Have you ever noticed the tendency for adults to send children away from the ‘adult table’ at Holiday dinners? Or maybe you have seen the frustration in an adults eyes when a child will not cease asking “why”. The persistence of children in what seems mundane to adults may be annoying to some, but for others, it is a source of immense joy. Maybe you have seen the innate curiosity and wonder in a child’s questions that seems absent from the way that adults speak of the world, and this awe and wonder at the natural world is precisely why children make better philosophers than most adults.
As we get older we are conditioned out of this method of reasoning that occurs naturally. We are told not to ask so many questions, or we are told when we ask a question too difficult for our parents to answer, “That is just the way it is!” But this seems inadequate, not only to children, but even to adults as we reflect upon our earlier curiosity. It seems that the transition between childhood and adulthood could be characterized as the child ‘growing out of’ asking so many questions or just accepting that we may never know the answers. How tragic this attitude towards children is! The future generations are being stifled, seeing adults annoyed by asking questions, it seems unlikely they will not succumb to the same fate.
Consider though the intuitive genius of the child. They truly are better philosophers than most adults. If a child sees an object they have never seen before they ask the most obvious question first, “What is it?” Echoing Aristotle’s formal cause, the child realizes the telos involved in any given object and recognizes immediately that it must be purposeful and must have a name. The child after being told the name of the object, and after close inspection asks, “What is it made out of?” which is the material cause according to Aristotle. They realize it must be a composite or its own substance intuitively and accordingly inquire about the nature of the object. They then move to the origin of the object and wonder, “Where did it come from?” This is Aristotle’s efficient cause, and is precisely what leads to the idea of a prime mover. Whether the child carries the chain of causality to the extent or recognizing the existence of God may be questionable, but the child does intuitively understand that nothing exists without a sufficient reason for its existence.
This may seem unremarkable, and you may ask yourself, does science and do adults not ask these same questions of objects, and the answer would be yes, although maybe not as methodically as a child does. But what makes the child’s wonder remarkable is their asking about the purpose of objects. A child may ask what a rock is for, or why does the sky exist, and these are not to be taken lightly, for the child is truly asking about the final cause as Aristotle defined it. The final cause has been abandoned in modern science, and even in the group mind, but the child recognizes that everything has a purpose intuitively, without provocation, and wonders about the purposes of all objects. For this reason, children make better philosophers than adults.
Adults become indoctrinated into the cult of logic and deductive reasoning through the notion that mathematical proofs reign supreme over intuition and common sense. Should you want to prove your own existence you will need an intricate systems of interwoven premises and conclusions that can be verified by truth tables and symbolic logic. Logic replaces the logos in the modern adult mind. Children however have not been weaned off of their imagination yet, and as such they create reason. They are still bound by logic as a guideline for understanding their own inductions but they are not limited to “If A then B…” A child recognizes the law of non-contradiction instinctively. They realize that something cannot both be and not be simultaneously, and although they may not be able to articulate this, it still guides their thought.
Children have not yet been brought into the muck and mire of skepticism which pervades the adult mind. Children are rooted in sense wonder. They have a different perspective on the world than their adult counterparts. While the adult is perpetually looking downward at the world, stuck in the material, the child is constantly looking upward, eyes fixed towards the heavens, and reasoning through imagination. I recommend everyone at your next family dinner, to sit at the kids table, you might be amazed at the ability of children to confound even the smartest adult, and bring a smile to your face and wonder to your own mind.
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