By Er Kay Lynn (22A13A)
Be prepared for some mental gymnastics every week.
What does it mean to reflect? For the enthusiastic science student, it’s what a wave does when it hits a surface. For the insightful one, it’s sitting in silence to meditate on life. For those of us in the Raffles Reflects classroom, it’s what we’re supposedly doing with our 2 hours every Wednesday afternoon. In reality, the average Reflects student spends them confused, grilled by our teacher (Mr Caleb Liu), and sifting through philosophical writings.
Now, let’s unpack that. Our sessions start before the actual allocated time, with a pre-assigned reading. Don’t think you’ll have the time to commit to doing your readings every week? Don’t worry! In Mr Liu’s words, Reflects is meant to be fun, not stress you out and add excessively to your workload (besides, which average student really has the time to analyse Kant thoroughly and fully understand his writing?).
Most of us read enough to gain a preliminary understanding of that week’s topic and participate in discussions. Since the sessions usually take the form of a short lecture to introduce the topic, followed by discussions, most of your learning will take place as you listen to your classmates’ opinions (and hopefully share some of your own).
Not a vocal person? Many may be intimidated by the idea of participating in philosophical discourse every week, but Reflects is truly a conducive learning environment. It doesn’t matter if you only have a casual interest in philosophy, if you haven’t read Plato, or if you’ve never heard of Nietzsche’s Ecce Homo and its narcissistic chapters (e.g. Why I write such good books—go search this up if you’re interested); as long as you’re willing to learn and listen, you’ll be welcome in Reflects.
Specifically, what do you get to look forward to if you join Reflects? Well, we’ve covered political philosophy, existentialism, ethics, identity formation and much more. At the end of Y5, every Reflects student embarks on a research project into any field of philosophy of their choice, culminating in a symposium in March or April of Y6. This symposium will be attended by a university professor of philosophy who will give feedback on presentations.
Now that you’re a little more acquainted with Reflects, allow us to address some questions you may have.
- What use is it to learn philosophy?
Philosophy, though it sounds insular and disconnected from life in general, is actually highly interdisciplinary. Ranging from the philosophy of science to public policy, from that of charity to that of fundamental existence, the field itself is constantly shifting. Philosophy is fundamentally about reflecting (hence Raffles Reflects) about our lives and societies, whatever it may be about them. Additionally, we seek to question, to explore. We don’t expect to arrive at answers, we learn to be comfortable existing in the grey areas. In the Reflects classroom, nothing is black and white, and we often leave without clear answers to our questions, but usually with many more perspectives to consider and mull over.
- Is it possible to bring up fields I’m interested in for discussion in class?
Of course. Reflects (and Mr Liu) is highly adaptable because it’s fundamentally about cultivating an interest in philosophy. In fact, our discussion of the philosophy of identity, which involved a discussion of the Theseus’ Ship thought experiment, arose from a breaktime question about what exactly identity is (the original lesson was about the morality of abortion.)
- Are there any prerequisites? What is the application process like?
There are no prerequisites to join Reflects. Applying to Reflects involves writing a short response to a scenario, including discussion of your own perspective on the underlying issue. Check the WEP application brief for more specific and up-to-date information!
- Are you all philosophy nerds?
Probably not. But if we were, so what?
If Reflects sounds like something you’d be interested in, then good luck with your application, and we hope to see you debating the validity of authors’ arguments, the morality of not donating to hurricane victims, and much more, very soon.