Toward a Philosophy of Thinking

30th Anniversary Conference of the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children IAPC

Linked with Matthew Lipman – USA, and with Cours à distance la philosophie pour les enfants.

The violence prevention team’s ALLOCUTION ORIGINALE (en version anglaise) – The present paper is a transcription of a conference given as part of the Philosophy for Children – Research published on, not dated.

Excerpt: … For a child living in an incestuous family, love becomes perverted. As Ferenczi used to say, there is linguistic confusion. Children need to be loved, and therefore spontaneously seeks love from their parents and loved ones. A parent who sexualizes love with his or her child not only breaks a prohibition but makes the very notion of love confusing to the child. The trauma lies partially in the confusion between the type of love that the child feels for the parent and the kind of love received. The violence lies, on one hand, in the breaking of the prohibition and, on the other hand, in the very fact that the child is placed in a (sexual) situation that he or she cannot understand.

It is a kind of abduction, a despoiling of the child’s intention (affection) by the adult, who uses an erotized and sexualized relationship to change and pervert the child’s initial intention and desire to be loved. The child will have trouble dissociating fond love from erotized love, which will make him or her vulnerable to victimization.

For some children, this can translate into an inability to differentiate types of love and a tendency to sexualize all affective relations. He or she could also cut off all emotion and turn his or her body into a sexual object. The subjugation lies in the fact that the child is an object for the parent, not a subject. Boris Cyrulnik notes that “In such incestuous families, there is nothing sacred in the notion of a sexual act. It is a tool, an interaction without much meaning.

Society has nothing to say about it or see in it. The sexual act is neither socialized nor made sacred because the family’s view of it has made it trivial. Studies show that 50% of prostitutes had their first sexual relation with their father. Should we conclude from this that incest is what pushed them into prostitution? Or that the confusion of roles and emotions that made incest possible also made prostitution possible, since it is closer to the notion of sexuality as a tool than as something sacred?”

A child who is a victim of this form of sexual aggression is the object and subject of parental transgression: an object in so far as he or she is a receptacle of parental desire and a subject as the one who suffers the transgression itself. He or she is thus placed in an untenable position, and experiences an emotional overload. This makes it impossible for him or her to form a clear opinion of what is good or bad, particularly if the circumstances have involved physical pleasure.

In such cases, the child feels pleasure and discomfort simultaneously. Above and beyond the psychological complexity that this can involve at the level of guilt and other emotions, clinical observations have shown that it is essential to help children take their intuitions and perceptions into account.

We know that by establishing the regime of incest, the abusive parent exercises virtually absolute authority over the child and undermines social rules by making them appear to threaten the integrity of the family unit. The child experiences major psychological confusion. The notions of rules and limits, values, and good and bad become fuzzy and ambiguous. Moreover, the physical and/or psychological intrusion into the child’s most private space renders the child defenceless, and without any guides for defining himself or herself or delimiting his or her identity.

Largely, the child feels socially isolated. However, the philosophical work in the community of inquiry should allow the child to glimpse the possibility of setting limits. Indeed, philosophical inquiry promotes the development of thought while taking subjectivity into account so as to build reasoning and develop critical skills. In the very special case of violence, the child will, we hope, be better equipped to seek the help he or she needs … (full long text).

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