“There probably was a time when human culture was transmitted spontaneously from one generation to another. . . . culture must have been passed on without the agency of persons especially devoted to that purpose.”[1]


An “increase in the volume of culture” likely led to the rise of a special class of persons (an elite) who were its chief dispensers.[2] Education and its elite emerge as an alternative to non-deliberate methods of cultural transmission.


Philosophy began when Greek thinkers (ca. 600 B.C.) started to account for human experience in terms of rational principles rather than the whims of the gods or the necessities of fate. For these earliest philosophers, nature was comprehensible in terms of reason and general principles. Neither the whims of the gods nor the necessities of fate could explain the “natural.”[3] 

By the time of Socrates and Plato (ca. 400 B.C.), the Sophists had argued that the social world could be distinguished from the natural order (as described by the philosophers). Since the social realm is relatively free from the inevitable processes of nature, it could be fashioned in accordance with a rational model. Custom, fate, the vicissitudes of the gods, and nature could all be transcended. The political and educational philosophy that emerges for the first time in Socrates/Plato presupposes that the social order is amenable to human art and rational deliberation.[4]

Since education is a distinct cultural activity and pliable enough to embody a range of abstract theories, Plato rightly discerns that educational practices are in need of an explicit philosophical justification. Plato’s educational theorizing recognizes that education is now problematically related to nature, humanity, ultimate reality, ethics, and knowledge.




Plato’s work, especially in his Republic, serves as a model for much of the philosophy of education that came after him. Plato is the first to derive curricular, administrative, and methodological recommendations from a comprehensive theory of human nature, society, knowledge, and ultimate reality.


“In essence, philosophy of education is the application of the fundamental principles of philosophy to the theory and practice of education.”[5]  More generally, philosophy of education examines educational theories and practices from the broadest vantage point possible (and this inevitably involves the major divisions of philosophical inquiry). It seeks to reconcile the divergent aspects of educational practice by assuming an ultimate or total attitude towards them.




The following questions have prompted thinkers to turn to philosophical theories for comprehensive answers:


1.                   What is the nature of the learner?

2.                   What are the aims—if any—of education?[6]

·         Creating and preserving the harmony of civic life?

·         Individual salvation?

·         Artistic creativity?

·         Scientific progress?

·         Empowering individuals to choose wisely?

·         Preparation for productive labour?


3.                   What is the proper institutional context for education?  What are its implications for social and political institutions?

4.                   What are the appropriate methods of education?

5.                   What is to be the content of education?

6.                   Who should bear primary responsibility for educational policy?

·         Religious authorities

·         Philosophers

·         Rulers/Governments

·         A Scientific Elite

·         Psychologists

·         Parents

·         Local Councils


7.                   Who should be educated?

·         Rulers

·         Everyone according to potential

·         Everyone equally

·         Everyone according to social need


8.                   What counts as education? How is it distinguished from schooling, indoctrination, informal learning, or experience?



I.                   SOCRATIC EDUCATION[7]

A.                 Introduction

It is tempting to extract a philosophy of education from what Socrates affirms in his dialogues, e.g., the Meno. This is fraught with danger since he asserts seemingly contrary theses in different dialogues. It is perhaps more important to pay attention to what he does and how he does it rather than the content of what he appears to “teach.”


Paul Woodruff suggests that the following features distinguish Socratic education:


·         An emphasis on critical and consistent thinking

·         An emphasis on humble self-examination and self-refutation

·         A concept of teacherless education

·         The belief that education in philosophy will transform lives for the better


B.                Socratic Dialogue as Education

·         Socrates often begins by denying that he is a teacher since he does not have the relevant knowledge (by his rather high standard of knowledge)


·         His companions are usually quite willing to instruct him with their knowledge which often simply apes the knowledge of their teachers


·         Socrates takes the attitude of a learner and a willingness to be refuted


·         He insists that his companions articulate views that are truly their own


·         Questions are the main form of interaction; Socrates rarely lectures


·         Socrates holds his companions responsible for the answers that emerge since they are derived from premises that they themselves have offered and hold


·         At some point in the dialogue Socrates introduces epistemic (knowledge) standards (e.g., terms must be defined, conclusions must arise from premises, consistency, non-contradiction, universally of application), usually with his companions’ consent


·         Socrates’ questions elicit positive statements of (new) belief from companions


·         Socrates’ companions always learn something about themselves in the process.  Any shame they feel is a rational shame, that is, it comes from the awareness that their life or beliefs harbour inconsistencies


·         Consistency requires that his companions reject an earlier opinion


C.                The Meno as Educational Process

The Meno is not primarily about education; it is Socratic education in action.


It reveals some of the puzzles that prompted Socrates and his student, Plato, to develop their philosophical theories. 


Socrates’ contention that learning is recollection (a “spontaneous recovery of knowledge”[8]) prompts the inference that the truth always has existed in the soul. This reflection ultimately leads to his view that the soul is immortal.[9] In this way, reflection on educational issues leads to metaphysical claims.


Socrates develops the distinction between right opinion and knowledge, arguing that although the difference may not always be discernible in practice, (e.g., in guiding statesmen), there is an important difference since knowledge is “fashioned by reasoned understanding of causes.”[10] 


Socrates links educational aims and policy (“can virtue be taught”) to more basic epistemological concerns that require that the nature of virtue and goodness be determined before we offer a pedagogy that aims at them.


