Our six year old has been in camp this week during fall break.  He and a friend spent much of it making these movies.  I’m trying to determine precisely how disturbed to feel.

About Sean D. Kelly

Sean Dorrance Kelly is the Teresa G. and Ferdinand F. Martignetti Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University. He is also Faculty Dean at Dunster House, one of the twelve undergraduate Houses at Harvard. He served for six years as chair of Harvard's Department of Philosophy. Kelly earned an Sc.B. in Mathematics and Computer Science and an M.S. in Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences from Brown University in 1989. After three years as a Ph.D. student in Logic and Methodology of Science, he received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of California at Berkeley in 1998. Before arriving at Harvard in 2006, Kelly taught at Stanford and Princeton, and he was a Visiting Professor at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris. Sean Kelly's work focuses on various aspects of the philosophical, phenomenological, and cognitive neuroscientific nature of human experience. He is a world authority on 20th century European Philosophy, specializing in the work of Martin Heidegger and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. He has also done influential work in philosophy of mind and philosophy of perception. Kelly has published articles in numerous journals and anthologies and he has received fellowships or awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the NEH, the NSF and the James S. McDonnell Foundation, among others. Fun fact: He appeared on The Colbert Show in 2011 to talk about All Things Shining. Sean Kelly lives at Dunster House with his wife, the Harvard Philosopher Cheryl Kelly Chen, and their two boys, Benjamin and Nathaniel.
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13 Responses to Moviemaking

  1. David Leech says:

    They are both pretty amazing for a 6 year old, IM(very)HO. I have been out of the “little kids” stage for some time. I am happy to report, however, that I have never tired of the amazing things children do (especially our own) from 6 months to twenty-six years. Your posting these items probably means you too are impressed. It’s nice to have that experience. Cherish it. Not all parents are so attuned.

    Perhaps the children of professors at great universities tend to be precocious. It probably doesn’t bother you. If it were my child, I’d be afraid s/he’d been switched in the hospital for an alien child who was more capable at 6 than I am at 60, both artistically and, yes, philosophically (see below)! (My oldest DID render a 3-D toilet at 18 months which I thought was pretty impressive, both because it was technically as good as I could have done at 30-something and because it was an early indication that she could express what was mostly on her mind — at the time, getting in a free relationship to those damned diapers — a characteristic that is still in evidence I am happy to report.)

    If I was you, and I had any sense of ever having wanted to be a movie-maker, this would initially make me feel small. At the same time, however, I increasingly find myself experiencing my 20-something children as my heroes. It can be a little disconcerting. It’s interesting because traditionally (Heidegger’s “reciprocal rejoinder” captures it) we take our heroes from the past and situate them contemporaneously. What is it (is it new?) to take our heroes from the intimate present-going-forward and to experience a sense of resoluteness in being more like them? (I am thinking, “Beatrice,” but it strikes me as a more post-modern sensibility.)

    On the philosophical front, too, the fact that your child already grasps the phenomena of “falleness” (both clips) and resoluteness (I guess that’s symbolized by the cat) is the kind of intellectual precociousness one might expect given the child’s environment. Still, I would suggest that you go a little easier on the bed time reading and maybe introduce a little more Chronicles of Narnia in place of B&T, Div. II!

    On the social front, I think I’d try to find out who is the bully on the playground (or at the skating tube), just in case your child might also be thinking of falleness, throwness, and resoluteness in the more literal sense. (Re. literal resoluteness: my parents used to tell a story about restraining me as a small boy — 6 or so seems about right — from taking a baseball bat to the local bully. I wanted to resolve the matter definitively. They had more sophisticated ideas. Probably a case of the furies vs. the sky-gods!!) 🙂

  2. Dean Rose says:

    Amazing! I wonder what young people will come up with in the Fab Lab

  3. M. Heidegger says:

    This is historicality at work. The children are trying to make sense of the world with what is available to them at birth. They have the historicality of their genetics and their culture to project the world that they must necessarily be in. Dasein’s existence relies on an absorption/projection dynamic.

  4. Enoch Lambert says:

    What is supposed to be disturbing? The content of the videos? The fact that children at such a young age are so adept at using media technology and spend so much time at it? That they do so at “camp” (not knowing whether this was supposed to be a movie making camp)? Genuinely curious….

  5. M. Heidegger says:

    Sean, what have you disclosed watching your children’s movie? You have the mood of being “disturbed”. Is your concern a “care”? What does that comport you to do, and why? Are you being authentic in your coping with the disclosure? Are your children being authentic in their movie making?

    In thinking about these questions, take into account the response given when Bert asked if there was a problem with using the word “care” in the English translation.

  6. Karl Tyson says:

    What mood is whooshing up at us from these young minds channeling through video-composing software? Is Ben and Harold’s now-online digital movie format any more disturbing than any other medium youngsters might ever have used to communicate from their enchanted minds to our more ponderous ones: molding clay, tinker toys, a Big Chief Tablet. More to the point of this blog, how does this particular medium differ from a lyric poem, an Odyssey, a Moby Dick? Has the thing itself they’re test driving – all our children, at younger and younger ages, if not the TV then the DVD, if not that then the GameStation, if not that then online games, the blogosphere, YouTube, Google, The Internet, the code – morphed into something bigger, more ominous than a human-assisting medium. Has it become an all-engulfing Kittlerian whirlpool, shaking off its former harmless guise, sucking the creative energy from our brightest and our best into bits and rasters, not merely for their amusement but for its existence, tracing global trajectories in electrons, photons, radio waves, leveling its so-called authors into assistants to Technology, who once held technology to be the prime and determinative assistant to us…?

  7. Sarah says:

    ……………………………..why does everything have to be about Heidegger?

    Sean, your kids are adorable. I thought the first video was super cute, but the second did creep me out slightly.

