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Deep Fun

Deep Fun

M.Kaye Prof. Sharon


Nietzsche advanced a sustained criticism of the common religious belief that we must suffer through the present life in order to receive apay-off in the next. We see the same “future-pay-off” mentality in education due to the instrumental approach to pedagogy, which is also standard in the philosophy for children tradition.I argue that we ought to make a concerted effort topromote intrinsic value in education instead. A.S. Neill, founder of the famous “free school” Summerhill, shows that play is intrinsically valuable and logically prior to the work of learning. Children enjoy engaging in spontaneous activities that don’t ultimately matter, especially if they provide humor, wonder, awe, insight, or community. The philosophical novel, when written, taught, or read playfully, has potential to furnish this intrinsic value, thereby offering a promising way of seizing the moment in education.



Friedrich Nietzsche; A.S. Neil; philosophical novel; play; intrinsic value

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“What if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: "This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence - even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!"

Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus?... Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?” (Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, s.341, tr. Walter Kaufmann,

Thinking in Education, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991; 2nd edition, 2003, 221-2.

“On Writing a Philosophical Novel,” Studies in Philosophy for Children, ed. A.M. Sharp and R.F. Reed (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992), p. 5-7.

“A Novel Approach to Philosophy for Children,” Momentum 9(2), pp.33-7.

For example, Thomas E. Wartenberg writes: “Getting children to master the rules for having a philosophical discussion provides them with some f the most basic skills they will need no matter what else they go on to study. So as well as allowing them the m to discuss issues and questions that really matter to them, philosophy also provides them with an important set of cognitive and behavioral skills that will be applicable throughout their education” in Big Ideas for Little Kids, (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2009), p. 33. Likewise, Robert Fisher writes: “There is no better preparation for being an active, responsible and creative citizens than for a child to participate with others in a community of enquiry founded on reasoning, freedom of expression and mutual respect,” in “Philosophical Intelligence: Why Philosophical Dialogue is Important in Educating the Mind” in Philosophy in Schools, ed. Michael Hand and Carrie Winstanley, p. 103.

“ My Pedagogic Creed, . Dewey also makes this point in Democracy and Education, 1916, p. 239.


“Development of Reasoning in Children through Community of Inquiry,” Studies in Philosophy for Children: Harry Stottlemeier’s Discovery, ed. Ann Margaret Sharp and Ronald F. Reed (Temple University Press,1992), pp. 102-103.

Karin Murris makes an argument for introducing philosophy as a foundational, compulsory subject that “deliberately resists the temptation to offer instrumental reasons” in “Autonomous and Authentic Thinking through Philosophy with Picturebooks,” ibid., pp. 105-118. Although her argument is different from mine, to the extent that it relies on the notion of authenticity, it is compatible.

Philosophy and the Young Child, (Harvard University Press, 1980), p. vii.

Thus Spoke Zarathustra, tr. Thomas Common (Dover, 1999), p. 55.


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