Gareth B. Matthews, The Child's Philosopher  book cover
1st Edition

Gareth B. Matthews, The Child's Philosopher

ISBN 9781138342736
Published August 27, 2021 by Routledge
300 Pages

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Book Description

Gareth B. Matthews, The Child’s Philosopher brings together groundbreaking essays by renowned American philosopher Gareth B. Matthews in three fields he helped to initiate: philosophy in children’s literature, philosophy for children, and philosophy of childhood. In addition, contemporary scholars critically assess Matthews’ pioneering efforts and his legacy.

Gareth B. Matthews (1929-2011) was a specialist in ancient and medieval philosophy who had conversations with young children, discovering that they delight in philosophical puzzlement and that their philosophical thinking often enriched his own understanding. Those conversations became the impetus for a substantial component of Matthews’ scholarship, from which this book features essays spanning the length of his career. Contemporary contributors to the book critically evaluate Matthews’ scholarship, showing where he broke new ground and identifying developments and debates in the fields he helped to initiate. They take up pressing challenges, including biased idealizations of childhood in children’s literature; the tensions between teaching philosophy to, and doing philosophy with young people; the merits of theorizing childhood without theorizing children; and how professional philosophy at once desires and resists a return to childhood.

This second volume in the Philosophy for Children Founders series is an important resource for philosophers, educators, and anyone interested in children’s philosophical thinking, developmental psychology, what it means to philosophize with children, the nature of childhood, and how children’s literature goes philosophical. It will guide and inspire those who share Matthews’ conviction that the impulse to philosophize begins in early childhood.

Contributors (in addition to Gareth B. Matthews): Stephanie Burdick-Shepherd, Cristina Cammarano, Claire Cassidy, Stanley Cavell, Maughn Rollins Gregory, Jennifer Glaser, Walter Omar Kohan, Megan Jane Laverty, Jana Mohr Lone, Karin Murris, Peter Shea, Susan M. Turner, Susannah Sheffer.

Table of Contents

Series editors' introduction



About the Editors


Gareth B. Matthews: A Philosopher's Life with Children

Megan Jane Laverty and Maughn Rollins Gregory

Time and Place for Philosophy

Stanley Cavell

PART I: Gareth B. Matthews on Philosophy and Children’s Literature

1 Age-Transgressive Philosophizing with Children’s Literature

Karin Murris

2 Philosophy and Children’s Literature

Gareth B. Matthews

3 The Philosophical Imagination in Children’s Literature

Gareth B. Matthews

4 Thinking in Stories

Gareth B. Matthews

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Not Now, Bernard by David McKee

The Mountains of Tibet by Mordecai Gerstein

PART II: Gareth B. Matthews on Children’s Philosophical Thinking

5 Gareth B. Matthews on the Child as Philosopher

Stephanie Burdick-Shepherd and Cristina Cammarano

6 Holiness

Gareth B. Matthews

7 Creativity in the Philosophical Thinking of Children

Gareth B. Matthews

PART III: Gareth B. Matthews on the Socratic Teacher

8 Socratic Teaching, What Can it Be?

Peter Shea

9 Socrates’ Children

Gareth B. Matthews

10 Whatever Became of the Socratic Elenchus? Philosophical Analysis in Plato

Gareth B. Matthews

PART IV: Gareth B. Matthews on Philosophy of Developmental Psychology

11 Gareth B. Matthews’ Philosophy of Psychology

Jennifer Glaser

12 Concept Formation and Moral Development

Gareth B. Matthews

13 Children, Irony and Philosophy

Gareth B. Matthews

PART V: Gareth B. Matthews on Philosophy of Childhood

14 Gareth B. Matthews:  Philosophy of Childhood or Children?

Walter Omar Kohan and Claire Cassidy

15 A Philosophy of Childhood

Gareth B. Matthews

16 Introduction to The Philosopher's Child: Critical Perspectives in the Western Tradition

Susan M. Turner and Gareth B. Matthews

17 Children as Philosophers: Interview with Gareth Matthews

Gareth B. Matthews and Susannah Sheffer


Jana Mohr Lone



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Maughn Rollins Gregory is Professor of Educational Foundations at Montclair State University, USA. Together with Megan Jane Laverty, he edits the Philosophy for Children Founders series, including In Community with Ann Margaret Sharp: Childhood, Philosophy and Education (Routledge, 2017). 

