Montessori and Philosophy


Inspired by the prompt, "How does Montessori enact originality and action?", we put together a few philosophical responses. Is not all of philosophy joyous and affirmative?

Maria Montessori was a philosopher, a great philosopher of education. Another way to say the same thing: Maria Montessori was a philosopher for children. The paradox, of course, rests in the "of"...

"What is Philosophy?" As we learned from Deleuze and Guattari, philosophy can be defined as the creation of concepts. A concept needs to be invented. It needs to be created. It needs to be fabricated. 

Concepts are not predetermined or ready-made. They are encountered. Here's Deleuze and Guattari, in a somewhat esoteric passage:

"The concept is not given, it is created: it is to be created. It is not formed but posits itself in itself - it is a self-positing. Creating and self-positing mutually imply each other because what is truly created, from the living being to the work of art, thereby enjoys a self-positing of itself, or an autopoetic characterstic by which it is recognized. The concept posits itself to the same extent that it is created. What depends on a free creative activity is also that which, independent and necessarily, posits itself in itself: the most subjective will be the most objective."

As they explain, what Nietzsche taught us was that in order to truly understand and appreciate concepts, they must be created. They must be experienced. They must be lived through. They cannot be abstracted. 

Enter Montessori.

This may seem like an insurmountable task for education, but this is exactly what Montessori strives to offer. To place children in a concrete relationship with their environment. To help children learn how to think, on their own accord, by inventing their own concepts.

What does thinking involve for Montessori? Not trying to solve problems, but trying to articulate the conditions of their own questions. It's an entirely different logic...a new pedagogy of invention. 

You could also call it creativity. The task of creativity, at least for philosophy, becomes the invention of concepts. It is clear, that this is precisely what Montessori attempts to harness in her classrooms. 

In a developmental sense, which was Montessori's focus of exuberance, it could be said that all of life is creative. Life itself is creative, as it strives towards its own vitality, it's own expressions and movements. Of course, this "vitality" has many names: "creative urge", "life-force", or for Bergson, the "elan vital".

Montessori called the development of a child creative and she sought to foster the conditions in which this development could thrive. Hence the innovation of the prepared environment: a place where concepts come alive.

Bobby George