Philosothons originated in Perth Western Australia. While Matthew Wills was the Head of Philosophy and Ethics at Hale School, he sought to promote P4C pedagogy as he introduced a new ATAR course in Philosophy and Ethics. In order to provide students with an opportunity to engage with other students and promote the study of PAE he invited nearby schools to send teams of five students to represent their school during the evening. University based Philosophers participated as judges throughout the night and they were deeply impressed by the model. The evening overall was a great success. Since then this same model has been replicated throughout Australia and the UK. The number of schools participating in Philosothons annually has been estimated at around 400- 500.
A Philosothon is an event that encourages school students to investigate ethical and philosophical questions in the context of ‘communities of inquiry’. Participating in the event helps students to develop higher order thinking and communication skills through a series of discussions with students from other schools. These discussions are facilitated by philosophy teachers and adjudicated by a panel of educators with appropriate academic or educational qualifications. While there is an element of competition in a Philosothon, it aims to promote a sense of community by developing a shared understanding in a spirit of cooperation. It also develops skills in inquiry-based learning, ethical reasoning, higher-order reflective thinking and a search for meaning through dialogue about open questions and contestable concepts.
At a Philosothon, it is usual to make awards for individuals and overall schools based on criteria such as collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. While this introduces an element of competition, it should be emphasised that a Philosothon is not a debate and the performance criteria are based upon the extent to which students excel in engaging in collaborative philosophical inquiry.
Since its inception Philosothons have started up in each capital city and while there were some minor differences in the ways these were run, each event is based on the model started in 2007.
The Australasian Philosothon has been run annually in different capital cities since 2013. Click here to the see previous results. The aim of this event is not to promote competition among schools or school students but rather to promote the development of careful reasoning skills. These skills are developed in students as they prepare for and participate in Philosothons.
In 2014 Philosothons started in the UK following some PD Mr Wills ran in London. Over the next three years Oxford University plans is to run Philosothons in nine capital cities and then hold a national event in London.
In 2017 Dr Laura D'Olimpio, Dr Alan Tapper and others took on the role as the FAPSA Executive based in WA. At the same time the Templeton Foundation awarded a small grant to help support the growth of Philosothons in Australasia.That same group later formed the Philosothon Project committee. Later that committee grew to include Jane Kirkham, Professor Rob Wilson and Dr Jaqueline Boaks. This committee meets monthly to run the project.