An occasional newsletter from The Philosophy Club
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Dear friends,

In my last newsletter I expressed hope – in a world strained by health, climate and democratic crises – that in 2022 kindness and reasonableness would prevail. The current transformation of the Australian political landscape may be a step towards the fulfilment of that hope, and later in this newsletter I'll share some personal reflections on this epochal moment.

- Dance Your Mind: A special winter holiday event in Melbourne: A unique dance-and-philosophy event for 8 – 11 year olds – BOOKINGS NOW OPEN!
- Reflections on philosophical dialogue and the realignment of Australian politics
- A tribute to the Centre for Science and Citizenship Trust
- Announcing the FAPSA Philosophy in Schools Conference: 1–2 September 2022


Dance Your Mind: A special winter holiday event in Melbourne


Kids aged 8–11 are invited to join Nook Dance Centre & The Philosophy Club for a unique small-group experience as we explore the theme of 'Chance'.

Join us as we dance our way into a philosophical inquiry!

Is life predictable? What is luck? Do we live in a world of magic and meaning, or is it all just coincidence? With movement, music, entertaining scenarios and creativity prompts, we'll explore big questions with thoughtfulness, physicality and a dash of silliness :)

Get ready for... moving with purpose –– co-creating scenarios –– wondering about big questions –– listening attentively –– having animated discussions with other kids –– dreaming up ideas –– experimenting with narratives –– acting in role –– dancing your heart out –– making new friends –– going a tiny bit wild! 

All bodies, genders, and experience levels welcome.

Photo by Annie Spratt, Unsplash

Presented by expert facilitators Tammy McLinden (Nook Dance Centre) & Michelle Sowey (The Philosophy Club):

  • Tammy believes that dance plays a changing role in life as we develop and grow, but it always provides invaluable lessons that have little to do with pointing our toes. Tammy's extensive dance education has provided her with the benefits of confidence, resilience, receptiveness to feedback, and many wonderful friendships. She now enjoys providing similar opportunities to children in her classes.
  • Michelle uses a process of collaborative inquiry to ignite children’s curiosity and deepen their understanding. She takes pride in creating playful and intriguing multimedia stimuli that provoke thinking and make philosophical thinking accessible to everyone. Her passion is supporting dialogue in which children really listen and respond to one another, express their views openly and respectfully, and decide for themselves what to believe.

We recommend booking soon, as places are strictly limited.

Date: Tuesday 28 June 2022
Time: 9:00 – 3:30pm
Location: Glow Dance, 8/252 St Georges Road (enter off Fergie St), Fitzroy North VIC
A beautiful, inspiring, light-filled space!
What to bring: Lunch, morning and afternoon snacks, drink bottle.
What to wear: Comfortable clothes to dance and think in.

Covid safety: All participants must be double-vaccinated, and proof of vaccination status will be required upon entry.
Cost: $90 per child (early bird price) if booked by 6th June. 
Enquiries: Contact Michelle Sowey on mobile 0425221604, or via The Philosophy Club's contact form.

Photo by Dea Piratedea (Unsplash)

Testimonials about our previous holiday programs:

"... buzzing and sparkly and euphoric..."

“[My daughter] loved all of it – she actually said: ‘I would do that every day if I could’. She was buzzing and sparkly and euphoric after the event. Thanks so much for giving her this opportunity... nothing has inspired her the way she was inspired by this session.” - Danielle

“Thanks for another brilliant session. You are filling such a void for our 10-year-old with this new kind of fun… He was absolutely buzzing with all the ideas and possibilities.” - Mark

"Tammy fosters a great space for kids to simply move and to express themselves." - Nikki

Please help us spread the word by forwarding this email to a friend!


Reflections on philosophical dialogue and the realignment of Australian politics

Art by James Steinberg

Throughout the recent election campaign, Australians got a close-up view of the caustic effect of marketing and shallow reporting on political communication. Policy articulation was reduced to spin, slogans, and soundbites devoid of complexity and nuance. Journalists outcompeted each other with trivial 'gotcha' questions and an obsession with minor gaffes, edging out serious and impartial analysis of policy differences. All sure-fire signs of a political malaise.

