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The Community of Philosophical Inquiry as a place of agon: Exploring children’s experiences of competitiveness in philosophical dialogue

Author:

Baptiste Roucau

Victoria University of Wellington, NZ
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Abstract

This paper explores an important yet overlooked aspect of Philosophy for Children (P4C): how children experience competitiveness in the Community of Philosophical Inquiry (CPI). It describes a qualitative case study conducted with 76 young people (aged 8-17) involved in CPI dialogues in formal and informal educational settings in Canada and New Zealand. Interviews and video observation revealed that participants often experienced dialogues as competitive exchanges in which ‘winning’ consisted of convincing others, while giving in to others’ opinions was associated with defeat and disappointment. Participants recognised the potential dangers of competitiveness, notably the epistemic risk of excluding alternative perspectives and the social risk of damaging their relationships. Participants often successfully managed competitive dynamics by remaining engaged and open-minded. The last part of the paper discusses these findings in relation to theoretical work in P4C, notably Kennedy’s (1997) notion of the CPI as a ‘place of agon.’ Further, it argues that we should rethink the role of competitiveness in the CPI while remaining mindful of its risks, notably by considering its potential as a motivational drive and its place within a larger process of inquiry.

How to Cite: Roucau, B., 2022. The Community of Philosophical Inquiry as a place of agon: Exploring children’s experiences of competitiveness in philosophical dialogue. Journal of Philosophy in Schools, 9(1), pp.84–113. DOI: http://doi.org/10.46707/jps.9ii.148
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Published on 23 Mar 2022.
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