Philosopher and director of studies at Pembroke College Cambridge Dr Adrian Boutel joined an academic lunch at St Swithun’s and acted as starter for an inter-school philosothon competition featuring teams of year 10 girls from St Swithun’s, Henry Beaufort School and The Westgate School.
St Swithun’s hosts an academic lunch every week, inviting a different scholar or academic to visit the school and talk to the students about their academic passions, interests and research areas. Dr Boutel led a fascinating discussion on philosophical zombies, the philosophy of science, and developments in artificial intelligence and philosophical reflection.
Following lunch, Dr Boutel started the philosothon competition and offered some guiding principles for the sessions. He told the girls to search for truth, to keep asking questions, and to ask what if?
A philosothon is a friendly competition in which teams work together to reach a set of academically and philosophically satisfying ideas. Members of the team are all scored by the quality of their contributions, and also for their ability to help others to contribute. Those who forward the thinking of the team will score well. Those prepared to say controversial or disagreeable things could score well because it may help the team to agree some principles. The aim is not to point-score off each other, but to work creatively with ideas as a group. Girls from across the three schools were split up and worked through a carousel of sessions on aesthetics, the purpose of education and what literature can teach us about human nature. Each school had a winner, with the highest scores coming from Jess Hoyle of St Swithun’s, Amandine Brown from The Westgate School, and Josie Breen from Henry Beaufort School.
After the competition and presentation of prizes, St Swithun’s sixth form philosophers and enrichment officers offered their help to mentor younger girls through some of the big questions ahead regarding their future.
Head of academic enrichment at St Swithun’s, Dr Elizabeth Mackintosh said “the philosothon was a great success with each team offering some thoughtful and insightful ideas. This was the first of what we hope will be a termly competition and mentoring programme”.