Ironically, the Meno leaves the issue of the nature of virtue unresolved (Socrates’ question). However, Meno’s question whether virtue can be taught is resolved. The dialogue concludes that it cannot; it is a “grace” bestowed by the gods. Meno is left in a state of right opinion about virtue (which is all his question needs) but since he cannot or will not define virtue, he is not in a state of knowledge with respect to it. Socrates’ pupil, Plato, in his Republic, will offer Meno and others a full account of the nature of virtue.


D.                Selected Pedagogical Implications of the Meno

1.                   The responsibility for learning rests on the learner; learning depends on resources already under the command of the student. 

2.                   “Learners are more likely to take a lesson to heart if they believe that it belongs to them and was theirs from the beginning”[11]

3.                   Socrates assumes that his companions/learners all possess some true beliefs about such matters as good and evil and that they cannot depart from these beliefs without coming into conflict with themselves

4.                    Socrates’ learners are both independent and disciplined. How does Socratic pedagogy differ from open-question/open-answer classroom discussion? Is there a place for outright refutation in education today?


A.                 Introduction

1.                   ‘Justice’ as a Causality of War

A wide variety of conceptions of justice were invoked during the Peloponnesian War [431-404 B.C.]. Some of them were rooted in traditional Greek society, some in the life of the polis (city-state), and some in the exigencies (urgent necessities) of war. 

For instance, the traditional Greek understanding of justice as helping one’s friends and harming one’s enemies was still influential.

Further, during a conference held by Sparta’s allies prior to the war, the Athenians were accused of being unjust since they had broken their treaties. 

On still other occasions Athenians espoused the view that justice was the right of the stronger to rule the weaker.[12] For example, when confronting the Mileans with the threat to submit or die, the Athenians alleged that justice was simply the expediency of superior force.

As the war dragged on, many came to regard “justice talk” as a cloak for self-interest. Underneath the rhetoric of “justice” lurked revenge, acquisitiveness, the love of ill-gained honour, and even the venting of spontaneous passion.

“The new type of man developing under the pressures of war was a cynic who believed that might makes right, who rejected all the old loyalties and the old virtues unless they were expedient, that is, unless they helped him accomplish his private ends.”[13]

Justice seemed utterly powerless in the democratic assembly and the battlefield. “Justice itself . . . [was] . . . among the chief victims of the war.”[14]

2.                   The Triumph of Politics in Plato’s Athens

In Plato’s day (fl. 400-350 B.C.) there was a pervasive relativism/cynicism regarding justice. Class antagonisms were growing. The democratic assembly was contorted by violent mood swings. Politicians “fashioned power from the grievances, resentments, and ambitions festering the community.”[15]

For Plato, this factionalism was the source of instability; it was festered by the democratic impulses that aimed at maximal individual liberty. The only hope was that the transcendent moral order might dominate the polis. Only then could wisdom, justice, harmony, and political order secure the best human life.

B.                The Quest for Justice

“By the end of the fifth century B.C. all aspects of the culture—economic, political, intellectual—had combined to produce an extremely dangerous situation. A widespread dissolution of the old beliefs that had held society together, coupled with a radical scepticism about the possibility of discovering new and better grounds for the old social formula, had resulted in the same narrow and ruthless self-seeking that the tensions of war and defeat had naturally and independently engendered. Thus the very fabric of society seemed to be collapsing. The hard-won and only recently achieved political unity of the city-state had disappeared in divisive party conflict . . . the old probity [uprightness of character], the high-mindedness, loyalty, and devotion to civic duty that had enabled a tiny state like Athens to defeat the great Persian empire less than a century earlier, had been replaced by licentious self-seeking and a concentration on sensual pleasures that was altogether incompatible with the health of the city.”[16]

1.                   The Inadequacy of Existing Conceptions of Justice (The Republic)

Cephalus:                     Justice is speaking the truth and paying debts
               Justice benefits one’s friends and harms one’s enemies
            Justice is the advantage of the stronger over the weaker

Confronted with Socrates’ dialectic, each of these conceptions of justice fail since it overlooks an essential feature of justice, namely, that it is unqualifiedly good. In Plato’s account, everything that is just must also be unreservedly good. Justice can only be fully salutary when the laws of the polis are themselves good and then and only then can the good citizen justly obey the laws of the city.[17]

2.                   Justice as a Structural Virtue (The Republic)

The justice of the polis is not just a generalization about its members, e.g., all of the members are just so therefore the polis is just. Nor is the justice of the polis simply that everyone does his own ergon (work). Rather the just polis ensures that everyone will only do his own function.[18]

“This, therefore, is the lynch-pin of the whole, that each class should do its own, and it is with this feature of the polis that its justice is identical. So long, in particular, as only those men and women rule who are fitted by nature to do so, and so long as they carry out assiduously the duties of rulers, the polis and all its educational, legal, and other social institutions will function as they should. . . . It is this feature which produces and preserves the virtues of wisdom, courage and temperance in the polis.”[19]

C.                Education in the Good Polis

“The state . . . exists for the moral development and perfection of its individual members. . . . A state which is meant for the moral perfection of its members will be an educational institution.”[20]

“[I]t is because the polis as a whole is just that the members of every class are just. The apparent conflict disappears when the temporal dimension is taken into account. Each man’s justice helps to sustain the social institutions which keep him just, and ensure that his children resemble him. The polis is the means by which men, once just, remain so, and transmit their justice through the generations.”[21]

“In the world of knowledge, the essential Form of Good is the limit of our inquiries.”[22]  Access to knowledge/science enables the guardians to rule justly and for the good of the whole. Education is designed to perpetuate and protect the Good in the good polis. 

