Perceiving “The Philosophical Child”: A Guide for the Perplexed
A review of Jana Mohr Lone’s The Philosophical Child.
Introduction: Though Jana Mohr Lone (2012) refers to children’s striving to wonder, to question, to figure out how the world works and where they fit as the “philosophical self,” like its parent discipline, it could be argued that the philosophical self is actually the “parent self,”—the wellspring of all the other aspects of personhood that we traditionally parse out, e.g., the intellectual, moral, social, and emotional selves (p. 5). If that is the case, then to be blind to “The Philosophical Child,” the latter being the title of Jana Mohr Lone’s book, is, in a sense then, to be blind to the child. Thus, though Mohr Lone says that the subject of her book is to assist parents in supporting the development of children’s philosophical selves (p. 7), that claim may mask the gift that this lovely book can bring to the parent-child relationship if it is interpreted as helping children to become “smarty pants” in the sense of acquiring esoteric skills to excel in the ivory-tower (albeit children-oriented) discipline of academic philosophy. This is not the focus of this book. This is not an invitation to learn about the history of philosophy— about what some wise, usually white, usually men said about the fundamental questions that intrigue all humans. This is not an invitation to memorize and thus to sit in awe of what others think (or thought)—as is too often the case in university classrooms. This book, rather, is a guide to how to actually philosophize—how to use questions to energetically and courageously make progress toward finding answers that one, through reflection, comes to believe are the best, given the reasons and evidence available. And to the degree that we and our children are successful, we give ourselves (as Mohr Lone notes this is a reciprocal gift) and our children the gift of continuously learning to become ever wiser.