We've grown accustomed to hyper-partisan campaigns that mirror the combative 'warrior politics' of parliamentary discourse. Civil debate, as Waleed Aly says, has become "so thoroughly decomposed that it barely resembles its origins as the central pillar of democracy”. Political parties have urged allegiance to the ideological values of their 'tribe', while failing to acknowledge the contestability of ideas.

In short, it's been a hot mess.

Cartoon by Mischa Richter

The quest for common ground or shared understanding is a lynchpin of healthy dialogue.

But is change now afoot?

In his victory speech on election night, prime minister-elect Anthony Albanese spoke of seeking "common purpose" and promoting "unity and optimism, rather than fear and division". The quest for common ground or shared understanding is a lynchpin of healthy dialogue. It's one of the elements we most urgently need to restore the functionality of our democracy at a time when polarised thinking has taken over our political discourse.

This is how we begin to build strong communities; communities that are resilient to fracturing along the fault-lines of ideological difference.

It's no accident that the quest for shared understanding is also a basic tenet of collaborative philosophical inquiry. At The Philosophy Club, we prepare young people for deliberative democracy by encouraging them to value and to pursue shared understanding with their peers. Rather than 'politely' skirting around differences of opinion, we encourage students to communicate across the divide with care, empathy, vulnerability and intellectual humility. We help students consider the plurality of concerns, positions and reasons they nurture. We make space for negotiating and reconciling their differences as far as possible. And this is how we begin to build strong communities; communities that are resilient to fracturing along the fault-lines of ideological difference.

Art by Geoff McFetridge

Free thinking within a supportive culture, generous acknowledgement of common ground, charitable interpretation of other views, de-escalated articulation of disagreements, respectful expression of criticisms, willingness to concede points, a spirit of conviviality: these are the dynamics that open up a space for substantive discussion and shared understanding. These are the dynamics that restore individuals' trust in each other as well-intentioned, reliable and reasonable counterparts, rather than as malevolent 'others' who are out of touch with reality or unworthy of engagement.

These are the dynamics that restore individuals' trust in each other as well-intentioned, reliable and reasonable counterparts.

The more readily we accept sloganeering, shallowness of inquiry, and adversarial speech, the more we devalue deep understanding, genuine dialogue and careful argumentation. Nuanced discourse relies on people’s capacity and willingness to properly hear each other out, to formulate subtle and sometimes complex arguments, communicate them sensitively, and evaluate them in a framework of evidence and alternatives. We should insist on these things as norms of public discourse.

We first need to value engaging in this kind of dialogic argument, and then practise the patience, attentiveness, reflection and self-correction needed to do it justice. More grist to our mill! These are the very foundational values, attitudes, norms and cognitive capacities that we work to foster through each of The Philosophy Club's projects.

Art by Rachel Gannon


A tribute to The Centre for Science and Citizenship

We salute the many achievements of our colleagues at the Centre for Science and Citizenship Trust, based in Aotearoa New Zealand, which sadly wound up its activities last month. For many years, the Centre for Science and Citizenship Trust was a beacon of inspiration for us at The Philosophy Club. Through its enQuiring minds workshops and other initiatives, the Centre facilitated a space for high schoolers to engage with ethical issues at the intersection of science, technology and everyday life. It gave school students the opportunity to unpack their assumptions in order to shape more thoughtful and civic-minded responses to big issues in our societies.

The Centre for Science and Citizenship Trust has always been a moral and intellectual exemplar, living by its principles and creating educational experiences with lasting value. We will remember the wonderful work of our friends at the Centre –– much as we remember the invaluable services of our friends at Embiggen Books –– for its important impact and ongoing ripple effects on our thinking communities.

Here are some powerful words from the Centre's co-directors, Lynne Bowyer and Deborah Stevens:

We have an opportunity now to transform our educational system, and as a corollary our social and economic structures, which education is both framed by and also perpetuates.


"It is time we seriously considered the purpose of education and the responsibility we have as a community to ensure that education serves our young people well...

[Our current] model of education trades thinking for the recall of facts; reifies competition and downplays co-operation; champions debate at the expense of open dialogue; and constructs siloed and alienating work tasks instead of engaging thoughtfully with meaningful, worthwhile activity.
This model of education measures success in terms of "academic achievement", obscuring that living well with others in a challenging, interconnected world is the ground of success.