For Plato, education is, in large part, character training, bringing the spirited and appetitive elements under the proper influence of reason. Since the ideal city has been founded, innovation is not permitted, not even in children’s songs (Republic, IV.4).

Education immortalizes the polis; it is the salvation of the ideal state. “And so, when each generation has educated others like themselves to take their place as guardians of the state, they shall depart to the Islands of the Blest and there dwell” (VI. 18).



Education for the GOOD

0-3 years

Raised in state nurseries; allowed to grow as the body dictates; senses are to be stimulated towards accurate experiences; must not be subjected to fear; pleasure and pain are to be minimal.

4-6 years

Taught fairy tales, nursery rhymes, stories of the gods; emphasis on the virtuous gods; immoral stories omitted or censored; encouraged to play a great deal; punishment is not to be too disgraceful; self-willing must be curbed; the spirit should not be destroyed; imitation is a chief means of learning at this stage.

6-13 years

Boys and girls are to be separated; girls to domestic “apprenticeships” boys to further training; the wildness of the child must be brought under control through music, play-manners, religion, dancing; an emphasis on gymnastics and military training; horsemanship and the use of small weapons must be learned; introductory studies in poetry, reading, writing, singing, numbers, geometry.

13-16 years

Mastering of the lyre and subjects undertaken previously; the creation of the proper moral spirit; begin to study the theory and practical application of arithmetic; memorizes much poetry and learns countless religious hymns.

16-20 years

Strenuous military training; rigorous physical exercises; no intellectual education.

20-30 years

At age 20: (1) those suited for military service go to their assigned task; (2) those suited to be guardians continue studying for 10 years.  These studies are to be largely mathematical (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy).

30-35 years

At age 30 the less brilliant go into lower civil offices; others continue on for 5 years; study of philosophy (dialectics and metaphysics)—pure knowledge and pure reality.

35-50 years

15 years of practical experience; philosophical pursuits; taking turns in office as a matter of public duty; their main task: to contemplate and think about the essence of the good life by which the state should be regulated.



A.                 Introduction

Aristotle was born in 384 B.C. in Stagirus (later, Stagira), a city under the dominion of the king of Macedon. His father was a physician who attended the family of the Macedonian king. At about seventeen Aristotle went to Athens and studied with Plato. He remained there, both as a teacher and student, for about 20 years. After the death of Plato in 346 he relocated to a small island off the coast of Asia Minor. During this period he continued his studies, especially in biology. In 343, Aristotle served as a tutor to Alexander (the Great), son of the Philip of Macedon. By 336, he was back in Athens where he founded the Lyceum. In 323, after the death of Alexander, he left Athens and retired to Euboea, where he died the following year.

B.                Aristotle’s Ethical Theory

Aristotle’s ethical theory begins with what nature reveals, namely, that human beings strive to actualize their implicit potentialities. The aim of ethics is to act in ways that achieve what is already implicit (not some rationalized ideal). Ethics seeks action which can bring about these ends and not knowledge per se. 

Although there is no single definition of the Good (and thus no Form of the Good), the final end of all goods (e.g., pleasure, honour, wealth) is in what they seek to actualize. Things are good, not because they derive from the Good, but because they aim at it.

1.                   Happiness as the End of All Action (Nicomachean Ethics, Bks I & X)

“Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim” (CCR, 111).[23]  Aristotle assumes that the things humans aim at are “capable of being coherently integrated with one another.”[24]

“[W]e call complete without qualification that which is always desirable in itself and never for the sake of something else. Now such a thing happiness above all else, is held to be; for this we choose always for itself and never for the sake of something else, but honour, pleasure, reason, and every excellence we choose indeed for themselves . . . but we choose them also for the sake of happiness, judging that through them we shall be happy” (CCR, 112).[25]

For Aristotle, eudaimonia, which literally means “good spirit,” indicates human flourishing, faring well, a harmonious and integrated realization of a being’s unique function. It is the good at which all action (praxis) aims. 

“Happiness, then, is something final and self-sufficient, and is the end of action.”

2.                   The Unique Function of Man (Nicomachean Ethics, Bks. I & X)

 “[T]he good and the ‘well’ is thought to reside in the function . . . we are seeking what is peculiar to man.”

“When something has an ergon (characteristic activity, function) . . . [its] . . . good is specified by it.[26]

F. Siegler’s formalization of Aristotle’s argument: (1) Man has a function; (2) The function of man is determined by what is peculiar to man; (3) What is peculiar to man is acting on reasons;  (4) The function of man is acting on reasons.[27]

3.                   Virtuous Activity as Realizing the Function of Man

“[H]appiness is an activity of soul in accordance with complete excellence” (CCR, 113).

Virtue denotes a functional excellence, that is, a set of qualities that enables a person to fulfill her function properly and well. Happiness can only be achieved if it is pursued virtuously and as a deliberated desire to perform our function properly.[28]

“[M]oral excellence comes about as a result of habit . . . states [hexis, trained abilities] arise out of like activities” (CCR, 114-15).


“[W]e must become just by doing just acts” (CCR, 116).


“Excellence, then, is a state concerned with choice, lying in a mean relative to us, this being determined by reason and in the way in which the man of practical wisdom would determine it. Now it is a mean between two vices” (CCR, 117).


(Scale of Goodness)

A Given Virtue



Vice of Deficiency -------------------------Vice of Excess


With regard to its related vices, virtue is a mean. With regard to goodness, it is an excellence.

