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Arie Kizel, Dorit Kershner (Haifa/Israel)#

Circles of Meaning in Philosophy with Children#

In our lecture, we will follow the meaning as a central theme in the philosophical thought of Matthew Lipman (1980, 1989, 1997, 2004). We will present the basic principles and main arguments of Lipman's philosophy, in relation to the theme of meaning. We will discuss the meaning motive, in Lipman's thought, in the context of engaging children in philosophy, presenting children's abilities to carry out a philosophical framework in a community of inquiry, and its contribution to child development components. The presentation is based on a systematic reading of most of his writings.

In Philosophy in the Classroom, Lipman refers in similar terms to the association between meaning and relationships—the meaning created in the relationships between the participants in the community of inquiry and the subject being discussed: “… meaning emerges from the perception of part-whole relationships as well as of means-ends relationships” (Lipman, 1980: 8). In other words, meaning is created as in a game or game-relations in precisely the same way as a word is understood from a sentence or an episode from the context of the film as a whole. Meaning is thus procedural.

We will present a map of the circles that can encourage meaning in the educational process in schools, according to Lipman's philosophy (1956, 1973, 1976, 1978). Those circles are: the creation of meaning in a child's life; social meaning; literacy meaning and cognitive meaning. Then we will analyze those circles from a wide point of view starting from Lipman's criticism of the educational field, in relation to the theme of meaning, to the alternatives he offered to enrich, extend and optimize the production of meaning in the educational process, which takes place in school.

One of the most important conclusions of our lecture is the direct connection between meaning and thinking, and if we look on thinking as a form of enlightenment today, we can learn a lot about the connection between enlightenment and education. Philosophy with children could cultivate developing a variety of thinking skills, like independent and critical thinking, and thereby also increases and enriches the circles of meaning in the educational process in school.