Grown-upness or living philosophically?

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This article addresses a particular element of Gert Biesta’s presentation to the International Council for Philosophical Inquiry with Children conference in Madrid, 2017: the notion of grown-upness and how this might be problematic in practising Philosophy with Children. Biesta’s grown-upness seems to imply a deficit view of children, despite his suggestion that the concept is not a developmental one. It is proposed here that the idea of grown-upness demands that children are positioned by others – adult others – which further denies their agency and fails to allow that they may be active in the world they inhabit. Biesta’s suggestion that grown-upness is about ‘a way of being in the world’ is discussed in relation to how Philosophy with Children positively encourages participants to engage with others by attending to a range of views and perspectives without situating themselves at the centre. What is proposed is that the very practice of Philosophy with Children enables participants to engage with questions of interest to themselves and others in a community of philosophical inquiry. Community is seen as crucial in supporting individuals to recognise the world and those other than themselves in living and thinking together. This, it is suggested, is about living philosophically rather than being ‘grown-up’. The article concludes that emphasis on the philosophical element of the practice rather than on the children who engage in it may address the deficit view of children/child thrown-up by Biesta. In considering the ‘age of instrumentalism’, as Biesta calls it, and how Philosophy with Children might tackle this, it may be more helpful to talk about practical philosophy or community of philosophical inquiry, where child/adult status is not the focus.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalChildhood and Philosophy
Issue number28
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 28 Aug 2017


  • philosophy with children
  • child
  • grown-upness
  • practical philosophy
  • community of philosophical inquiry


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