Megan Jane Laverty is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, USA. Together with Maughn Rollins Gregory, she edits the Philosophy for Children Founders series, including In Community with Ann Margaret Sharp: Childhood, Philosophy and Education (Routledge, 2017). 


"Gareth Matthews's work is important, both for philosophers and for anyone interested in children and childhood. Subtle and profoundly insightful, it displays the capacity of children for philosophical thinking, probes the philosophical aspects of children's literature, articulates practices of Socratic teaching, and meditates about the concept of childhood. Now, in this superbly edited volume, his work, too little known, will assume its just place in the middle of important philosophical achievements of the twentieth century.The volume's introductory and critical essays add greatly to its value. Congratulations are due to all involved."

Martha C. Nussbaum, Law School and Philosophy Department, The University of Chicago

"When one hears the word philosophy, the word conjures up a subject that is difficult, abstruse, and not to be taught until the college or post-graduate level. Yet, philosophy provides not just a subject matter, but also a way of thinking that can provide razor-sharp reasoning, moral clarity, and unparalleled intellectual excitement. Gareth Matthews showed that all the excitement and intellectual benefits of studying philosophy could be shared not just with advanced students, but also with children from the elementary school level, onward. I recommend this book most highly to anyone who wants to learn about Matthews and how it became possible to share with children a world that could teach them how to think and how to live."

Robert J. Sternberg, Cornell University, Honorary Professor of Psychology, University of Heidelberg, Germany, author of The Nature of Intelligence and its Development in Childhood (2020)

"A brilliant and imaginative book, which collects many of Gareth Matthews' wonderful essays and frames them with original essays by expert scholars. Everyone interested in philosophy and childhood should read it, and philosophers not interested in childhood will be if they read it."

Harry Brighouse, Mildred Fish Harnack Professor of Philosophy and Carol Dickson Bascom Professor of the Humanities, University of Wisconsin-Madison, author of Educational Goods: Values and Evidence in Decision-Making (University of Chicago Press)

''There’s so much to appreciate in this new volume on Gareth B. Matthews, full of fascinating material by Matthews and his colleagues and beautifully book-ended by testimonials from Stanley Cavell and Jana Mohr Lone. But what I particularly admire (being a literature scholar by training) is the book’s focus on Matthews’s affirmation of children’s literature as a philosophical enterprise in its own right. Even more than the other founders of the philosophy for children movement, Matthews recognized and affirmed the "philosophical whimsy," in children’s literature--a narrative expression of wonder and perplexity that invites us all to think and dream. As this volume shows, Matthews’ understanding of children’s literature now permeates and inspires philosophical work with children. I learned so much from this engaging and beautifully designed book, and recommend it with much enthusiasm.''

Kenneth B. Kidd, University of Florida, author of Theory for Beginners: Children’s Literature as Critical Thought (Fordham).

"In the rich and exciting world of philosophers thinking about childhood—children as philosopher, children's literature as philosophy, what philosophy can tell us about childhood, what children can bring to philosophy—few tower as tall as does Gareth B. Matthews, and many follow in the path that he blazed. To read Professor Matthews' work on the interaction of philosophy and childhood is to enter a world that quickly reminds us what makes philosophy so wonderful and powerful. This collection of Professor Matthews' writings, coupled with reflections on his enduring legacy written by some of the leading researchers and practitioners working in the philosophical areas at the core of much of Professor Matthews' own written output, are a fitting tribute to his legacy. Maughn Rollins Gregory and Megan Jane Laverty are to be commended for putting together a compelling volume, which will hopefully spur more philosophers to see how well children and philosophy serve one another and perhaps even to engage in work that brings the two together." 

Karen Detlefsen, Professor of Philosophy and Education at the University of Pennsylvania, editor of Descartes' Meditations: A Critical Guide (Cambridge) and co-editor of Women and Liberty, 1600-1800: Philosophical Essays (Oxford)

"A rich and provocative volume that combines a range of Matthews’ influential essays with critical new discussions of their importance. The result is a powerful demonstration that engaging questions of children and childhoods transforms philosophical thinking and practice. A perfect resource both for students and scholars new to Matthews and for anyone wishing to take the work he inspired to the next level."