Courage                                                                Generosity

     |                                                                              |

     |                                                                              |

cowardliness-----------------brashness                                 stinginess------------------extravagance


“The virtues are precisely those qualities the possession of which will enable the individual to achieve eudaimonia and the lack of which will frustrate his movement toward that telos.”[29]

C.                Education as Political Salvation

Nature provides the potential for city-state life (i.e., the good life); “education helps to realize that potential, giving men the traits needed to perfect their natures as citizens and achieve happiness.”[30] 


“Just as the correct constitutions, embodying the correct conceptions of virtue and happiness, are those based on human nature, so too the correct sort of education must also be based on human nature, respecting its needs, abilities, and limitations.”[31]


Aristotelian education has three components: (1) training the body; (2) habituation of the appetites and emotions; (3) “education through reason” of the rational part. The goal is to produce an evenly balanced, harmonious, graceful, and fully integrated person, “one whose soul is organized so as to best promote his true happiness.”[32]


Before we are able to acquire full virtue, we must acquire “virtue-like” habits. Since every mature virtue, (e.g., courage, magnanimity, etc.), has a rational aspect, these virtues are unavailable to young children. Nevertheless, mature virtue will never develop unless it is erected on a foundation of habitual “virtue-like” acting.

“The goal of an Aristotelian education . . . is to produce citizens with the virtues and the conception of happiness suited to their constitution, citizens for whom acting in accord with the laws is second nature, it having seeped into their characters like dye into wool. If we have received such an education in a correct constitution, we will have all the genuine virtues of character; our feelings will be in harmony with our wish; our wish will be for genuine and not merely apparent happiness. Equipped with good habits and living in a good constitution, haven’t we everything we need to ensure, as far as any human being can, that we will live happily?”[33]


D.                Education for Leisure

In addition to a broad programme in physical training, practical wisdom, and habituation, Aristotle insists that the free citizen must have a particular type of intellectual training or instruction. The “generally educated person” (pepaideumenos) studies all subjects, not to become expert in them, but to become a good judge of them. 


A generally educated person is able to avoid intellectual slavery to the advice of experts and the straitjacket of the specialist. To be too entangled in a single discipline is “to debase the mind and deprive it of leisure” (Politics, 1337b14-17).


Intellectual training also gives the capacity “for noble leisured activity” (1337b30-32). Leisured activity must be free from the instrumental slavery of work. It must consist of those activities, chiefly contemplation, which are pursued for their own sake. Since it is occupied with ends in themselves, it is closely tied to happiness.



Prior to Birth

Legislated choice of marriage partners, intercourse times, parental ages, types of physical conditionings for parents; advice to pregnant women as to proper care of the fetus; abortion is not to be for birth control but as a last resort and not after the fetus has received sensation and life; extra-marital sex is not good (during the child-bearing years) and should be punished.


Crippled children should not be reared, but exposed; exposure should not be a method of birth control; concentration on nourishment for the development of the body; an abundance of milk, no wine; be active to the point of capabilities; trained to get used to cold; a wide exposure to wholesome things.

1-5 Years

No formal training; these children must have exercise, which is best accomplished through play; play ought not to be labourious or unsystematic, but suitable for freemen; Directors of Education should decide on their literature; their games ought to be role acting for future activities; crying and lung exercise are beneficial; play, exercise and rest time ought to be regulated; children should not spend much time in the company of slaves, but should stay and live at home. “Whenever it is possible to create habits, it is better to create them from the start.” (1336a18-19)

5-7 Years

Learn by wide observation of reading, writing, physical training, drawing and music; all evil and unseeming talk should be banished from the state; punishment for such offences should be geared to the development of the child; evil pictures, evil literature must be forbidden; certain types of theatricals are not to be attended until the moral character is sufficiently formed to prevent ill effects; the importance of imitation: “We tend to love at first sight.” (1336b33)

7-14 Years

Reading, writing, music as well as “easier gymnastic exercises.” (1338b40-2)

14-21 Years

“Other [general] studies” which presumably includes medical and wealth acquisition studies (1339a5, 1258b9-11); four years of arduous physical training and a strict diet (presumably in preparation for military service).


Recline at the communal table; able to drink wine with other adults; develop bonds of friendship and trust; observation of virtuous elders over an extended period of time; participation in symposia which includes music, poetry, and the discussion of important political and ethical issues; formal instruction in areas not suitable for youths, e.g., ethics, politics, and rhetoric. Adult education continues in the symposia, the military, in experience and higher education, (e.g, Aristotle’s Lyceum). Education also continues in the theatre which allows citizens to confront and explore their fears in a communal setting which is ultimately reassuring.


E.                 Summation

Education is an art that pursues noble ends but is free from rigid rules.[34] In order to deal with the variability of the “good,” education activates the deliberative capacities and erects them on habituation.


Education is the internalization of the good of the whole through the acquisition of habits.  If good men have been produced there will be no need for Plato’s guardians.


The Socratic revolution took the external spirits of the Homeric age and made them internal to the human spirit. Happiness is no longer external to human effort nor subject to the whims of deity or fate.


A.                 Introduction

John Locke argued that “all that exists is particular.” He rejected the prominent theory of real essences that held that all objects are “informed” or infused by universals. This metaphysical nominalism (the ultimacy of particulars; the lack of genuine universals) shows up in Locke’s epistemology. Since all knowledge originates in individual bits of experience, it can only be acquired through constructive labour and patient observation. Knowledge derived from particular experience is thereby given new status.

