Philosophy lessons, examples & activities

Benjamin Franklin Quote

Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn.

Plutarch Quote

The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.

These philosophy plays, lessons & philosophy activities were written by Rev Dr Wally Shaw, a teacher and philosopher, as a study aid for those students (philosophy for children, and those studying an introduction to philosophy) wanting to learn about philosophers David Hume, Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham and Socrates.

We have had great feedback on these philosophy plays as an aid to learn philosophy either by yourself or as part of a study group. Our philosophy plays help with teaching and learning philosophy. We also have favourable reviews of these plays when we performed them during the 5 years of performances at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

These philosophy plays are suitable for use in university philosophy, college & high school philosophy or as a school class. Indeed, our plays could be at the centre for teaching and learning philosophy. Please see below for advice on how to use our philosophy plays & activities using in your class.

Why should those philosophy teachers (High School teachers, College and University Philosophy lecturers and philosophy professors) and others in university philosophy, college philosophy, high school philosophy want to use these docudrama scripts?

our philosophy activities, lessons, plays at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

We do not live in the 18th Century “Age of Enlightenment. But consider these philosophers and those directly inspired by philosophy. David Hume and Adam Smith (teachers of moral philosophy) helped to make that time of Enlightenment possible. They built on the heritage of Socrates (the Father of Western Philosophy) and others. They left a legacy on which Jeremy Bentham (the Father of International Law) built. Indeed, Bentham acknowledged that he took one word (“utility”) from Hume’s writings and built his philosophy of Utilitarianism, that the value of anything is in how it is used. It is acknowledged that Robert Burns used Adam Smith’s teachings about the “Independent Spectator” to inspire his words, “to see ourselves as others see us” in one of his greatest poems.

The Age of the Scottish Radical Enlightenment” was a time when in market place and pub constructive philosophy was discussed by people of all walks of life.

The Scottish Radical Enlightenment of the 18th Century inspired Scotland’s great contribution to education throughout the world. Arguably, it has been and still is Scotland’s greatest export and one reason why Scotland is held in such high regard throughout our world. It’s the reason why the author of these Fringe docudramas came to Scotland and Edinburgh, the “City of Enlightenment” from America to do post-graduate work. And after 50 years of living in Scotland he believes that Scotland’s Radical Enlightenment offers for us and all in our world an inspiration to help make us better people and this a better world.

Is the 21st Century being called an “Age of Enlightenment”?

Study aid for philosophy teachers & those studying philosophy.

But why use drama to teach philosophy and its related subjects?

Because if a picture is worth a thousand words, drama is worth many millions. A student role-playing being a philosopher is the best way to help him to become a philosopher.

A philosophy lesson, activity & play for philosophy teachers.

For the philosophy teacher / lecturer / professor teaching the life / legacy and philosophy of David Hume, Jeremy Bentham, Adam Smith and Socrates.

1. Raise questions relevant to the interest and needs of the class/group and relate them to their situation and that of their world to help them to prepare for discussion after the play-reading.
2, Allocate role-play parts as given in the cast list at the beginning of the docudrama.
3. Read out (or have someone in the class/group read out) the life of the philosopher as stated in its introduction.
4. Allow time for your selected part of the docudrama to be read or performed by the cast with time for discussion afterwards.

a teaching philosophy lesson, activitiy, example at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe production a philosophy example, activity, lesson at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe production

Some images from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe production of our philosophy lessons.

How can these philosophy plays be used? Our philosophy activities.

There are three ways to use the following philosophy Plays on this website for your philosophy Activities / lesson plan:

Teaching Philosophy Example 1 : Use as a Reader. Simply by reading through this you can identify with various philosophers and then reflect upon your reactions to the philosophical questions they ask (and to the answers they give) and relate these to your life. Hopefully you will feel provoked to indicate with a pen or pencil your initial response on the lines provided. (You will find that this method of making initial, tentative decisions, here referred to as Kantian Games of Judgement, is an important aid to learning.) Where it says When my Group Meets or Group Discussion you can consider the views of others known to you and imagine the discussion you might have.

Teaching Philosophy Example 2 : Use with informal or formal Discussion Groups.Having looked at this website, you may find that you want to get others involved in this introduction to philosophy and that you want to move on to this second way of using it. As a member of an informal group which can be as small as two or three persons, you can offer evaluation and constructive criticism of the views of others and they can do the same of yours. An informal group can be simply you getting together with some of your friends. More formal groups may be made through your recommendation to the youth group of a faith community, to a local youth club, or to an adult organisation. Each chapter contains a Presentation (in italics) by a philosopher. These parts may be allocated to members of your group and dramatised for memorable effect.

