a child in the mirror: dionysus and the childhood of western wisdom


  • gabriele cornelli Universidade de Brasília


Infanzia, Filosofia, Mitologia orfica, Educatione, Dioniso


Despite all the recent attempts to rescue and to place it at the center of political and academic attention, childhood remains on the periphery of the "serious" world of adults concerns. It is a fact that does not need, I think, further evidence than those who daily are given to us to read in the political and economical pages of our newspapers. However, it is necessary to renounce a universal reading of this absence—one that seeks to generalize, systematically and in all areas, this exclusion of the children‘s world—and to attempt to grasp the magnitude of this problem from within the Western cultural tradition, that tradition in which philosophy with a capital P is at the same time the promoter and the product. And even in this case, we need to remember the continued absence of children in the classical texts of Western philosophy. Although childhood is not absent in pedagogical discourses--within the educational research methodologies that are used to "frame" the child in one or other society--the absence of children is due, in large part, to the exclusion of their protagonistic role and the centrality of their specific world; hence the epistemological significance of this life form in relation to "truth" as such. However, a statement like the one just offered runs the risk of uncritically reproducing current political-pedagogical slogans of little use. Without denying such an absence and its severe consequences for a still very "adultish" society, my aim here is to search, in a "free fly" over the history of Western thought, the signs of other possibilities signaled by the equivocal presences of children, and of the surprising centrality of the child and his world. Only a return to the origins of Western thought will allow a gaze, at once naive and profound, at the relations between the radical contradictions of human existence. In this inquiry, the figure of the "divine child" appears in the mirror of the most ancient fables ever told. Always narrated to children in order to put them to sleep, here we present these fables to adults, so that they can understand.



How to Cite

cornelli, gabriele. (2012). a child in the mirror: dionysus and the childhood of western wisdom. Childhood & Philosophy, 1(1), 167–185. Retrieved from https://www.e-publicacoes.uerj.br/childhood/article/view/20479