Volume 39, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 1567-7109
  • E-ISSN: 2468-1652



Parents are generally the first to speak to their children. This sharing of a language is more than just helping children to develop their linguistic skills, or to enlarge their vocabulary, or to negotiate rules. It is a sharing of a world, or at least inviting their children into that world. Drawing on Stanley Cavell’s understanding of Wittgenstein’s account of language, of ‘the entire body and spirit of human conduct and feeling which goes in to the capacity for speech’ (Cavell, 1979, p. 168), I revisit the concept of initiation in forms of life to show what is entailed, and at stake, in this sharing of a language and (thus) a world. Against the background of the current ‘parenting culture’, I discuss (what Cavell calls) arrivals at an impasse between educators and ‘beginners’ (our children) – Wittgenstein’s famous ‘This is simply what I do’ and ‘But can’t you see . . .?’ – to indicate that in the relationship between parents and their children a world is always at stake. I argue that the nature of upbringing and the conception of the parent as a figure can be understood as intimately linked to this idea of the world being at stake. I locate the of the pedagogical relationship in the possibility of the educator standing exposed and being called upon to question her own ‘sanity’ and that of the world she is representing and passing on, thus not only opening to a world, but, inevitably simultaneously, opening it up for questioning and, perhaps, change.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): initiation; language; Stanley Cavell; to speak; Wittgenstein; world
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