The ultimacy of particulars shows itself in Locke’s educational advice and his refusal to hypothesize a common, or universal, human nature. If such a nature existed, it would naturally lead to a uniform educational programme which Locke rejects..

B.                Approval as Morally Educative

Some Thoughts Concerning Education [1693] argued that approbativeness [the desire for approval] could be used as a means of creating virtue within the child.[35]


“Locke aimed to form people [gentlemen’s sons] who would be free, which to his mind meant governed by reason. He aimed also to make them morally deserving. He set out to make them so by treating approbation in a striking and unexpected way.”[36]


Locke’s Thoughts stands apart from other influential books on education in his day. Gilbert Burnet [1668] had suggested many things that appear in Locke’s Thoughts. For instance, Burnet emphasized the importance of emulation, praise and blame, sweetness in dealing with children, beating as a last resort, and that Latin be taught through dialogue. In this work and most others current in Locke’s day, the formation of character was scarcely discussed. The importance of praise and blame as a means of forming a good disposition or character was not emphasized.


Virtue, the victory of reason over desires incompatible with it, is the object of Lockean education. Locke suggested that immediate impressions could be overcome, not with the rod, which was likely to harden the pupil’s distaste for morality, learning, and civility, but by combining the pleasure of approbation with the object sought. 


Locke believed that the child’s desire for approval would override other desires and so could be used to induce virtuous conduct. Although the child was to be educated to the use of reason, “it had to be led thither by another route.”[37] Parents were to guide the child into the life of reason via example and approval rather than enforced precept. Parents should not only embody the virtue desired, they should always praise virtue and condemn vice and use approbation in order to habituate the child to virtue.


“Not rewards such as sweets and punishments or threats and bodily blows, but esteem and disgrace, these are ‘the most powerful incentives to the Mind’ (para. 56).”[38] Children are to be shamed out of their faults (para. 58, CCR, 151). The child’s reputation is a powerful incentive to virtue since it is “the Testimony and Applause that other People’s Reason, as it were by common Consent, gives to vertuous [sic] and well-ordered Actions” (para. 61).


The novelty of Locke’s approach was his explicit linkage between the approval of others and the development of virtue. Simple-minded rewards and punishments were rarely effective in the long run. The environment of the child should be so contrived that it becomes a means of inculcating virtue “rather than merely imposing good form on a disposition that was untouched by goodness.”[39] Although approbativeness was often taken as a disposition at odds with God’s will, Locke argued that it was “precisely the means of building a disposition of obedience in man.”[40]


C.                Selected Features of Locke’s Educational Programme

Individual aptitudes, capacities, and idiosyncrasies of the child should govern learning. The health of the body and the development of a sound character should be placed ahead of intellectual learning. Play, high spirits, and “gamesome humour” natural to children should govern learning whenever possible.[41]  “[H]e that has found a way how to keep up a child’s spirit, easy, active, free; and yet, at the same time, to restrain him from many things he has a mind to, and to draw him to things that are uneasy to him; he, I say, that knows how to reconcile these seeming contradictions, has, in my opinion, got the true secret of education” (para. 46, CCR, 148-49).


“[C]hildren are to be treated as [developing] rational creatures” (para. 54, CCR, 150).


The goal of education is to produce a man who is “able to deny himself his own desires, cross his own inclinations, and purely follow what reason directs as best, though the appetite lean the other way” (para. 33, CCR, 145). “He that has not a mastery over his inclinations, he that knows not how to resist the importunity of present pleasure or pain, for the sake of what reason tells him is fit to be done, wants the true principle of virtue and industry; and is in danger never being good for anything” (para. 45, CCR, 148).


Locke set out to inculcate many of the traditional virtues [civility, generosity, grace-fulness of voice and gesture, honour, humility, industry, kindness, love of God, love of study, modesty, politeness, prudence, reverence, self-control, self-denial, self-restraint[42]] in a way that did not appeal to innate ideas regarding God, innate moral truths, nor even a natural inclination to virtue. The education of the child into the life of reason yielded an adult who could follow its dictates as a type of natural revelation.


Locke has sometimes been accused of being the ideologist of the rising middle class. Is there anything in his educational theory or programme that supports (or assumes) the aspirations and beliefs of the middle class?


John Passmore argues that Locke treats original sin as a mere “bias . . . [in the] natural temper” which education can “take off” or counterbalance. In other words, there is no ineradicable, innate bias that education is powerless to overcome. In this way, Locke laid the foundations for theories of human perfectibility that were to become predominant during the Enlightenment.[43]


A.                 Introduction

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born in Geneva, Switzerland in 1712. His mother died during his birth. Throughout his life he was lonely and in poor health. He lived for a time in Paris but felt deeply alienated from the intellectual life of the city. He was distressed by the “intellectualist” trends of the French Enlightenment, trends that totally omitted the importance of passion or feeling. Rousseau had difficulty functioning socially throughout his life. He died in Paris in 1778. In a surprise twist, he was elevated to a national hero by the French Republic in 1794 and was reburied at the national shrine in Paris.

B.                The State of Nature and the Accidental Drift Toward Civil Society

Like most modern political and social thinkers, Rousseau rejects the notion that man “is directed by nature toward an end . . . [Rather] the state is a purely human construction originating in the desire for self-preservation.”[44] For Rousseau, there is nothing in the state of nature or our own natures that impels us to form societies.

