relativism: a threshold for pupils to cross in order to become dialogical critical thinkers


  • marie-france daniel Université de Montréal


Dialogical Critical Thinking, Epistemology, Relativism, Inter-subjectivity, Philosophy for children


According to a number of international organizations such as UNESCO, the development of critical thinking is fundamental in youth education. In general, critical thinking is recognized as thinking that doubts and evaluates principles and facts. We define it as essentially dialogical, in other words constructive and responsible. And we maintain that its development is essential to help youngsters make enlightened decisions and adequately face up to the challenges of everyday living. Our recent analyses of exchanges among pupils who benefited from philosophical praxis showed that dialogical critical thinking comprises four thinking modes (logical, creative, responsible and metacognitive) and six epistemological perspectives that range from the simplest (egocentricity) increasing in complexity (passing through relativism) to the most complex (inter-subjectivity). Relativism merits special focus in that a majority of the pupils’ interventions that we analyzed are situated within this perspective, and in that relativism is charged with both positive and negative meanings. In its positive meaning, it is associated with reflection, plurality and open-mindedness, but in its negative (absolute) sense, relativism refers to arbitrary decisions, to indifference and the status quo. This is why we maintain that relativism must be transcended. In this respect, we suggest two series of open-ended questions that are designed to provoke a disequilibrium in pupils’ certainties and, by so doing, stimulate their reflection towards inter-subjectivity. These questions are associated with the diversification of thinking modes (logical, creative, responsible, metacognitive) and the increasing complexity of these modes (transition from egocentricity to relativism and then to inter-subjectivity).

Author Biography

marie-france daniel, Université de Montréal

Professeure titulaire, Department of Kinesiology Researcher, Groupe de recherche sur l'éducation éthique et l'éthique en l'éducation (GRÉÉ)




How to Cite

daniel, marie- france. (2013). relativism: a threshold for pupils to cross in order to become dialogical critical thinkers. Childhood & Philosophy, 9(17), 43–62. Retrieved from