Between Crisis-Philia and Crisis-Phobia: Reflections on the Community of Inquiry

  • Aaron J. Yarmel


Conflict is a ubiquitous feature of community life, and communities based on inquiry are no exception. Sometimes, conflict escalates into crisis. A crisis may help a community by providing opportunities for its members to recognize and ameliorate their shortcomings, but it may also destroy a community or limit its ability to sustain productive projects. In this discussion, I articulate two orientations towards crisis: crisis-philia (loving crises and seeking them out) and crisis-phobia (fearing crises and seeking to avoid them). I argue, drawing heavily from my experience as a participant in the Summer Seminar of the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children, that neither orientation is satisfactory. Instead of crisis-philia or crisis-phobia, we ought to get into the habit of inquiring, as a community, about whether our current obstacles to accomplishing our work derive from being constrained by too much (imperfect) structure or from too little stability. When we find it is the former, we ought to seek crises; when we find it is the latter, we ought to avoid crises. After making my case, I offer an example of what it looks look like to implement this conclusion in practice.