In Rousseau’s view, natural man lived an isolated, self-sufficient, and therefore nonmoral, life. He had only sporadic contact with others. He would not, therefore, develop the passions believed by many to be natural to man, (e.g., envy, distrust, acquisitiveness), since these passions require social and comparative interactions. In his primitive activities, man has not yet taken himself to be an object of his own scanning. His activities—running, leaping, climbing trees, eating—are unselfconsciously delightful.[45]

Natural man is not concerned about death (pace Hobbes); he is idle by nature (pace Locke); he is generally without foresight and is therefore not acquisitive or wealth seeking. His mental capacities are undeveloped since he is without speech, language, or social interaction. His occasional sexual activity is free from affective bonding. His (un)social condition inoculates him to the vices common in civil society. “[N]othing must be so calm as his soul and nothing so limited as his mind.”[46]

“Because men do not naturally define themselves by comparison . . . inequalities do not generate the debilitating passions that accompany psychological and social inequality.”[47]

Natural man’s movement towards civil society is imposed on him by what Allan Bloom calls, “unforeseeable accidents.” General population growth, geological accidents (perhaps an earthquake sealed him and his companions into a narrow valley) or the discovery of fire forced him into closer contact with other men. He begins to develop a moral consciousness of his obligations to those around him. He develops his mental capacities through the use of speech. He becomes aware of himself in a comparative and competitive sense. He begins to practice vengeance and to experience the limitations thrust on him by the rise of private property. He becomes conscious of inequality as the rich are set against the poor.[48]

“As society develops, natural man becomes a socially formed, self-conscious subject focused on issues of domination and subservience.”[49]

C.                Primitive Virtue and Independence from Other Wills

For Rousseau, the modern problem was the division of social labour, the dependence on other wills, and “the strategies of defence and offense that they bring.”[50] Dependence on other wills must be eliminated if virtue (cf. natural man) is to be possible.

“There are two sorts of dependence: dependence on things, which is from nature; dependence on men, which is from society. Dependence on things, since it has no morality, is in no way detrimental to freedom and engenders no vices. Dependence on men since it is without order, engenders all the vices, and by it, master and slave are mutually corrupted. If there is any means of remedying this ill in society, it is to substitute law for men and to arm the general wills with a real strength superior to the action of every particular will. If the laws of nations could, like those of nature, have an inflexibility that no human force could ever conquer, dependence on men would then become dependence on things again; in the republic all of the advantages of the natural state would be united with those of the civil state, and freedom which keeps man exempt from vices would be joined to morality which raises him to virtue.”[51]

“Where shall we find a form of association which will defend and protect with the whole common force the person and the property of each associate, and in which every person, while uniting himself with all, shall obey only himself, and remain as free as before.”[52]

D.                The Social Compact Institutes the General Will/Rule of Law

The instability of conventional society arises from the fact that the general will of individuals is unable to consistently subdue their particular wills. The social compact enables the general wills to acquire sufficient power to rule over particular wills. As a result each person will grow in virtue and still retain his or her (primitive) freedom.

“A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.”[53]

“As long as we submit ourselves to this Law, we are not the less free for it: On the contrary, it is that Law itself which renders us free, because it liberates us from the tyranny of our Passions. In obeying this Law, we are elevated above all worldly things, above all goods & evils, above prosperity & adversity, above grandeur, riches, pleasures of the senses, above promises & threats, above corrupt maxims and the bad examples of men. There is not one of these things, which can harness us; we are free, we are independent in all these respects.”[54]

E.                 Rousseau’s Educational Mythology

1.                   The Nature of Nature

“The internal development of our faculties and organs is the education of nature. The use we learn to make of this development is the education of men.” (CCR, 163)


“Let us lay it down as an incontestable principle that the first impulses of nature are always right. There is no original perversity in the human heart.” (CCR, 170)


“Everything is good as it comes from the hands of the Maker of the world but degenerates once it gets into the hands of man.” (CCR, 163)


2.                   Teacherless Education?

“Our real teachers are experience and feeling.” (CCR, 175)


“The true freeman wants only what he can get, and does only what pleases him. This is my fundamental maxim. Apply it to childhood and all the rules of education follow.” (CCR, 167) “[L]eave the child to the enjoyment of his natural liberty.” (CCR, 168)


Rousseau’s educational experiments are designed to bring men to the fulfillment and preservation of their real natures (independency). Emile is in many ways like natural man, and it is his tutor’s task to keep him that way as long as possible.[55]


The tutor must make things and their inherent necessities the mode of education. This will mean that generalization will only come later when Emile himself poses questions of universality. Self-determination must be maximized and self-consciousness minimized.


The tutor has the delicate task of not directly teaching Emile, since that would set in motion all of the socially and morally corrupting relations of power and dependence. Emile would then become passive, anxious to please, secretly rebellious, etc. Learning from books poses similar difficulties since the pupil’s “thought” would soon “consist of ill-digested phrases that he prates without understanding.”[56]


How much of Emile’s education is from nature? How much is from the contrived necessities of his tutor? Does the tutor’s “arrangements” negate the naturalness of Emile’s education?


3.                   The Preservation of Original Independence; Necessity as Instructor

“Keep the child in sole dependence on things and you will follow the natural order in the course of his education. Put only physical obstacles in the way of indiscreet wishes and let his punishments spring from his own actions.” (CCR, 167) “[L]et him feel the heavy yoke which nature imposes on man.” (CCR, 169)


“There is never any need to inflict punishment as such on children. It should always come to them as the natural consequence of their bad conduct.” (CCR, 172)


The lessons of understanding the rights of property and labour should be arranged by letting Emile face the consequences of his carelessness with others’ property and his own indignation when his things are intruded upon by others. His indignation should be fruitfully and artfully connected to his emerging sense of injustice.


