Philosophical Chairs

Philosophical Chairs is an activity designed to foster critical thinking, active inquiry, and respectful dialogue among students. To play a game of Philosophical Chairs, participants agree or disagree with a series of statements, but the game doesn’t end there. The most crucial element of the game is what happens next: Participants discuss their points of view and can switch sides if their opinions change during the discussion. (For more tips on using Philosophical Chairs in a classroom or via a remote-learning platform, see the activity description in your Google Classroom.)

Each Philosophical Chair topic statement is deliberately open-ended yet ties into a number of the themes present in Fidelio—from persecution and despair to love, loyalty, and sacrifice. As you and your students explore and learn about Fidelio, you can return to these statements: What do they have to do with the opera’s story? How might these questions help us explore the opera’s story, history, and themes?

The Statements

  • Everyone deserves to be free.
  • Justice always reigns supreme.
  • Every person should be treated equally before the law.
  • Follow your heart, not your mind.
  • If you have to choose between faith, hope, and love, the most important is love.
  • Love fears nothing.
  • Political dissidents must be silenced.
  • Imprisonment is an ethical form of punishment.
  • Light shines even in the darkest of times.
  • Everyone needs to be rescued at some point in their life.
  • I would risk my life for love.
  • Human will and freedom will always triumph over injustice and tyranny.

Keep in mind that the process of this activity is just as important as the statements themselves. Imagine a world in which everyone actively listens to one another and engages in respectful dialogue, honoring others and showing respect for the wide array of diverse ideas and opinions that others hold. Philosophical Chairs fosters exactly this kind of space, encouraging students to take what they’ve learned and change the global landscape for generations to come.