Video Resources and Philosophical Movies

VAPS’ Interview with Peter Singer

Last year VAPS was fortunate enough to have Professor Peter Singer, Australian moral philosopher and Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, as our 2013 conference patron. Here is the interview that opened the conference.


The following videos demonstrate and describe the practice of Philosophy with children. Please click on the title links to view the videos where they are hosted online. 

Dr Sara Goering: Philosophy for Kids – Sparking a Love of Learning An outstanding introduction to Philosophy for Children, presented as a lively talk on TEDx. Dr. Sara Goering is Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Member of the Program on Values in Society, and Program Director for the Northwest Center for Philosophy for Children at the University of Washington, Seattle (USA). She develops programs to bring philosophy to K-12 students.

15-minute video ‘Picture Book Philosophy’ featuring Professor Tom Wartenberg: Tom Wartenberg is a Professor of Philosophy at Mt Holyoke College (USA) and a leading exponent of Philosophy for Children in disadvantaged school communities. Along with maintaining popular website for teaching children philosophy, he teaches an innovative course in which his students teach philosophy to elementary school children. This video provides a fascinating insight into what goes on in a classroom of seven-year-olds doing Philosophy with university mentors.

4-minute video ‘Philosophy for Children’ featuring Associate Professor Philip Cam: Phil Cam (University of NSW) is an international leader in Philosophy for Children who wrote the acclaimed curriculum for teaching Ethics in public schools across NSW. This video describes the practice of Philosophy in a school classroom in NSW and includes snippets of classroom dialogue.

3-minute video ‘Classrooms in Action’ demonstrating philosophical inquiry in the classroom: This free-to-view short video is part of a 2-hour video available for purchase from the Queensland University of Technology. The QUT course in facilitating philosophical inquiry is overseen by Professor Lynne Hinton, Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Education and former Principal of Buranda State School in Brisbane where she worked for over 15 years implementing Philosophy for Children.

Peter Worley: The If Machine – This revealing and thought-provoking interactive talk about the nature of Philosophy for Children was presented by Peter Worley at the Institute of Art and Ideas HowTheLightGetsIn philosophy festival in the UK. It includes audience participation in a series of thought experiments and useful strategies for facilitating philosophical inquiry in the classroom.

Philosophy with Children – Philip Cam

Dr Sara Goering on TED

Philosophy for Children with Matthew Lipman in 7 parts

P4C with 10 year olds with James Nottingham

UW 360 -November 2011: Philosophy for Children with Professor Jana Mohr

Picture Book Philosophy with Tom Wartenburg

Philosophy, Logic and Reason

Critical reasoning for beginners‘ from Oxford Uni – A pretty good online critical reasoning course: vids of lectures, powerpoints and podcasts are under the links for each ‘episode’ …

Reason and Imagination (VAPS) – ACER

Socrates in the Schoolyard (Reporter: Sarah Ferguson) – Insight, 9 May 2002, SBS

I Think – Australian Children’s Television

Stillthinking/Harry Potter
A 40-minute video of a p4c session in action, with children aged 5-12. The stimulus was the Mirror of Erised scene from Harry Potter. The video is introduced by the facilitator (a primary school teacher, Elizabeth Dawson), who also reflects on how the session has gone. Also included is a short (8-minute) piece in which four children talk insightfully and amusingly about how – in their experience – Philosophy Club differs from school. Copies of the video are available at £10 including P&P from: Stillthinking, 25 Prince’s Street, Ulverston, Cumbria LA12 7NQ


Plato’s Cave
There is an 8-minute “cartoon” of the “Allegory of the Cave” from Plato’s Republic. It’s narrated by Orson Wells, reading straight from book VII, starting “Next, let us consider our nature, whether it’ enlightened or unenlightened” (if memory serves) and ends “It’s the duty of the enlightened to help…. etc.” The cartoon is paper cut-out animation, and it’s a bit garish in color, but it helps. (I liked the 16mm movie version better than the video version, because Plato’s description of a fire behind the audience casting a shadow created by an image being held up in front of the fire, and being so realistic that the cave dwellers mistake it for reality, no longer seems so far fetched when you look at the projector and the screen. Plato’s describing a movie!) John Wagner

The Consolations of Philosophy (Alain de Botton) – ABC Shop

What is Philosophy? Philosophy Department, University of Melbourne

Stimulus Material

The Cell (2000)
A child psychologist enters the minds (literally) of mentally ill patients. Jennifer Lopez. Rated R. 115 min.