4.                   Emile in Society

“It is impossible to form any idea of moral facts or social relations before the age of reason [contra Locke’s emphasis on reasoning with young children].” (CCR, 168)


“The surest way for him [Emile] to rise above prejudices and to bring his own judgments into line with the true relation of things is to put himself at the point of view of a solitary man [cf. Robinson Crusoe], and to judge everything as this man would with reference to its real utility.” (CCR, 177)


“Self-love being concerned only with ourselves is content when our real needs are satisfied, but self-esteem which involves comparisons with other people never is and never can be content because it makes the impossible demand that others should prefer us to themselves.” (CCR, 182)


“The proper study of man is that of his relationships. So long as he is aware of himself only as a physical being he should study himself in his relations with things. That is the task of childhood. When he comes to consciousness of himself as a moral being he should study himself in his relations with his fellows.” (CCR, 182)


Emile must become a student of (bourgeois) social tastes, not in such a way as to be absorbed by them, but so that he might be more useful to those who possess them. (CCR, 188)


5.                   Sophie as the Ultimate Threat to Emile’s Stoic Education

“’What would you do if someone were to inform you that Sophie is dead?” (CCR, 192)


“You must leave Sophie.” (CCR, 192)


“Happiness is the end of every sentient being. It is the first desire impressed on us by nature and the only one that never leaves us. . . . If you want to live happily fix your heart on the beauty that never perishes. . . . Extend the law of necessity into the sphere of morals and learn to lose whatever can be taken from you, and to rise above the chances of life.” (CCR, 192)


A.                 Introduction[57]

Immanuel Kant was born in 1724 in Konigsberg, East Prussia. He was raised by very devout parents. Their pietism furnished him with a strong sense of moral responsibility, hard work, and a distrust of religious authoritarianism. He spent all of his life in Konigsberg, eventually achieving a professorship at the local university. He never married, though twice he almost did.


Kant began perhaps the most notable period of philosophical production in history in 1781 at the age of 57 with the publication of his Critique of Pure Reason. Within the next decade he produced many other works of enduring importance. By the time of his death in 1804 he was widely regarded as a great philosopher. By common consent he is recognized as the greatest philosopher of the past 300 years and arguably of all time.


B.                Kant’s Moral Theory

Kant’s analysis indicated that the moral worth of an action is not determined by its consequences or the purpose for which it is performed, but by the principle or maxim motivating and implicit in the action. Since morally praiseworthy maxims are applicable to all persons in all situations, they are universal principles.


Although he has several formulations of the universal moral principle, one of the better known is: “Act as if the maxim of your action were to become a universal law of nature.” This categorical moral law imposes duties on all rational beings and is a derivative of rationality itself; it does not descend from external centres of moral authority.


Since all humans are rational creatures we must treat them as “ends in themselves.” Rationality requires that we treat all persons in such a way as to preserve and enhance their moral worth or dignity. Morality is not an external law imposed on humans but the demands and duties placed on us by (our own) reason.


C.                Kant’s Theory of Education

1.                   Introduction: Contra Rousseau

“All the natural endowments of mankind must be developed little by little out of man himself, through his own efforts.” (CCR, 198)


“Unruliness consists in independence of law.” (CCR, 198)  “[D]iscipline must be brought into play very early.” (CCR, 199)


“Men should therefore accustom themselves early to yield to the commands of reason, for if a man be allowed to follow his own will in his youth, without opposition, a certain lawlessness will cling to him throughout his life.” (CCR, 199)


The child must be permitted maximal liberty, but within bounds. He must learn to respect the like liberty of others and that he can only obtain freedom and independence under certain conditions. Only a cultivated mind can underwrite freedom and independence. (CCR, 203)


Public schools seem best able to teach the lessons of acknowledging the rights of others, meeting opposition, and becoming accustomed to non-preferential treatment. (CCR, 203)


“Man can only become man by education . . . man is only educated by man.” (CCR, 199)


“[T]hrough education human nature will be continually improved, and brought to such a condition as is worthy of the nature of man. This opens out to us the prospect of a happier human race in the future.” (CCR, 200)


Providence has willed, that man shall bring forth for himself the good that lies hidden in his nature.” (CCR, 200-01)


2.                   The Components of Education

a)                   Discipline—restraining unruliness

b)                  Culture—information and instruction which bring out ability

c)                   Discretion—proper conduct in society

d)                  Moral training—learning to choose only right ends

3.                   Physical (Character) Education

“Discipline must not be slavish; the child ought always to be conscious of his freedom.  When that freedom interferes with the like freedom of others, it must be met with opposition.” (CCR, 204)


Children should never be permitted to extort anything by crying. (CCR, 204, 205)


“The will of children . . . must not be broken, but merely bent in such a way that it may yield to natural obstacles.” (CCR, 205)


4.                   Cultivation of the Mind

“It is of the greatest importance that children should learn to work.” (CCR, 206)


“[W]here can the inclination to work be cultivated so well as the school? School is the place of compulsory culture. . . . Education must be compulsory, but it need not therefore be slavish.” (CCR, 207)


“[N]o mental faculty is to be cultivated by itself, but always in relation to others.” (CCR, 207)


