Montessori meeting: the Ethical Child

Thursday 11 May 2023, 4 pm - 5 pm

Please join us on Thursday, May 11th, from 16.00 to 17.00 in MM 03.640 for a discussion on the ethical child. During this meeting, Daphne Brandenburg will elaborate on children’s socio-moral behavior and philosophical notions of agency and responsibility. Please find her abstract and more information about the speaker below.

The Ethical Child

A 5-year-old might scream at the top of his lungs at a local restaurant when his parents do not order him a second soft-drink. A 9-year-old may participate in bullying one of the geeky kids in the neighbourhood. And a 3-year-old may, on rare occasions, be seen to offer one of her favourite toys to her little brother to play with. Children act in morally significant ways. But when and why can we consider them to be autonomous and responsible? And how, if at all, does this differ from adults?

The moral autonomy and responsibility of pre-adolescent children is worthy of reconsideration. However, it is still deeply unclear how this should be done. To illustrate, some liberal states have no problem putting 7-year-olds in jail where others would never imprison people before their 18th birthday.

This project connects empirical research on socio-moral behaviour in childhood, to ethical theorizing about agency and responsibility. It thereby aims at a deeper understanding of how children should be regarded and respected as ethical agents and discusses what this means for how we should treat them.

In this talk, Daphne will introduce two mutually reinforcing approaches to comparing these two disciplines. First, she will ask how prominent philosophical theories of agency and responsibility can be said to apply to data from moral development studies. Second, Daphne will draw on this data and ask how it demonstrates that philosophical theories are too adult-centred and as such incomplete.

About the author

Daphne Brandenburg is an Assistant Professor in Moral Psychology, at the University of Groningen. She obtained her PhD in 2019 under supervision of Jeanette Kennett, Marc Slors, and Jan Bransen.

Her work critically analyses how research in psychology and the cognitive sciences has bearing on ethical questions about autonomy, authenticity, and responsibility. Do implicit biases undermine our autonomy? How can we hold a person responsible without blaming them, and when should we do so? Do failures of empathy undermine morality?  And what do the answers to these questions imply for society, criminal justice, and therapy? These are key questions she has addressed in her work. She also has an interest in the ethics of humor and in the philosophy of emotions.

Daphne is an affiliate member of CAVE (Macquarie University research Centre for Agency, Values, and Ethics), and editor for public philosophy blog Bij Nader Inzien.

Currently, she is developing a theory of moral agency in childhood, and initiating a public engagement project called ‘Philosophy with Children, for Adults’ in cooperation with Sparklab.

Banner van de Montessori meetings met een portret van Maria Montessori

Montessori Meetings

The Montessori Meetings are a recurring series of lectures and discussions organized by the Philosophy of Behavioural Sciences group of the Faculty of Social Sciences. During the meetings, we'll take a reflective stance on a variety of topics from behavioral science and human development. The meetings are open to all interested researchers and (master level) students from the Radboud University or from other institutes.

The best way to keep track of upcoming meetings is to sign up for the Montessori Meetings mailing list, by sending an e-mail to montessorimeetings-join [at]

Thursday 11 May 2023, 4 pm - 5 pm
Daphne Brandenburg, Location: MM 03.640