Philosophy in someone else’s shoes
Over the past few years I’ve become increasingly drawn to the intersection between philosophical enquiry and TIE (Theatre in Education). I’ve been lucky enough to collaborate with some very experienced and creative people and organisations who know a lot more about the latter than me, among them The West Yorkshire Playhouse, Cap-a-Pie, The Blahs, and Coney. And this is left me with an unshakable sense that there is a meaningful relationship between these two practices that can enhance the quality of both.
I’ve just finished a touring with The Worm Collector, a piece of theatre that presents issues such as responsibility, revenge, and regret to audiences as young at ten. Over several months, I’ve watched this marriage of philosophy and theatre render the issues complex and theoretical whist rooting the complexity and theory in authentic human emotion.
So I thought I’d say a little more about why I think this works…
‘Do we have free will?’ is a question that might well be generated in P4C or brought to a session in PhiE. As a philosopher and/ or as an educator you may reasonably consider this question to have a lot of potential for philosophical enquiry
But when would a question like this be asked? Who would ask it and why? Why would they care about such a question and why should you?
Making these discoveries helps children see philosophical questions as living and breathing puzzles with a bearing on matters of enormous importance in their own life and in the lives of others.
If children imagine that the person who asks this problem is a prisoner, a mother or a priest, its significance changes dramatically and it’s importance as a topic of broad philosophical concern is illuminated.
Rich philosophical thought requires you to assume multiple perspectives. Sometimes this presents itself as a daunting task and it often seems to be something that my undergraduate students struggle with. Yet this is something we do as children quite naturally; when we play, or when we role-play we can’t help but see things differently. Philosophical enquiry embedded within drama encourages the kind of multi-perspectival thinking that opens up the possibility of complex and nuanced exploration of a problem.
Drama deals in narrative and narrative presents the human experience in a form that is familiar yet laden with complex ideas. Furthermore, narrative inescapably deals with the singular, while much of philosophy, like science deals in generalities. A philosopher asks ‘What is justice?’ but an actor might ask ‘Why did this unfair thing happen to me, what have I done to deserve it?’. The questions asked by an actor, child or teacher, in role are the points of contact between daily life and the overarching questions that characterise philosophical enquiry (but sometimes caricature it as something divorced from the businesses of everyday life.) These questions go hand in hand, and I think that theatre makes this visible.
This post is by Grace