Philosophical Musings of a Three-Year Old

My beautiful, brilliant and extremely delightful daughter, Ashley, has recently been showing signs of a budding philosopher (as well as a budding ballerina, a budding botanist, and a budding comedian).  Below are some of the more philosophical comments and inquiries that she has posed recently:

  • (1) Application of the principle of non-contradiction. How so? We use a timer that we call a “dinger” when we put her in “time-out” for disciplinary purposes. Our dinger recently bit the dust, and we have yet to replace it. A few days ago, I needed to put her in time-out, and after doing so realized that we still are without a dinger. So I told Ashley that I would be the dinger, seeing that she was protesting that without a dinger she didn’t or couldn’t possibly stay in time-out. Right before I left the room, Ashley, with a very serious look on her face said, “How can you be the dinger? You are the momma?”
  • (2) Am I my body? Before turning out the lights and saying goodnight, we often ask Ashley what her job is, that is, we pose the question, “what are you supposed to do?” To which she answers, “Stay in bed and go to sleep.” Lately, we’ve had a difficult time getting her to stay in bed, as she likes to explore in her toy box and make up all kinds of imaginary worlds, which each get their own song and characters. So we’ve added, “show us with your body that you will stay in bed”-meaning show us with your actions not just your words. To this, Ashley asked, pointing to her toe, “Is this my body?” “Yes,” we said. Then she pointed to her elbow, “is this also my body?” “Yes,” we answered. Ashley looked puzzled, as if she wanted to ask, “shouldn’t we then say bodies, and not body?” or “how many bodies do I have?” Then she touched the bedpost and asked, “Is this my body?” “No,” we replied. Pointing back at herself, she asked, “Am I my body?” Pretty good question for a three-year old.

8 thoughts on “Philosophical Musings of a Three-Year Old”

  1. Cynthia,

    Apropos comment # 2:

    I trust you replied: “Yes, you are your body.” Otherwise, she might begin to formulate a irreparable Cartesian dualism that could be detrimental to her later philosophical project. ;)


  2. Hi Kyle,

    Well, we definitely do not want a Cartesian dualist running around the house, but neither do we want her to think that she is only her body and no more (i.e. no materialistic reduction : )

    Best wishes,

  3. It’s gonna get tricky when she starts dating, though. Just when you think you’ve done everything to raise your daughter right, she comes home with some Hobbesian nut. That’s when it’s time to sit down for a little Dialogue.

  4. Cynthia,

    We may have a future match (or at least a kindred spirit) for Ashley.

    After watching the movie “Meet the Robinsons” several times with our grandson Ethan (6 yrs), we had some discussions about the future. For those not familiar with the movie, the main character (a geeky 12 year old boy who invents things) goes into the future and ends up meeting his son who is currently about his age. He also meets his yet-to-be met adopted parents, his future wife, and many other family members. Then he goes back to the past and sees his mother drop him off at an orphanage. Then we zoom into the future again to see what might happen if he doesn’t go back to his present. Pixar must think young kids are very sophisticated to take in all this time travel. Anyway, Ethan asked a slew of questions. After numerous attempts to explain to him what the future actually is, he asked the culminating question: “Why is there a future?”

  5. Isn’t it amazing what kinds of questions kids ask? I’ll make sure to tell Ashley about Ethan (that is, in about 15-20 years, when we decide to let her date : ).

  6. Hi,

    I saw your site c/o Faith & Theology. great!

    I was wondering if I could read a version of your forthcoming paper on Augustine and the text. I’m writing a book on theological method and focusing on De Doctrina Christiana. Your article would help me focus my argument. Thanks, Paul Allen

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