Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


College of Education and Human Services


Educational Foundations

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Mark Weinstein

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Tyson E. Lewis

Committee Member

David Kennedy

Committee Member

Maughn R. Gregory


In my dissertation, I advance an argument for a non-directional conceptualization of philosophy with children as a pedagogical practice. Drawing from the work of Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, I argue that engaging students in philosophical dialogue, conceived as a communal experimentation with concepts, allows for the experience of what Agamben calls infancy—an ontological state of openness toward new ways of speaking and thinking. Rather than being directed at specific goals or outcomes, the practice of philosophy (thus conceived), I argue, should be seen as a paradigm for an educational (as well as social, and political) form of life, aimed at individual and communal well-being.

I begin my argument by showing how infancy is an integral aspect of historical conceptions of the practice of philosophy (Socratic Philosophy, Nietzsche, Dewey, and Phenomenology). I then demonstrate how the notion of infancy is also contained in contemporary conceptions of education that seek to redeem the idea underlying progressive education (and that of Dewey, in particular) that education needs to be rooted in experience. Tracing the notion of infancy in the work of John Dewey, Ivan Illich, Hannah Arendt, Gert Biesta, Jan Masschelein and Maarten Simons, Jacques Rancière, and Tyson Lewis, I conclude that the practice of philosophy is uniquely able to allow for the kind of experience that these scholars consider central to education: An experience that is valuable in itself, while also pointing—in a weakly utopian gesture—beyond the given. I go on to demarcate the compatibility of the idea of infancy with existing conceptions of philosophy with children. I then develop in detail what a practice of philosophy with children based on infancy (Philosophy for Infancy, or P4I) looks like at the level of the classroom, and what makes its inclusion in the curriculum both suitable and desirable. I conclude with an exploration of the use of the practice of philosophy for infancy as a pedagogical practice, in the school as a whole, and in society—considering its role in a number of conceptions of society: Dewey’s Great Community, Rorty’s Liberal Utopia, and Agamben’s Coming Community.

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