Teaching Philosophy Example 3 : Use in a Class As worksheets. Parts of this website were used initially in Form V Religious Education (Humanities) classes at Daniel Stewart’s and Melville College, Edinburgh to introduce the study of philosophy into secondary education. The worksheets were then revised and compiled into a booklet for SCOTVEC (Scottish Vocational Education Council) certificate classes after the school was twinned with the Mary Erskine School. It was found that the keeping of a notebook was essential for assessment and evaluation together with tests to verify Learning Outcomes for submission to the SCOTVEC examiners. This website should be of particular help for teachers and students preparing for Higher Religious, Moral and Philosophical Studies, and Advanced Higher Philosophy of the Scottish Qualifications Authority and its equivalent in other parts of Britain and in other countries. It is relevant to other high school, college and university courses, as well as community education groups. In any certificate course, the writing of well-organised notes in a notebook is an important discipline for effective learning. (Aristotle would urge you to carefully organise your work and to be meticulous.) A new page should be used for each new chapter, the appropriate headings written down, and then thorough notes made, not least, during group or general class discussion.

Whichever of the above three ways you use our plays as teaching philosophy activities, hopefully you will find that it (1) encourages you, as it has others, to go to libraries and bookshops where further literature on philosophy is readily available and (2) provides you with the tools to be able to understand this literature because you will have a good initial grounding in philosophy. It may encourage you, as it has others, to consider studying philosophy at college or university; and if you are already doing so, this website should be of help as a companion to whatever texts are prescribed for your study. And if you have already studied philosophy, this book can help you to recover and add to what you learned and to re-evaluate your beliefs and actions.

Philosophy lessons, activities & examples

Should you have any questions regarding how this website and philosophy plays can be used by a philosophy teacher, philosophy lecturer, professor for your philosophy activities then please contact us for advice.

Adam Smith

Adam Smith Philosophy


The play "Adam Smith - Making Poverty History" as performed at the Edinburgh Festival in 2008 is available to buy on lulu bookstore.

Jeremy Bentham

Jeremy Bentham Philosophy


The play "Jeremy Bentham The Pursuit of Happiness" as performed at the Edinburgh Festival 2007 is available to buy on lulu bookstore.

David Hume

David Hume Philosophy

Life & works of Hume

The play "David Hume - Citizen of the World" as performed at the Edinburgh Festival 2005 is available to buy on lulu bookstore.


Socrates philosophy


The play "Socrates Last Days and Legacy" as performed at the Edinburgh Festival 2006 is available to buy on lulu bookstore. 

Please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have on how to use our philosophy plays in your university philosophy, high school philosophy and college philosophy course.

Our Philosophy Play & lesson at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Why make an existential approach to these study philosophy lessons & philosophy activities?

Existentialists believe that our thoughts, our actions, and even our feelings come out of our current circumstances (both social and political) and also out of the circumstances from which we, as individuals, arise.

Existentialism therefore implies that it must be almost impossible to empathise with other individuals given that their own circumstances inevitably differ, sometimes radically, from our own.

"What is the use, then," you might ask, “of having an 'existential approach' to a subject where the beliefs and life styles of the individuals concerned are so diverse that any mutual understanding is, by extension, unachievable?"

‘Role-play’ is the key word for it allows one imaginatively to 'enter' into the circumstances of others by 'seeing' ourselves in their situation, in their shoes.

Think of method actors like Robert De Niro. They are successful with their portrayals because of their willingness to live, to the best of their ability, the lives of the people they portray. Method acting can involve changing what you wear, eat and do, where you live, how you feel and what you think.

The more information we have about another person's circumstances, the more likely that, with some effort, we will be able to empathise, to come to an understanding of that person's existence, and thereby better understand that person's beliefs.

This website offers that opportunity. For this website arranges for a number of key thinkers who have gone before you and have helped to shape the legacy of philosophy to invite you to make that journey with them. This website invites you to walk in their shoes. You are invited to make their journey your journey so that through such empathy you can journey as they journeyed in the search for wisdom with virtue. You will be Socrates, you will be Plato, you will be Aristotle. You will be Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, Hume, Kant, Bentham and others. And you will be the one who becomes the philosopher where their paths cross.

The acid test of a good philosopher is that his philosophising affects not only his thinking, but also his doing. And further, it is shown not just by what he does (or does not do) but also by how he does it and why he does it.

teaching philosophy statement

A philosophy statement is a narrative that includes:

- your conception of teaching and learning
- a description of how you teach
- justification for why you teach that way

The statement can:

- demonstrate that you have been reflective and purposeful about your teaching
- communicate your goals as an instructor and your corresponding actions in the classroom
- provide an opportunity to point to and tie together the other sections of your portfolio

This philosophy statement is summarised from The Ohio State Univeristy

the philosophical works of David Hume

We have extensive notes on the philosophical works of David Hume that you can use in your lesson / class.

Philosophy Plays

Should you have any questions regarding how our philosophy plays, example lesson & philosophy activities can be used by a philosophy teacher, philosophy lecturer, professor for your philosophy class to help with your student learning then please contact us for advice.

Living Philosophy for plays, activities and teaching philosophy lessons.
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