    I am the king!

  8. M. Heidegger says:

    Did someone get lost on the way to Face Book?

    When does the philosophy start? I have been listening to Sean’s Podcasts on Being and Time. I see some similarities between his and Bert’s, but they are different enough for me to pay them some attention. I am still surprised that after 80 years, the work is still a mystery for everyone. If you need help, let me know.

  9. Liberation says:

    Very interesting info, I am waiting for more. Keep updating your site and you will have a lot of readers!

    • Sean D. Kelly says:

      Thanks for the support, Liberation. My administrative duties have been pretty overwhelming in the last month, but I’m hoping to get back to the blog in the near future. I’m also finishing a short piece for The Stone, the Philosophy column in the New York Times, which I hope will appear soon. So keep an eye out for that.

      A quick update on the book: we’ve gotten some good reviews from two of the important pre-publication journals, and the Wall Street Journal has assigned it for a review as well. More news to come.


      • Colette Carse says:

        Yeah. I just read the Times article and find pleasure in discovering you keep a blog. I do not know why, but wish you and bell hooks would discuss the sacred in an open forum….

        Anima, animal, animation! I want to learn to use this machine as your son has! Bravo.

  10. Elliott says:

    At the age of six, I’m sure your kid feels the pressure of playground bullies, hence the fall in the second film and the “king” in the first. This sensation will get incredibly acute in middle school, drop off a bit in high school, and totally disappear in college when he attends an elite ivy league institution.

    In the meantime, can be a lot of fun.

  11. Some ideas from a mostly stay-at-home Dad: 🙂

    As to the first, there are several resources for parents at “Family Communications, Inc” (started by “Mr.” Fred Rogers) that relate to how to talk to young kids about difficult times or fears, like might be connected to the first video about falling or injury or transformation. You can also search also on “Emotion coaching” by John Gottman.

    On the violence in the second, you might find of interest the book “The War Play Dillemma” which I reviewed and summarized on my site. As I note there, the “dilemma” they talk about is a fundamental conflict parents face when dealing with war play or other violent-related play. On the one hand, most parents want children to grow and develop by working through developmental issues (like learning to deal with conflict, learning self-control, and learning respect for themselves and others through play, including play involving conflicts as hands-on-learning). On the other hand, most parents want to convey social values related to their beliefs about violence and war as ways to solve social conflicts. The authors clearly do not say all war play is bad, and they also point out that even a cracker can be turned into a gun with one bite. The authors say there are no easy general answers to this dilemma in all situations, but provide a range of options.

    So, here you may see in the second video a conflict, and you perhaps feel tension about it, maybe even about the whole idea of play related to violence or tragedy or bullying. That’s only normal. It’s a tough issue to work through. Another resource might be “Turning bullies into buddies” by Izzy Kalman (he has a site about that). You could help your son make more videos exploring these ideas more fully if he wants to, perhaps.

    I’m sure you are aware if this, but in case you are not, google on “Teaching Children Philosophy” for a project at that is “dedicated to helping adults conduct philosophical discussion with and among elementary school children.” Issues about intention, about perspective, about epistemology, about definitions, about meaning, about rights, about visions of society, and so on, can all be linked to simple stories. Looking around that site, you might find ideas for talking about some of the professional issues you are interested in with your son through books that you might also connect to the videos.

    For example, from there: “B. Wiseman’s charming story, Morris the Moose, raises questions about knowledge and its relationship to evidence. ” What evidence do we have from this video about the behavior of the creature who shows up? What knowledge can we construct from that, such as inferences about intentions or beliefs? How could we test that constructed knowledge?

    Or, even considering your current role at Harvard, 🙂 as they say on that site in the parents section: “So even if you are unnerved by the idea of having a philosophical discussion with your 4, 8, or 12 year old, don’t let that stop you. Philosophy isn’t the esoteric specialty you may remember from that intimidating college course you took and barely passed. Philosophy was born when people began to puzzle about the most basic features of their lives. Despite all the changes of the past two and a half millennia, we still haven’t figured out the answers to all of those questions. Just relax and enjoy discussing these age-old problems with your young child or children. You may find that you have a lot to learn from them. And let us know how it goes!”

    The video on youtube “RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms” talks about divergent thinking. So, you could ask yourself or your child, what are alternative interpretations others might see in these videos, including the characters involved, about what was happening?

    Still, as Freud said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. 🙂

    And ultimately, there is what Kahlil Gibran said in his poem “On Children”: “You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.” Your son is going to take these basic themes in life, but explore them and experience them in his own unique way from his own unique perspective. You can just enjoy watching that and being part of that as best you can.

    BTW, say “Hi” to Peter Galison who does some philosophy/history of technology for me if you bump into him. I thought about looking him up when I was there at the H+ Conference at Harvard a few months ago, but I did not have time. While I doubt he remembers me, I took an excellent class from him long ago at Princeton.

    I liked your “Navigating Past Nihilism” essay (which led me to your blog). I discuss something similar to your Herman Melville point about the roots of a good life in my rambing “Post-Scarcity Princeton” essay — the need for strong roots to keep us from toppling over in life’s storms (where even self transformation including healthy growth can be like storm, sometimes. 🙂 “Positive Psychology” suggests we focus more on building on strengths, more than remedying weaknesses. What strengths do these videos show? You can ask yourself, what do these videos say about strong roots you have been helping your kid grow?

    Obviously, to begin with, there is the roots of creative self expression, and the roots of cooperation and friendship in making these video. So, there are three strong roots. If you think about them, you might find more good roots in them. The root of resiliense, when a new creature comes out of the old in the first? And maybe more, things about context, or detail, or reflection, and so on.

    Your son is lucky to have both a caring father and a friend his age to do stuff like this with.

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