What is the most philosophical thing that you have ever heard a child under the age of 5 say?

by on October 23, 2013 at 1:49 pm in Philosophy | Permalink

That is a new Reddit thread (apologies, I have forgotten who directed my attention to it).  My favorite answer was this Stigler-Becker approach to the matter:

My little sister handed me a juice box as I was packing to move out and said “No one is really a grown up. They just act old because they have to”

The full thread is here.

1 Jim B October 23, 2013 at 2:02 pm

My 4 year old daughter told me while we were driving on the interstate highway to some event: “This side of the highway is for going places, the other side is for getting home.”

2 Dan in Philly October 23, 2013 at 2:05 pm

My 4 year old girl once said “Against that positivism which stops before phenomena, saying “there are only facts” I should say: no, it is precisely facts that do not exist, only interpretations. Now give me some candy!”

3 y81 October 23, 2013 at 2:16 pm

My daughter commented concerning her tropical fish (possibly she was past 5, but not much): “Do they even know that they are fish?”

4 Pshrnk October 23, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Whats water? D.F. Wallace

5 Paul H. Rubin October 23, 2013 at 2:30 pm

My son once asked me “Is that a real clown or just a person dressed up as a clown?:” That was many years ago but I still don’t know how to answer.

6 mkt October 23, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Ceci n’est pas un clown!

7 Jeff J October 23, 2013 at 2:36 pm

My 4 y.o. daughter: “Why do things have names?”

8 Silas Barta October 23, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Why do whats have whats?

9 Chris S October 23, 2013 at 2:56 pm

I was recently reading my 4.5 y.o. daughter a book with words, pictures and definitions.

Me: “This word is ‘selfish.’ Do you know what that means?”
Her: “That’s when you have a bunch of fish, and you sell them.”

A few months ago she spent a great deal of time and questions trying to figure out what dies and what doesn’t. Do unicorns die?

10 Alan Gunn October 23, 2013 at 3:04 pm

No philosophy from my kid, but he did show an inclination toward economics when he was about four. I told him that if he didn’t stop what he was doing he’d have to stand in the corner, and he replied, “for how long?”

11 William October 23, 2013 at 3:28 pm

+1, LOL

12 Greg G October 23, 2013 at 3:06 pm

After my wife made her first attempt to explain Christianity and the crucifixion to our son he asked, “Why did they hang him from that telephone pole? Why didn’t they just shoot him?”

13 Sarah S October 23, 2013 at 3:15 pm

My five year old was dawdling over a drawing she was working on before services one Friday night. I asked her to finish her tree. She colored in the leaves, and I said, “Okay, let’s go in, sweetie.” She replied, “I have to draw the trunk, Mommy. What’s a tree without a trunk?”

14 Ben October 23, 2013 at 3:15 pm

After singing “If You’re Happy and You Know It” with my 3 year old, he asked me, “But what should I do if I’m happy and I don’t know it? What then?”

15 cliff Styles October 23, 2013 at 4:29 pm


16 JRPtwo October 23, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Colleague’s daughter:
Dad, why is it raining?
God makes it rain so the flowers and the grass and the trees can grow.
Dad, why is it raining in the driveway?

17 Zubon October 27, 2013 at 11:43 am

I think the Old Testament has plenty of examples of “indiscriminate aim.”

18 JRPtwo October 23, 2013 at 3:47 pm

My nephew instructing his younger cousin: “You should share. Do you know what sharing is? Sharing is when you have something and you give it to me.”

19 albatross October 23, 2013 at 4:02 pm

That sounds less like philosophy and more like politics.

20 Mark Thorson October 23, 2013 at 6:48 pm

All politics is local.

21 MikeDC October 23, 2013 at 4:24 pm

My now 8 year old, when he was 3, told me “I didn’t promise not to yell, I promised I’d try not to yell”.

He’s very likely going to be a lawyer or politician.

22 Greg G October 23, 2013 at 5:18 pm

In a similar vein, my other son was a notoriously picky eater. His grandmother was convinced he wasn’t eating enough and was determined to get him to eat more.

She asked him if he liked pork chops. He said he did. Then she put a lot of work into making some very delicious pork chops. He refused to take a single bite. “But you said you liked pork chops.” she protested. He replied, “I said I liked them. I didn’t say I’d eat them.”

23 Al October 24, 2013 at 6:01 am

Reminds me of Jeremy Paxman’s infamous interview of Michael Howard: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uwlsd8RAoqI

24 Ian Maitland October 23, 2013 at 5:10 pm

A eureka moment for my son as I buckled him into the child car seat:

“You don’t want me to have a happy life. You want me to have a long life.”

