection to the request of integrating philosophy into the GCSE’s curriculum. In terms of the scale of the issue, I am not sure if the lack of philosophical education is directly a large enough problem, but rather moral development could potentially be the large-scale problem that needs to be addressed. The post as a whole links how teaching philosophy can develop our moral conscience, teach us ethics, and lead us to develop morally. However, I do think that it is apprehensive whether the scale of this issue is necessarily very large. Lastly, in terms of solvability, the post mentions “I argue that the fairly small, but not negligible, amount of attention given to the teaching of philosophy in schools provides an opportunity for impactful involvement from EAs”. Through one of the main proposed measures of advocating for policy changes to integrate philosophy in schools, the post highlights that investing a level of small effort can in turn lead to a much greater impact. This could be potentially more applicable to other measures such as integrating more accessible philosophical courses which can generally lead to more students familiarizing themselves with relevant skills and knowledge that can create ripple benefits—some of which I will outline below.

Therefore, I do think that the post puts forward a relatively strong notion of pushing philosophical education forward, and has an alignment towards the core principles and framework of effective altruism that determine whether this is an issue that we should allocate our resources towards.

Impacts of Philosophical Education

According to the post, the importance of promoting philosophical education boils down to the cultivation of skills amongst the youth such as logical reasoning, investigation, persistence, and critical and creative thinking. The idea discussed in the post is that we already have a degree of philosophical education widespread amongst a lot of schools in the world when we learn about virtues, beliefs, and values—typically early on in the educational system. However, the level, depth, and actual provision of this type of education highly relies on the teachers and their dedication to promoting philosophy. Therefore, the formal and explicit integration of philosophy within curriculums and syllabuses can help make philosophy part of the education experience for more students.

Another key highlight of introducing philosophical education in schools which was outlined in the post is moral development. Despite limited studies to attest to this, there has been research that verifies how philosophy can develop a moral conscience amongst students. Personally, I do think that the increased exploration of moral philosophy makes us more aware of the implications of our actions and thoughts, which inherently encourages us to act in a more morally favorable manner.

Adding on to that, the post underscores that the link between the moral development of students and the promotion of EA values is that by developing such moral values, students can have more altruistic motivations and therefore lead to more altruistic societies.

Overall it seems clear that children benefit from the teaching of philosophy, with the strongest evidence so far in the area of reasoning ability. It is worth emphasising the point made by Garcia-Moriyon et. al (2005) that these studies have uncovered these positive effects from interventions that, at longest, lasted 16 months. It seems likely that if children and teenagers were taught philosophy as a core subject at all ages that such effects would be significantly greater and, given the evidence for long-term effects, could persist well into adulthood.

Generally, the skill development as a result of teaching philosophy can extend to long-term benefits amongst the youth—leaning towards longtermisim.


One of my main takeaways from this post is that there needs to be measures taken to stimulate interest in philosophy within schools even if it cannot be integrated as a part of the formal curriculum as of yet. For example, although A Levels do offer philosophy for students aged 16-18 along with several other efforts to push philosophy within the UK, I do not think that the efforts would be or can be successful in other regions—overall suggesting it will inevitably take time for the effective integration to happen.

For the time being, I am interested to know what type of measures we can take to push forward teaching philosophy building on to the ones already outlined in the post—to name a few suggestions we could increase access to various webinars and seminars, upload/​ design/​ make accessible relevant philosophical courses targetted for the respective age groups (such as the NCH School Certificate in Philosophy Short Course mentioned in the post), or run mini-workshops in different regions aiming to cultivate an interest in philosophy.