The Importance of Continuing the Heritage of Lipman’s Philosophical Fiction: Writing Stories for the Contemporary World


  • Maria Miraglia


The aim of this contribution is to argue for the continuing effectiveness of the Lipmanian novel, and the usefulness of producing new stories in the Lipman style. While the use of philosophical texts created by Lipman and Sharp is still significant from a pedagogical point of view, recalibrations are needed to address new educational emergences. Going back to the pedagogical aims that moved Lipman in the construction of philosophical stories and to the intentions behind the creation of such a literary genre, I will suggest that the Lipmanian novel represents a device for recovering the dialogical origins of the Western philosophical tradition through a reappropriation of the orality that is said to have characterized Socratic dialogue in its original form —beyond the representation made of that dialogue from Plato onwards which served as a literary expedient, designed to expose and clarify theories already previously defined (Cosentino, 2017). Instead, Lipman’s stories place dialogue, although embedded in writing, as close as possible to orality, and thereby recover the authenticity of the inquiry that the early Greek philosophers are reputed to have put in the field with their questioning. As such, the philosophical novels of Lipman and Sharp represent the best device for achieving both the pedagogical purposes of P4C and the authenticity of dialogical philosophical inquiry. However, while continuing the novelistic form that he initiated, we should remain mindful of the need to construct story-settings in which we can clearly identify the connections between the fictitious community of inquirers as represented in those stories —which is the Lipmanian trademark— and the complex, emergent, shifting frames of reference of the contemporary world. To illustrate this, I offer an example of the construction of an ad hoc curriculum within the framework of the European project PEACE (Philosophical Enquiry Advancing Cosmopolitan Engagement) —a specific project designed to provide a particular understanding of cosmopolitanism that seeks to generate a “reflective loyalty to the known and reflective openness to the new” (Hansen, 2011, p. 99) through communal inquiry prompted by a philosophical text. I will examine the aims and purposes that led to the construction of this text, and how it attempts to remain as faithful as possible to the Lipmanian model, while updating its themes and frames of reference.