rethinking consensus in the community of philosophical inquiry: a research agenda

kei nishiyama


In Philosophy for Children (P4C), consensus-making is often regarded as something that needs to be avoided. P4C scholars believe that consensus-making would dismiss P4C’s ideals, such as freedom, inclusiveness, and diversity. This paper aims to counteract such assumptions, arguing that P4C scholars tend to focus on a narrow, or universal, concept of “consensus” and dismiss various forms of consensus, especially what Niemeyer and Dryzek (2007) call meta-consensus. Meta-consensus does not search for universal consensus, but focuses on the process by which people achieve various non-universal forms of consensus, such as agreement on the value of opponents’ normative view or agreement on the degree to which they accept opponents’ view. This paper argues that such meta-consensus is a key part of what Clinton Golding (2009) calls “philosophical progress,” which is the essential element that makes inquiry philosophical. In other words, without meta-consensus and philosophical progress, inquiry ends in merely conversation or antagonistic talk. Drawing on the example of P4C conducted with Japanese students, this paper shows how meta-consensus is achieved in the community of philosophical inquiry and how it contributes to make inquiry philosophical.


deliberative democracy; democratic education; youth participation; Philosophy for Children

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