Proceedings of the XXII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 45, 2008

Philosophy of Religion

Maughn Gregory
Pages 125-135

Philosophy and Children’s Religious Experience

Philosophy serves to determine and clarifying the meaning of experience, and to make experience more meaningful, in both of the senses that Dewey distinguished: to broaden the range and amplify the value of qualities we experience, and to multiply their relevant ties to other experiences. Children’s experience is replete with philosophical meaning, and in facilitating children’s search for meaning, we are obliged to lead them in the directions that we ourselves have found most fruitful, though we should avoid the “adultist fallacy,” of thinking that meanings experienced in childhood are merely instrumental to more mature meanings of adulthood, and the “fallacy of omniscience,” assuming that the meaning of children’s experience is completely accessible by adults. All of this applies to the realm of religious experience, which may be organized into four categories: socio-cultural, analytic, ethical and phenomenological. Learning a process of philosophical inquiry that is rigorous, public and open-ended might enable children to both inhabit their religious and spiritual experiences more fully, and to take some critical distance from them, in order to become more open to the kinds of religious experiences they deem most meaningful.