Based on Brian Moore’s novel of the same name, ‘Catholics’ stars Trevor Howard as an Abbott and Martin Sheen as a “radical priest” sent to inquire into the Abbott’s going back to the Latin Mass after it had been eliminated (it takes place in the future). Raises questions about faith, obedience, vows, metaphysics and others.

Contact (1997)
Set in the present time, an astronomer makes contact with an alien civilization, or does she? The question arises whether the experience was in fact a hallucination, and is never resolved. The film also raises significant moral and religious issues. Jodie Foster. Rated PG. 142 min.

Dancer in the Dark
‘Dancer in the Dark’ and ‘Breaking the Waves’ are very touching movies, both deal with huge sacrifices made by women, the first one in order to save her son from blindness, and the other, more spiritually, in a hope for her husband’s recovery from paralyzis.” Hrannar Baldursson (Mexico)

Dark City (1998)
In a futuristic scenario, people’s memories and identities are “implanted” as part of an alien experiment in selfhood. Rufus Sewell. Rated R. 103 min.

Dragon Ball Z

Frank Film
Although I haven’t used it in years, when I was trying to get students to understand David Hume’s theory of the self as a “bundle of perceptions” I showed the 10 minute film “Frank Film.” This was a series of images collected by the film maker of things from his life, with two overlapping and simultaneous sound-tracks, one rational and the other free-association words connected to the images. The whole effect was rather confusing, but it did help with Hume. John Wagner

The Grave of the Fireflies
“I can recommend a Japanese animated film called ‘The Grave of the Fireflies’, an extremely touching story about two young children in war-ridden 1944 Tokyo, that lose their parents and struggle with hunger and homelessness, while being children. It’s a tragedy, so I would recommend it for teenagers, and older children. It’s really about the contrast between the innocence of childhood versus the horrors of war.” Hrannar Baldursson (Mexico)

The Matrix (1999)
The ‘Matrix’ is a computer-generated dream world. Probably the closest thing in film to the brain-in-a-vat. A favorite with students. Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne. Rated R. 120 min.

The Matrix Reloaded
At The Philosophy of the Matrix you’ll find philosophical essays about the movie including David Chalmer’s paper The Matrix as Metaphysics and essays by several other very well known philosophers including Colin McGinn, Jim Pryor, Julia Driver, Richard Hanley, and Michael McKenna.

Minority Report
“‘Minority Report’ will probably raise some questions regarding the justification of punishing someone for an intended crime, but that movie seems to hold the view that a person should not be punished for a crime s/he hasn’t committed. A very interesting theme.” Hrannar Baldursson (Mexico)

Films by David Lynch
“‘Mulholland Drive’ is probably too frightening and graphic for children or teenagers. Most of David Lynch’s movies are, except for his Straight Story, which I highly recommend. It is a sweet story about an old man riding on a lawnmover through some states, so he can see his brother for the last time. It touches on many interesting themes, as the old man is pretty wise and listens to some people and gives some advices on his way. For those with strong enough stomachs, Lynch’s The Lost Highway and Wild at Heart are very interesting aesthetically.” Hrannar Baldursson (Mexico)

The Music School
‘The Music School’ is useful for raising issues about death and the meaning of life.

Open Your Eyes (1997)
Wild and convoluted. A wealthy restaurateur is cryogenically frozen, then wakes with altered memories. Or does he? Spanish with subtitles. Eduardo Noriega. Rated R. 119 min. Remade as Vanilla Sky (2001).

The Others (2001)
Similar in spirit (no pun) to The Sixth Sense. Nicole Kidman. Rated PG 13. 104 min.

Parker Addison, Philosopher
Pigeon Feathers
The films ‘Parker Adderson, Philosopher’ and ‘Pigeon Feathers’ raise the question of what a philosopher might be (Adderson) and how to approach the personal quest for God (Pigeon). They are based on the short stories by Ambrose Bierce (Adderson) and John Updike (Pigeon Feathers), so one could also use the short stories themselves to prepare.


