Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Deborah Perron Tollefsen
Mary Beth Mader
The child of Western philosophy is conceptualized in a two-fold manner: first, in the work of philosophers ranging from Plato to Rawls, the child is defined through a negation of the positive traits of the adult. The child is not-rational (as the adult is), not moral (as the adult is), not-citizen (as the adult can be). In short, the child is conceptualized as the non-adult, lacking (or possessing in primitive form) the qualities of the adult. Second, given his deficient classification, the child is regarded as a being-to-be-transformed. The child must be corrected and become the adult prior to his inclusion in moral and political realms. This dual conceptualization of the child as a deficient being is informed by a correlative idealization of the adult as a rational, autonomous, moral and political agent. In relation to the ideal adult, the child--both in the canon and, ultimately, in the world--has been produced as a subjected being. Conceptualized and approached as a deficient being, the child is subjected to the corrective strategies of the adult and, further, to a deficient self-identification. In contesting the subjection of the child, Iargue that the canonical uniformity between moral and political existence and adult existence must be deconstructed. It then becomes possible to reconsider moral and political existence apart from adulthood and recognize, perhaps for the first time, the child's moral and political possibilities. Philosophers--both in theory and practice--can begin to ask what children can be apart from their deficient classification and begin to listen for the voices of children in moral and political realms. In doing so, we begin to develop a new conception of the child and the moral and political existence of children.
dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.
Burroughs, Michael Dean, "Ideal Adults, Deficient Children: The Discourse on the Child in Western Philosophy" (2012). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 599.