Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Childhood and Philosophy

Excerpts from Vittorio Hösle’s ( afterword in The Dead Philosopher’s Café.

First of all, childhood and philosophy have in common their wonder at the world. For children, the world is not old hat; it awakens their curiosity. The constant question children start asking when still very young are a sign of the determination of the human mind to find order in the world, to discover relationships to solve puzzles…

To be sure, we can justifiably dismiss the importance of many question children asks—understanding that some questions are illegitimate is an important philosophical step forward…Similarly adults err when they ironically dismiss questions asked in all earnestness by children, merely because they themselves cannot answer them or because they are afraid of the consequences of the right answer. In so doing they injure the soul of the child, who is willing to be guided by the adult, but can always tell when the adult is unfairly exploiting his superior power. Indeed, hey endanger the child’s spiritual development, in which conversations with patient interlocutors are particularly important—for not all children have the inner strength to satisfy their curiosity and thirst for knowledge, despite the disappointments that proceed from their apparently superior elders.
Present day philosophy provides ample evidence that without imagination philosophy is doomed to failure. To be sure, philosophy has to be restrained, ideas have to be criticized, and for that purpose abstract concepts and logic are absolutely necessary. However, logical criticism can only be brought to bear when ideas are already on the table; it cannot produce these ideas itself…In short, philosophy needs not to eliminate but to supervise imagination.

Finally naiveté is absolutely indispensable for substantive philosophizing.

Dear Nora,

…all these educationists and psychologists only want to learn about children, not from them. Thereby, however, the children are reduced to objects…
I really love the book.

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