I have used feature length films, but these would probably not work as well for a younger audience. I use ‘Rashomon’ as part of an exercise in trying to figure out how we “know” what we know; I ask students to serve on a 6 member “Grand Jury” to determine, from the film, if there is enough evidence to charge anybody with any crimes. (Students typically get so wrapped up in the murder that they overlook other crimes that there is consistency and actual physical evidence to support. The discussion of consistency, gender bias, etc. takes up quite a bit of time after the exercise.) John Wagner

Rugrats (short episodes)

The Simpsons

The Sixth Day (2000)
You have been illegally cloned, and the clone¹s growth has been accelerated so that both of you are the same age. How do you know whether you are the original or the clone? Primarily an action film. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Rated PG 13. 124 min. Similar is Imposter (2002).

The Sixth Sense (1999)
A modern ghost story. Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment. Rated PG 13. 107 min.

Star Trek: The Cage (1965)
In the pilot for the original series, aliens telepathically project life-like illusions into the minds of their captives. Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike. 64 min.

The Truman Show (1998)
A man unknowingly stars in a television show which traces his life through an artificial world. Jim Carrey, Ed Harris. Rated PG. 102 min.

Waking Life (2001)
Philosophical reflections on life and dreams. Animated. Voice of Ethan Hawke. Rated R. 97 min.
Dreams. What are they? An escape from reality or reality itself? Waking Life follows the dream(s) of one man and his attempt to find and discern the absolute difference between waking life and the dreamworld. While trying to figure out a way to wake up, he runs into many people on his way; some of which offer one sentence asides on life, others delving deeply into existential questions and life’s mysteries. We become the main character. It becomes our dream and our questions being asked and answered. Can we control our dreams? What are they telling us about life? About death? About ourselves and where we come from and where we are going? The film does not answer all these for us. Instead, it inspires us to ask the questions and find the answers ourselves. Jeff Mellinger {}

Missed that off air recording that you want to use with your class?
Tape Services is a unique operation which produces, under Part VA of the Copyright Act, off air VHS master copies of all educationally relevant programs broadcast in Adelaide. The service maintains a collection of approximately 20,000 educational programs which provides a curriculum resource for use in teaching and learning programs for all educational institutions. PLEASE NOTE that only student based educational institutions within Australia, which are licensed with the Audio Visual Copyright Society (Screenrights) under Part VA of the Copyright Act are eligible to receive copies of off-air broadcasts.

Dozens of philosophical films are available for sale on Art Films, a database of over 4000 films from around the world. They cover branches of philosophy including Aesthetics, Education, Metaphysics, Epistemology, Logic, Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Mind, Political Philosophy and History of Philosophy. A sample of titles follows.
– Aesthetics: Philosophy of the Arts
– Echoes of Forgotten Places: Urban Exploration, Industrial Archaeology and the Aesthetics of Decay
– 18th- and 19th-Century Educational Philosophers
– COSMOS (Carl Sagan)
– From Aristotle to Hawking
– God, The Universe And Everything Else (Hawking, Sagan & Clarke)
– Numbers: The Universal Language
– Philosophy of Science
– A Zen Life – D.T. Suzuki
– Aesthetics: Philosophy of the Arts
– Analytic Philosophy
– Classical Greek Philosophy
– Continental Philosophy
– Epistemology: What We Can Know
– Ethics: What Is Right?
– Jacques Derrida
– Logic: The Structure of Reason
– Metaphysics: What There Is
– Modern Philosophy
– Noam Chomsky – Extraordinary Minds
– One Way Street: Fragments for Walter Benjamin
– Philosophy of Mind
– Philosophy of Religion
– Political Philosophy

Who we are

VAPS promotes critical and creative thinking among young people.

Find out more
What we offer

Supporting teachers in fostering the intellectual and social skills that enable students to think philosophically.

Find out more
Upcoming events

Our Philosophy in Public Spaces Events are run throughout each calendar school year.

View events
Become a member

Becoming a member grants access to the members’ resources and discounted access to events.

Sign up now