Changing Conceptions of the Child From the Renaissance to Post-Modernity: A Philosophy of Childhood

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Traces the connections between childhood and philosophy along multidisciplinary pathways in the humanities. Explores the significance of childhood in Western culture and modal subjectivity in the context, not just of philosophy, but of social and cultural history and the history of ideas, art, literature, mythology, spirituality, psychoanalysis, developmental psychology, and educational theory.


“No one writing on childhood today brings to the topic a richer understanding of philosophy, psychology, art, literature, history, or culture, than Dr. David Kennedy. In the eight essays that make up this volume, Dr. Kennedy offers provocative insights into what it means, has meant, and might mean in the future, to be a child. As we read him we feel the excitement of discovering truths that we want to think we knew all along ... Earlier on in the book, Dr. Kennedy discusses child art and its role in the aesthetic sensibility of twentieth-century art. In a similar vein, the book as a whole encourages us to think anew both about children as thinkers and also about children as imaginers and creators. Given the author’s plausible thesis that we naturally conceive childhood as not-yet-adulthood and adulthood as no-longer-childhood, these essays encourage us above all to re-conceive what it is to be a human being.” – (from the Foreword) Gareth B. Matthews, Professor Emeritus, University of Massachusetts Amherst

“ ... One of the main virtues of Dr. Kennedy’s book is that is combines a set of richly adumbrated, multidisciplinary intellectual tools in order to think philosophically about childhood and, at the same time, to pay close attention – in the context of a specific educational and philosophical configuration called the ‘community of inquiry’ – to what children think ... This book is a tremendous contribution to our understanding of the possibilities, tensions and risks and an outstanding example of a critical appraisal of the educational possibilities of philosophical inquiry with children in pedagogical situations ...” – Professor Walter Omar Kohan, State University of Rio de Janeiro

“This is a thought-provoking collection of essays offering alternate lenses through which to focus on the cultural and social position of the child from the beginnings of modernity to the present. The author’s interdisciplinary and encyclopedic span of the subject enriches both our understanding of how our construction of childhood shapes the possibilities and limitations we project onto children, and our understanding of ourselves as adults engaged with them as the dialogical Other. One of the surprises of this book is that is it as much about adult self-understanding as it is about our understanding of the child ...” – Dr. Jen Glaser, Mandel Leadership Institute

Table of Contents

Foreword by Gareth B. Matthews

Part I – Philosophies of Childhood
1. The Roots of Child Study: Philosophy, History and Religion
2. Child and Fool in the Western Wisdom Tradition
3. Fools, Young Children, Animism, and the Scientific World Picture
4. Subversive Innocence
5. The Child and Post-Modern Subjectivity
6. Parent, Child, Alterity, Dialogue

Part II – Children as Philosophers
7. Young Children’s Discourse and the Origins of the World
8. What Some Second Graders Say About Conflict

Author Index
Subject Index

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