Ancient Paideia and Philosophy for Children

by Hannu Juuso, published in Thinking. The Journal of Philosophy for Children, 1999, 14:4, 9-20. This article also constitutes chapter 5 in Hannu Juuso's dissertation Child, Philosophy and Education—Discussing the intellectual sources of philosophy for children, 2007, University of Oulu, Finland.


Dissertation abstract


The shifting meanings of "philosophy" and "child"

Education for reasonableness

Discuss / diskuter

Education for reasonableness

Fronesis and the "pedagogy of judgement"

Despite radical metaphilosophical differences, and differences in the concepts childhood and of education, Philosophy for Children is clearly influenced by the Aristotelian ingredients described above. The notion of reasonable judgment which informs Aristotle's concept of fronesis provides the essential background and goal of Matthew Lipman's pedagogical thinking. 69 He states that "... the greatest disappointment of traditional education has been its failure to produce people approximating the ideal of reasonableness." 70 For Lipman, the cultivation of reasonableness is the goal of education for democracy. This entails an effort to develop higher-order thinking, which includes a combination of critical, creative and caring thinking. 71 Reasonableness, says Lipman, cannot be reduced to pure rationality, but "... reasonableness is rationality tempered by self-criticism, deliberation and judgment.” 72 It is

... not purely and simply the product of one's logical activities, but is built up, layer upon layer, out of one's effort to be thoughtful, to be considerate, to seek integrity-preserving compromises, to be open to other points of view and other arguments, to seek appropriate means for the ends one has in view as well as appropriate ends for the means one finds at one's disposal, and to seek solutions that take all interests into account. 73

Furthermore, reasonableness, Lipman claims, can be internalized only by experiencing it through reasoning together in a community of inquiry. As such, philosophy as an educational discipline has both individual, consummatorial value, and instrumental value for the pursuit of a normative form of democratic citizenship. Philosophy itself contains characteristics through which the process of democracy is equipped and enhanced: philosophy deals directly with highly general but controversial notions (e.g. truth, justice, freedom) which are essential to democratic practice; it directly fosters higher-order-thinking; and its dialogical character contributes to the skills and processes of democratic deliberation. By identifying these characteristics, Lipman is identifying democracy itself as a form of philosophical inquiry, committed to fallibilistic principles. 74

Like Aristotle, Lipman emphasizes the educational dimension of philosophy, but in a different way. For Aristotle, the goal of education was the good life, which led to happiness in the form of philosophical contemplation, in a just and stable society secured by law. For Lipman, the follower of Dewey, education means the fostering of democratic reconstruction through praxis. I think, however, that Lipman's concept of "pedagogy of judgment" includes Aristotle's bouleusis (deliberation), synesis (understanding), gnome (judgment), epieikeia (equitability) and syngnome (sympathy), all combined in fronesis, or practical reasonableness. Lipman adds critical thinking, which he considers to be learned only by reflective practice. His definition of critical thinking—reliant on criteria, self-correcting and sensitive to context—is fully consonant with Aristotle's ideas of learning virtue by habituation, and of contextualizing philosophy by identifying it with the ability to judge wisely pros ton kairon—i.e. considering the circumstances.

Finally, what is Philosophy for Children's position vis a vis contemporary moral and philosophical discourse? In his concept of reasonableness, Lipman is clearly contradicting the Platonic idea of a rationality grounded only in logical systematicity. According to Toulmin, the ideal of fronesis, or reasonableness, was lost to Western philosophy with the advent of modernity, an era which was ushered in in a religio-political context of strife and intolerance, thus robbing the notion of practical wisdom of its usefulness or legitimacy. Europe's religious wars led to a social order based on universalistic and foundationalist pretentions, leaving no room for a culture of philosophical fallibilism. It was in this atmosphere that the core ideas of Plato's philosophy were reborn in the rationality of modern cosmopolitanism—in its abstract, totalizing, universal and context-free forms of thinking, which abandoned the humanistic, Aristotelian ambitions of the Renaissance. 75

Now, hundreds of years later, modernity has reached a phase in which the consequences of its ways of thinking are increasingly threatening. Modern science, with its quest for certainty and efficiency, has been unable to stop the massive development of weapons of mass destruction, or to care effectively for earth's ecosystem. On the other hand, it seems that it is not until we meet these consequences face to face that we will be able to challenge our conventional patterns of thinking—which includes our ways of thinking about education. Toulmin adds that to humanize modernity in the face of these threats requires both expanding our notion of philosophy, and returning it to Aristotle's emphasis on practical wisdom. We must extend practical philosophy into the particulars of our time and place, while conserving its historically mediated tradition of rational and ethical discussion. And Philosophy for Children, in its redefinition of philosophy as critical practice oriented to reasonableness, embraces this neo-Aristotelian spirit.


69 Lipman has not specifically acknowledged the influence of Aristotle on his own thinking—for instance in terms of the theory of virtues—but he does give quite clear indications of it in many places in Philosophy goes to School (see for example p. 51), Thinking in Education (see for example pp. 62-63, 75, 78, 81, 111, 129, 136, 199) and Natasha—Vygotskian Dialogues (1996, New York: Teachers College Press; see for example pp. 16, 37-38) as well as in many of his articles (see for example the recent "The Contribution of Philosophy to Deliberative Democracy" in Teaching Philosophy on the Eve of the 21st Century, edited by Evans, D. & Kucuradi, I. 1998. Anchora: Federation of Philosophical Societies, pp. 6-29). In the IAPC materials Aristotle's logical ideas can most clearly be identified in Elfie and Harry Stottlemeier's Discovery. On the other hand, it would appear that Aristotle has influenced Lipman through Dewey's thought (see for example Thinking in Education p. 106); For Dewey's relation to Aristotle see for example Chambliss, J.J 1993. "Common Ground in Aristotle's and Dewey's Theory of Conduct," Educational Theory, vol. 43, no. 3, pp. 249-260.

70 Lipman, 1988, p. 18; 1991, 16.

71 See Lipman 1998, where he suggests how the triad of critical, creative and caring thinking break down into their component values. It is evident that Lipman has inherited the idea of thinking as a core of democratic education mainly from Dewey and elaborated it further. By caring thinking Lipman means the ability to value what has value. One way of responding to values is to have feelings or to express emotions. When discussing about the emotions in relation to judgments Lipman seems to approach Aristotle's argumentation in the second book of Rhetoric (see Lipman, M. 1995. ”Using Philosophy to Educate Emotions,” Analytic Teaching, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 3-10.

72 Lipman, 1998. For the difference between rationality and reasonableness discussed in Aristotelian terms see Toulmin, S. 1992. Cosmopolis—The Hidden Agenda of Modernity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

73 Lipman, M. "Unreasonable People and Inappropriate Judgments" in Oxman, W. & Weinstein, M. (ed.) 1993. Critical Thinking as an Educational Ideal. Proceedings of the 1992 Fifth Annual Conference of the Institute for Critical Thinking. Upper Montclair: The Institute for Critical Thinking, pp. 5-13.

74 See Lipman 1998.

75 Toulmin, S. 1998 Kosmopolis. Kuinka uusi aika hukkasi humanismin perinnön. Juva: WSOY, pp. 329-375.

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