Fink’s Notion of Play in the Context of Philosophical Inquiry with Children

Childhood and Philosophy:1-24 (2021)
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Research in education indicates that the Philosophy for Children (P4C) curriculum is instrumental in achieving important educational objectives. And yet, it is precisely this instrumentalist conception of P4C that has been challenged by a second generation of P4C scholars. Among other things, these scholars argue that P4C must remain vigilant toward, and avoid subscribing to 1) developmentalism and 2) a reductive identification of thinking with rationality. On the contrary, they suggest that P4C must ensure that it gives voice to childhood, allowing it to enter a genuine dialogue with adulthood. Scholars who defend a non-reductive and non-instrumentalist approach to P4C, highlight the significance of play in philosophy sessions with children. In this paper I examine the extent to which the philosophical inquiry that takes place in the context P4C can be understood as a playful activity. I submit that Fink’s account of play can help us reach a better understanding of what we mean by play, which in turn can help us examine the compatibility between the activities of P4C and play. In the first part of the paper, I examine some of the basic ideas of P4C and raise the question about the compatibility of philosophical inquiry and play. In the second part of the paper, I engage in a philosophical appreciation of play by drawing on the work of Eugen Fink. In the final part of the paper, I show how play – understood along Fink’s lines – is compatible with philosophical inquiry as practiced in school settings.

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Georgios Petropoulos
University College Dublin


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