When is a door not a door…?

Ok, so that’s one of those awful Christmas cracker jokes that my father loves so dearly but it also puts me in mind of something infinitely more interesting; philosophy. 

As a member of the Royal Institute of Philosophy and the British Philosophical Association, I have a great love for philosophy and have long wanted to start a Philosophy Society at Fyling Hall as one of our after-school activities so this year I did – and I was very impressed with the way the students all took to it. 

Firstly, just the very idea that students would want to come to an additional lesson (masquerading as an activity) after a full day of lessons impressed my hugely and secondly, with the way that they threw themselves into what is a very difficult (but fascinating) subject. 

During our first couple of lessons, I introduced some of the main branches of philosophy: 

  • Epistemology 
  • Philosophy of the Mind 
  • Ethics 
  • Metaphysics 

And some important thinkers in the history of western philosophy: 

  • Socrates and Plato 
  • Immanuel Kant 
  • Nietzsche 
  • Bertrand Russell 
  • Albert Camus 

And we spoke about the ‘classics’; classical philosophical questions that are always great to think about and discuss:  

  • What is beauty? 
  • Does God exist? 
  • What is truth? 

But I didn’t want these meetings of ours to simply be a chance to ruminate and chat over some rather abstract questions; I wanted to delve deeper into some philosophical concepts, to look at some important philosophers and to be able to apply a level of critical thinking to a range of philosophical concepts and ideas. But would the students go along with that? – I mean, it is an ‘activity’ after all! 

I need never have worried – they were fantastic. 

We began by looking at the discussion between ‘free will’ and ‘determinism’ focusing mainly on the concepts of ‘libertarian free will’ and the principle of alternate possibilities and event causation and agent causation and then contrasted that with ‘hard determinism’ and the concept of reductionism. 

Moving on from this we looked at Ethics – morality and meta-ethics where we learned about Moral Realism including moral absolutism, moral relativism and normative cultural relativism and then Moral Antirealism and moral subjectivism as well as different ethical theories. 

Our philosophy society comprised a whole range of students from year 7 upwards who all showed incredible pertinacity grappling with the ideas being thrown at them and trying to form and articulate their own views and opinions; a big ask for any undergraduate student and all the more impressive when you’re an 11-year-old talking about complicated philosophical concepts or our foreign students who are elucidating their own theories in their second (or even third) language. 

So, when is a door not a door…?

Yes, Dad, when it’s ajar, 


When you’ve spent an hour pulling your brain inside out and end up by asking yourself ‘what is a door anyway?’ 

Welcome to Fyling Hall Philosophy Society. 

Chris Thomas, Head of English and Fyling Hall Philosophy Society