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The Child in the World

Embodiment, Time, and Language in Early Childhood

Eva M. Simms

Publication Year: 2008

The Child in the World builds a bridge between continental philosophers, who tend to overlook child existence, and developmental psychologists, who often fail to consider the philosophical assumptions underlying their work. In this volume, author Eva M. Simms draws on both psychological and phenomenological research to investigate child existence in its cultural and historical context and explore the ways children interact with the world around them. Simms examines key experiences of childhood with special attention to the non-dualistic nature of the child’s consciousness and the understanding that there is more to the child’s experiences than cognitive processes. In chapters that proceed from infancy to early childhood, Simms considers how children live their embodiment, coexist with others, experience and the spaces and places of their neighborhoods, have deeply felt relations to things, grasp time intuitively and often in contradiction to adult clock-time, and are transformed by the mystery of the symbolic order of play and language. Simms’s approach is particularly informed by the philosophy of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, which allows for a descriptive and grounded understanding of child experience as well as sophisticated and critical philosophical thinking about human existence in general. By respecting and celebrating the magical non-dualistic relationship child consciousness has to the world, The Child in the World offers readers a unique opportunity to expand their understanding of human existence. Students and teachers of psychology and philosophy, early childhood educators, psychotherapists, as well as general readers who are parents of young children will enjoy this fascinating volume.

Published by: Wayne State University Press

Series: Landscapes of Childhood


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Title Page

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi

A book is a long time in the making, and there are many friends who assisted in the creation of this one. I want to thank Michael Simms, my husband, for his unfailing encouragement of my writing and his willingness to read...

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pp. 1-9

This book was conceived when my children were small. I vowed to be “a thinking mother,” which meant to me that the phenomena of our lives as parents and children were worthy of philosophical reflection. On the one hand...

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1. Milk and Flesh: Infancy and Coexistence

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pp. 11-25

The day after our daughter, Lea, was born, I watched her sleep next to me on the big bed. Even before she stirred I could feel the milk come down into my breasts. Lea whimpered, opened her eyes, and I picked her up. Greedily...

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2. The World’s Skin Ever Expanding: Spatiality and the Structures of Child Consciousness

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pp. 27-58

Spatiality is inscribed into our bodies and souls. The toddler, called by curiosity and desire, steps into the spatial web and moves along its threads. The sunlight falls onto the bare floorboards and beckons. It lights up the hand...

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3. About Hens, Hands, and Old-Fashioned Telephones: Gestural Bodies and Participatory Consciousness

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pp. 59-79

In medieval illuminated manuscripts and pre-Renaissance paintings we find many depictions of the human body that strike the modern reader as odd. We come across the infant Jesus sitting or standing on his mother’s lap: sometimes...

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4. The Child in the World of Things

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pp. 81-107

More than any other existential form (such as space, time, and other human beings) things are present, tangible, and near in the environment of the body, but they also withdraw from philosophical reflection. They are close and distant at the same time. Things are so ordinary that they...

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5. Playing at the Edge: What We Can Learn from Therapeutic Play

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pp. 109-126

By the end of the twentieth century the connection between early childhood and play seemed well established and generally accepted in the humanities and social sciences: philosophers, poets, educators, and psychologists seemed to agree that early childhood is the...

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6. Because We Are the Upsurge of Time: Toward a Genetic Phenomenology of Lived Time

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pp. 127-161

At a conference in Davos during the late 1920s, Albert Einstein posed a set of questions to the philosophers and psychologists who were present: “Is our intuitive grasp of time primitive or derived? Is it identical with our intuitive...

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7. Babble in the House of Being: Pointing, Grammar, and Metaphor in Early Language Acquisition

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pp. 163-194

Every afternoon my grandmother’s uneven steps echoed through the hospital hallway, and I knew she was coming long before she appeared in the doorway. My bed was in the middle, wedged between two others in the children’s ward. I was five years old...

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8. The Invention of Childhood: Historical and Cultural Changes in Selfhood and Literacy

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pp. 195-221

From the City Chronicle of Cologne, AD 1213: In this year occurred an outstanding thing and one much to be marveled at, for it is unheard of throughout the ages. About the time of Easter and Pentecost...


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pp. 223-232

Works Cited

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pp. 233-242


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pp. 243-249

E-ISBN-13: 9780814338407
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814333754

Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 9
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Landscapes of Childhood