When students struggle in this dehumanising system "deficiencies", "failure" and ''deviance" are said to be "located" in the young person, rather than in the systems that are imposed on the young person. Framing the situation in terms of an individual's problem further marginalises and stigmatises, at the same time further obscuring the inter-related social structures that we live within and uphold through our actions.

Art by Michela Buttignol

Our young people are the canary in the mine. They are the most vulnerable and sensitive to things going wrong. With growing numbers of young people ending their own lives, with the increase in young people feeling depressed and hopeless, and being "diagnosed" with "mental illness" (again framing this as an internal or underlying issue of the individual), the high number of young people involved in the criminal justice system, and many young people looking to gangs as a place to belong, it is time we recognise that it is our social structures that are flawed and are failing us.

We have an opportunity now to transform our educational system, and as a corollary our social and economic structures, which education is both framed by and also perpetuates.

If we are to educate our young people well we must rehumanise education so that it becomes a medium through which our young people have a place to belong, understand who they are, cultivate bonds and connections that hold them well, discern and work with values that will enable all people to thrive, and are affirmed and empowered to change practices that are harmful."

This is an excerpt from the 2018 article Put the humanity back into our education system by Bowyer and Stevens.


Announcing the FAPSA Philosophy in Schools Conference, 1–2 September 2022

At the start of September, the Federation of Asia-Pacific Philosophy in Schools Associations (FAPSA) will present 'Communities of Inquiry: Significance, Cultural Change and the Ongoing Relationship to P4C (Philosophy For Children)". This conference, celebrating 30 years of FAPSA activities, is hosted by the University of Melbourne's Graduate School of Education and features an in-person keynote by the legendary Dr Maughn Rollins Gregory – Director of the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children (Montclair State University, USA).

FAPSA invites educators, philosophers and interested members of the public to share this celebration of the past and present, and dream together of the future. The conference program takes an inclusive approach to pedagogy. It offers a hybrid experience with live lecture and workshop streams as well as a virtual stream. All participants will be able to engage with all content.

The Philosophy Club is delighted to be facilitating the following two live workshop sessions with a focus on collaborative dialogue:

So Entitled: Exploring human nature and human rights

Inspired by the work of psychologist Thomas Suddendorf, this inquiry session investigates the questions: Which human characteristics are most significant to our entitlement to human rights? And which of these characteristics are shared by non-humans, with possible implications for non-human rights? We'll consider cognitive capacities such as forethought, reasoning, moral agency, self-control and self-awareness; social behaviours such as engagement in politics, trade, and a moral community; physiological features such as opposable thumbs, the FOXP2 gene, and the capacity for vocalisation; and a broad variety of other biological, developmental, technological and cultural characteristics of being human.

Eternal Life: Exploring immortality and life extension 
Prompted by the speculative practice of cryopreservation (freezing human remains at the point of death in hopes of future resurrection), this inquiry session investigates the questions: Should cryopreservation be permitted? How would it affect perceptions of personhood and identity? We also ask whether it's natural or desirable to find comfort and meaning the inevitability of death. And we inquire into the value of longevity research: Do we have a social responsibility to promote anti-ageing technologies, given our rapidly ageing population? How would such technologies impact social justice and inequality?

Conference bookings are now open, and poster proposals are also invited.

Early bird prices are available until July 1st. Generous scholarships are also available.

Learn more or book your place at


If you know a school that may be interested in hosting The Philosophy Club for a series of student workshops, a gifted & talented/select entry enrichment program, a staff development visit or a philosopher-in-residence program, please reach out to us and let us know!

Donate $5 to The Philosophy Club

Please also consider making a $5 donation to support The Philosophy Club's ongoing unfunded work.

Sign up to our facebook page and blog for further updates, and please get in touch if you'd like to propose a project.
Yours philosophically,

The Philosophy Club respectfully acknowledges the traditional owners of the Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we are located. The Philosophy Club is a carbon neutral business. In the interests of sustainability, equity and global justice, we have offset twice our carbon footprint for the years since we began trading.


Michelle Sowey
The Philosophy Club
Mobile: + 61 425 221 604
Address:   9 Henderson St, Northcote VIC 3070 Australia
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