Children, Intuitive Knowledge and Philosophy

Philosophy Now 119:20-23 (2017)

Maria daVenza Tillmanns
University of California, San Diego
This paper explores the notion that children have a knowledge of the world of their own – an intuitive knowledge. Being fully immersed in the world as adults are, they too have a knowledge of the world. In contrast to adults, who have developed a cognitive knowledge of the world, children still depend on their intuitive knowledge. Children certainly have a strong grasp of the world they live in; it’s just not dependent on cognitive knowledge. In my paper I compare and contrast Kohlberg and Lipman’s views on children’s ability to be natural philosophers. To be immersed in the world, brings to mind Martin Buber’s idea that we are born in relation, the a priori of relation, which only later develops into the essential relation as we develop the consciousness of our individual separateness. This a priori relation, then, forms the basis for children’s intuitive knowledge, and which is expressed through the language of imagination. And certainly, imagination is not devoid of any kind of reason. In focusing strictly on children’s cognitive development and ignoring their inborn relation with the world, we essentially rob them of their foothold in the world, their inner authority needed for self-regulated thinking. We create a world where children grow up dependent on authority, status, trends and fads. This can lead to what we’ve observed in the famous Milgram study. Philosophy with children encourages children to speak from their own place, in a form of parrhesia, if you will, and to discuss together with others the complexities of ideas. It honors their inborn relation with the world, their statements and aids in the process of developing their cognitive knowledge out of their intuitive grasp of the world. In respecting their inborn relation, philosophy with children allows children to grow up as full human beings, not just as smart and educated “disembodied creatures.” Children speak from the logic of experience (Foucault). Through the process of putting thinking itself into question, children become aware of themselves as thinking beings. It is what Bohm refers to as the “proprioception of thought,” the ability to “observe thought.” Philosophers, I argue, are experts in not knowing. In practicing the art of philosophy, the art of not knowing, we need each other to think together to explore deeper concepts. This binds us and allows us to explore the unknown with joy, curiosity and confidence. In an example from my own experience, I show that children not only intuitively touch on complex philosophical ideas; students are wrestling with ideas about how to understand the world, which is where philosophy began as well. How can we be surprised when children decide computer games are more interesting than life itself, if we have essentially robbed them of the desire to “get dirty,” and engage this world filled with wonder. We have created a world too boring and act surprised when children are bored. The world isn’t boring and in “doing” philosophy with children we keep the fascination with this place we call earth alive.
Keywords Applied Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0961-5970
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