some ethical implications of practicing philosophy with children and adults

david kennedy, walter omar kohan


This paper acts as an introduction to a dossier centered on the ethical implications of Practicing Philosophy with Children and Adults. It identifies ethical themes in the P4C movement over three generations of theorists and practitioners, and argues that, historically and materially, the transition to a “new” hermeneutics of childhood that has occurred within the P4C movement may be said to have emerged as a response to the ever-increasing pressure of neoliberalism and a weaponized capitalism to construct public policies in education on an over-regulated, prescribed, state-monitored, model. Could a new relationship to childhood provide the ethical and political agenda that our times require for doing philosophy with children with integrity? Could a radical listening and openness to childhood—which has been an intrinsic confessional characteristic of P4C pedagogy from the beginning--sustain the movement through these dark times? Finally, the paper presents a set of articles written in response to these questions: What, if any, should the ethical commitments of the P4C facilitator be? Is political/ideological neutrality required of the P4C facilitator?  Is political neutrality possible? What constitutes indoctrination in educational settings? Are children more vulnerable to indoctrination than adults, and if so, what are the implications of that fact for the practice of P4C?  What are the uses of P4C in the dramatically polarized ideological landscape we currently inhabit? What, if any, are the ethical responsibilities of a teacher engaging in philosophical practice?   Are the philosophical practitioner’s ethical responsibilities similar or different when the subjects are children or adults? Does every methodology have a “hidden curriculum”? If so, what is the hidden curriculum of P4C? What distinguishes dialogical from monological practice? May one have the appearance of the other? Is the “Socratic method” (Elenchus) as we conceive it dialogical?  What, if any, are the uses of irony in philosophical practice? Should Socrates (or any other philosopher) be considered a model for P4C practitioners?


childhood; ethics; philosophy for children

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