John Wall, Professor of Philosophy, Religion, and Childhood Studies, Rutgers University, author of Ethics in Light of Childhood and Give Children the Vote

"Gareth B. Matthews, The Child’s Philosopher will be an invaluable resource for those with interest in a fine philosopher who made contributions not only to the history of philosophy, philosophy of religion and philosophy of mind, but also to the still emerging philosophy of childhood. Furthermore, Matthews’ work with children, and with educators, clearly evinced significant respect for children and the power of even quite young children to raise and be interested in exploring major philosophical issues. This book makes the nature of that work very clear and powerfully combines Matthews’ own writings (on Socratic elenchus, and the problems with deficit models of childhood, and techniques for encouraging children to do philosophy, among other topics) with the reflections of a variety of contemporary thinkers (and one recently deceased long-time friend and philosopher, Stanley Cavell) who appreciate and critique Matthews’ work. This book is highly recommended for those with an interest in the nature of childhood, the role of children’s literature in stimulating philosophical engagement, and the contributions that children’s philosophizing can make to future generations of children and adults alike."

Amy Mullin, University of Toronto, author of Reconceiving Pregnancy and Childcare: Ethics, Experience and Reproductive Labor 

"This excellent volume brings together Matthews’ scholarship on philosophy and children’s literature, philosophy of childhood, and children as philosophers. Also containing insightful contributions by his commentators and collaborators, this is an invaluable resource for philosophers writing on children and/or childhood, as well as for those who want to learn about philosophical work in this area. This rich collection would be a terrific text for an upper level or graduate class on philosophy and children and I predict it will also be a vital research tool."

Samantha Brennan, Dean of the College of Arts and Professor of Philosophy, University of Guelph

"The quality of a person’s thinking and being can partly be measured by the quality of what others create in response. This book bears remarkable witness to a remarkable person. Whilst the collection of Matthews’ writings speaks powerfully for itself, the editors have brought out the best in constructive criticism from their colleagues, to create a perfect combination of a history of ideas and a celebration of developing practice. P4C has been going for over 50 years now, and the ‘Philosophy for Children Founders’ series shows that it has both sound roots and fruitful branches, not least in the continuing reconceptualization of childhood, philosophy and education. There is still a long way to go before the qualities of Matthews and other founders of P4C are fully appreciated, let alone translated into a more philosophical and playful educational system. But this book is a bridge into the next 50 years, during which our species will either re-sow the seeds of humane philosophy or reap the shrivelled fruits of technocratic implants."

Roger Sutcliffe, co-founder of DialogueWorks,, and the Society for the Advancement of Philosophical Enquiry and Reflection in Education (SAPERE); author of Thinking Moves A-Z: Metacognition Made Simple

"A penetrating extension and enrichment of the conversations about children, childhood, children's literature, and philosophy that Gareth B. Matthews pioneered so brilliantly decades ago. Invaluable for anyone fascinated by the philosophical thinking of children and how best to engage with, and benefit from it. Rich and rewarding!"

Claudia Mills, children’s book author and emerita professor of philosophy, University of Colorado, Boulder.

"Gareth B. Matthews’ extraordinary capacity for listening with a "third ear" to children’s spontaneous thinking led him in several directions, all of which are documented in this volume, both in his own papers and those of his commentators, which are geared to his, and help us to place his contributions in the larger contexts of child study, cognitive development theory, children’s literature, and philosophical pedagogy. As such, he turns the old adultomorphic prime time saw "kids say the darndest things" on its head, to "kids say the most philosophically interesting things," and demonstrates this with numerous examples, taken from a good thirty years of engaging in philosophical dialogue with groups of children, and with examples from conversations with his own young children."

David Kennedy, Montclair State University, author of The Well of Being (SUNY Press 2006), in childhood & philosophy 17(2021): 01–07.

This new book from the Routledge series, Philosophy for Children Founders, is a masterful and completely engaging account of the impact Gareth Matthews had on the movement(s) loosely labeled "Philosophy for/with Children." Each contributor is actively engaged with the others in weaving together a rich accolade to Matthews, while at the same time, maintaining a critical stance to invite further work in this field. I found this to be the most impressive aspect of this volume and attribute it to the work of the two editors, Gregory and Laverty, both experienced leaders in running a "community of inquiry." I can easily imagine Gareth Matthews would entirely approve and, if he were with us, would eagerly enter into the conversation.

Wendy C. Turgeon, St. Joseph's College, author of Philosophical Adventures with Fairy Tales: New Ways to Explore Familiar Tales with Kids of All Ages (Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2020) in Analytic Teaching and Philosophical Praxis 42, no. 1 (2022): 86-92.