Plato On Children and Childhood

Childhood and Philosophy 1 (1):11-32 (2005)

Walter Kohan
Rio de Janeiro State University
In this paper, we present a compendium of excerpts of Plato´s dialogues on childhood. We have collected the major references to children and childhood through Plato’s opus, and divided them between those categorizations of children which can be as small as phrases which use “child” as an example of a certain kind of disposition or character; and those passages which deal with the education of children. Of course the two books in which Plato speaks most of children and childhood—Laws and The Republic—are both devoted in varying degrees to systematic education, and space does not permit us to include any but the most salient elements of his very broadly conceived scheme, which naturally extends backwards into the procreation of children, and before that, the management of union between the sexes, and the purposes of procreation. As for Plato’s attitude towards children, we will leave the reader to evaluate that, but we offer several questions: 1) What does Plato’s view of childhood imply about his view of adulthood? 2) Can Plato be understood to have held views of childhood any different from his contemporaries? 3) What are the political implications of Plato’s views of childhood—especially given his frequent association of children with women, slaves, and the “ignorant multitude”? 4) What do Plato’s views of childhood matter to his philosophy as a whole? 5) And finally, what do they matter to the understanding of children as philosophers themselves?
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