Precollege Philosophy and Public Practice

Volume 4, Spring 2022

Senem Saner
Pages 69-90

P4C as Microcosm of Civil Society

Philosophy for Children (P4C) practice and its distinctive method of cultivating communities of philosophical inquiry model two main functions of democratic civil society. Civil society makes explicit the implicit agreement of communal membership and common belonging and mediates the diverse interests and values of community members. An essential principle of civil society that underlies these two functions is that its members possess intrinsic and political equality, fostering a unique space for civic engagement and democratic will-formation. P4C programs enact these functions of civil society: as children encounter philosophical questions, speak their minds, listen to one another, disagree, and puzzle out the reasons for their disagreements, the main aim is that they engage in collaborative inquiry. I argue that free and open-access P4C programs at public libraries are microcosms of civil society in the serendipitous accidental coming together of strangers. These programs enact civil society insofar as they motivate and exercise civic virtues of collaboration and critical reflection by practicing community of inquiry through self-correcting dialogue.