25 CC October 23, 2013 at 5:13 pm

As I was preparing my lecture notes for my econ class my son, looking over my shoulder, turned to me and said: “Any approach that claims to recover the distribution of individual utility parameters from aggregate data based on arbitrary distributional and functional form assumptions is dubious at best,” and then walked right out the door.

26 Alex K. October 23, 2013 at 7:03 pm

If only adults were as thoughtful as your child about aggregation problems in economics, the world would be a better place.

27 alkali October 23, 2013 at 7:03 pm

Kids these days!

28 spad October 23, 2013 at 7:22 pm

Marginal Revolution + Reddit-style comments = marginally better Marginal Revolution.

29 Brandon T. October 23, 2013 at 7:52 pm

I told 4-year-old June it would be five more minutes in the car.

“Minutes? What are they? I can’t *see* them, or touch them.”
“No, I guess you can’t.”
“So how do I know they’re there?”
“Four more minutes and we’ll be there.”

30 Mark Thorson October 24, 2013 at 6:17 pm

A future atheist. Or possibly one already.

31 Handle October 23, 2013 at 8:22 pm

My son at that age, “Why do you say the alarm ‘went off’, when it actually turned on?”

More linguistics than pure philosophy, perhaps, but I always remember it and smile.

32 dearieme October 23, 2013 at 9:20 pm

“Daddy’s too fat for his kilt.”

That’s the human condition summarised nicely.

33 Chakolate October 23, 2013 at 10:15 pm

The young daughter of a friend was about 5 when I gave her and a boy her age a ride to school. The boy was complaining that my car was old and raggedy, and that he only rode in nice cars. He was listing all the fine automobiles he had ridden in when she, very loudly, informed him: “BOY! Don’t you know that a raggedy ride beats a cool walk any day!?!”

34 Shane October 23, 2013 at 10:58 pm

A few months back my then 4-year-old son woke up crying. I went to his room and asked him what was wrong.

His answer: “The clock is moving forward and I want it to go backwards!”

35 Tom West October 23, 2013 at 11:15 pm

After my wife and I spent about an hour talking about the concept of God in response to being peppered by my 5 year old son’s questions on religion, he was quiet for quite some time and then piped up “I think I’ll believe in God because I’ll be happier if I think heaven exists.”

36 Sarah October 24, 2013 at 12:56 am


37 andy October 24, 2013 at 3:37 am

I was speaking about social systems with some friends, when a father of ~4 year old girl told her: see, when you get older, you will be supporting uncle Andy. She turned to me in absolute disdain and replied: I don’t want to support somebody I don’t know.

38 Ed October 25, 2013 at 10:57 am

Hope she gets into politics. That viewpoint would be refreshing.

39 Brian Donohue October 24, 2013 at 3:51 am

Many years ago, my second son died when he was 2-1/2. At the time, my brother-in-law said to my older (5-year old) son that that wasn’t a very long time, and my 5-year old said it probably felt like a long time to him. That may be the most philosophical thing I’ve ever heard anyone say.

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41 XVO October 24, 2013 at 8:54 am


42 Jc October 24, 2013 at 8:12 am

3 year old daughter: “Dad, I want some pie.” Me: “you can’t always get what you want.” Daughter after a few seconds, “dad, I need some pie.”

43 Yancey Ward October 24, 2013 at 11:10 am

I like this one best.

44 Paul October 24, 2013 at 11:01 am

Got my degree in philosophy and this hits me right in my epistemological core:
“You can’t get up from the table until you eat every single pea.”
[picks up a pea] “Are you married or are you single?”[picks up another pea] “Are you married or are you single? Dad, they’re not cooperating.”

45 PK October 24, 2013 at 1:36 pm


46 DH October 24, 2013 at 4:32 pm

Aged 4-5, when challenged by me about changing her mind about something, my daughter replied quite forcefully “It’s my mind and I’ll change it if I want to.” Hasn’t stopped since.

47 Roger Kovaciny October 24, 2013 at 4:51 pm

When my granddaughter put down her baby bottle, I swiped it, pretended to suck on it and said “Dink dink dink dink dink dink dink dink dink!” She very quietly sat there and said “Naughty Papa … Naughty …”

48 JS October 24, 2013 at 9:38 pm

After seeing them for the first time, 4 y.o.: “Why fireworks?”

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