‘Let all the lessons of young children take the form of doing rather than talking, let them learn nothing from books that they can learn from experience’ – Rousseau
In the last blog I had mentioned that the attitudes of philosophers towards the concept of play took over a new meaning during the “romantic movement”. Before I delve more about play, there is a need to understand the meaning of the words “romantic movement”, and what exactly happened in the 18th century to term that period as romantic era or movement. Literature review suggests that the pre -romantic period had set rules for people on the basis of which they had to think, feel and behave. people were expected to use reason over emotion, senses over intellect, and so on. The romantic movement was a backlash against the forms and conventions of the society. Romanticism was concerned with living an unrestrained life. Restrain was placed in the field of art, literature and in general on the society. An artist could never draw or paint whatever he wanted, everything had to be very presentable. Literature gave little scope for feelings and imagination. Using reason was the main criteria, so romanticism came out of all these restraints and fought for a more liberal society. Its not only the people in the field of art or literature started thinking liberally, but also philosophers from various fields of expertise. It is at this time that philosophers like Immanuel Kant, Friedrich von Schiller, Jean Jack Rousseau and Johanna Pestalozzi brought play into fore and valued it.
Kant believed that play for adults helped in enhancing higher thought and imagination, which gave way to thirsting for more knowledge. Kant looked at play from cognitive perspective and never linked it to activities. For Kant play meant “playing within the mind –that is imagination” which was more for adults than for children. In the late 18th century the role of play in human experience took a big leap with Schiller identifying the play as an integral part of human life. Schiller’s philosophy of play was concerned to human beings in general and not just for children. According to Schiller, “play is an expenditure of exuberant energy”. Schiller believed, human beings have to work to survive, work consumes human energy, and if there is any energy remaining, that energy is dedicated to play. Schiller says “human beings use play for exploring creativity, for transcending the reality of life in work. This makes play a symbolic activity”.
Philosophies of play emerged during this era, but failed to explain or describe the actual play of children. Jean Jacques Rousseau, Johann Heinrich Pesralozzi and Friedrich Frobel, were the first philosophers to explain play exclusively in relation to children. Let’s delve more into their philosophies in the next blog.