5.                   Moral Culture

Moral culture must be based upon ‘maxims,’ not upon discipline; the one prevents evils habits, the other trains the mind to think.” (CCR, 211)


“’Maxims’ ought to originate in the human being as such. . . . Character consists in readiness to act in accordance with ‘maxims’. . . . ‘Maxims’ are also rules, but subjective [that is, they originate in the subject] rules. They proceed from the understanding of man.” (CCR, 211)


"Everything in nature works according to laws. Only a rational being has the capacity of acting according to the conception of laws, i.e., according to principles."[58]

“If we wish to form the characters of children, it is of the greatest importance to point out to them a certain plan, and certain rules, in everything; and these must be strictly adhered to.” (CCR, 212)


“To do something for the sake of duty means obeying reason.” (CCR, 213)


“Our duties towards ourselves consist . . . in guarding, each in our own person, the dignity of mankind.  A man will only reproach himself if he has the idea of mankind before his eyes.” (CCR, 217)


“But is man by nature morally good or bad?  He is neither, for he is not by nature a moral being.  He only becomes a moral being when his reason has developed ideas of duty and law.” (CCR, 219)


6.                   Religious Education

“[I]f we were to teach them something about God only when they are grown up, the result would be either indifference or false ideas—for instance, terror of God’s power. Since, then, it is to be feared that such ideas might find a dwelling-place in the child’s imagination, to avoid it we should seek early to impart religious ideas to the child. But this instruction must not be merely the work of memory and imitation; the way chosen must be always in accordance with Nature. Children will understand—without abstract ideas of duty, of obligations, of good and bad conduct—that there is a law of duty which is not the same as ease, utility, or other considerations of the kind, but something universal, which is not governed by the caprice of men. The teacher himself, however, must form this idea.” (CCR, 220)


“What, then, is religion? Religion is the law in us, in so far as it derives emphasis from a Law-giver and a Judge above us. It is morality applied to the knowledge of God.” (CCR, 220)


"God is not a being outside me, but merely a thought in me. God is the morally practical reason legislating for itself. Therefore there is only one God in me, about me, above me."[59]

“The law that is within us we all conscience. Conscience, properly speaking, is the application of our actions to this law. The reproaches of conscience would be without effect, if we did not regard it as the representative of God, who, while He has raised up a tribunal over us, has also established a judgment-seat within us.”  (CCR, 220)



A.                 Introduction[60]

Born in 1806, John Stuart Mill was raised by his father, James Mill, an austere, demanding, unsentimental, and doctrinaire disciple of Jeremy Bentham, the leading utilitarian of his day. John Stuart was an intellectual prodigy: he was reading Greek by the age of three, Latin at eight, and mastered many other subjects shortly thereafter. His study regime began at 6:00 a.m. and ended at 9:00 p.m. His education was complete by the age of 14 when he went off to stay with friends of his father in France for a year.

When he returned to England, he continued his academic pursuits. Shortly thereafer he acquired a life-long post with the British East India Tea Company. In the winter of 1826-27, he suffered a debilitating depression. He was overwhelmed with the realization that he was little more than a “reasoning machine.” During these dark days, the chance reading of a French novel evoked strong feelings in him; he was thus assured that all feeling was not dead in him and that he was not hopeless. 

During the long period of recovery (some five years) he expanded his acquaintances and read more broadly. For instance, he discovered the romantic poetry of Tennyson, Coleridge, and Wordsworth. He slowly found that he could share “states of feeling” with other human beings. He also shed the view of his father and Bentham that self-interest and simple pleasure gratification were the only sources of human vitality.

B.                Orthodox Utilitarianism Reconsidered

Bentham’s utilitarianism was conceived as a legislative reform movement. It sought to guide legislators in making decisions for the good of the whole. It supported radical, democratic reforms: universal franchise, majority rule, and regular elections. Pleasure units ought to be equally distributed to all persons, qua persons. The pleasure of an aristocrat is no different than the pleasure of a pauper. Legislators should distribute pleasures equally and ignore elitist theories of the supremacy of certain types of (aristocratic) pleasures.

“Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do.”[61]

“[I]t is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong.”[62]

Whereas Bentham and James Mill believed that all pleasures were directly comparable, J. S. Mill believed that there were qualitative differences between types of pleasures. Some pleasures, chiefly those of the intellect, feeling, and imagination, were superior to bodily or beastly pleasures.

For J. S. Mill, persons are more than pleasure pursuers; they are complex beings with important intellectual, moral, feeling, and imaginative aspects that cannot be simply reduced to pleasure seeking.

C.                Utilitarianism and the Reform of Education[63]

Utilitarian views fundamentally challenged the conservative hierarchy in England along with the cultural and religious elite that dominated the universities. In Mill’s day, theology was still the most prestigious discipline. Classical studies, with their labourious drilling and composition in Latin and Greek, were of second rank. Mathematics came a distant third. Most of the major English universities treated the natural and social sciences with disdain. Nineteenth-century university education underpinned the traditional view of the proper activities of the leisured gentleman as well as the conflict between elite and populist influences in society and governance.


Utilitarianism dramatically reversed the place of the liberal arts in the academy since the time of Bentham and James Mill. Today mathematics and science dominate the prestige hierarchy followed by the social sciences and professional training. The arts and humanities are now typically relegated to the bottom of the prestige array, ranking only above theology. This new hierarchy is predicated on the perceived utilitarian relation between the disciplines and the production of human happiness. The place of the arts, humanities, and theology in this scheme is now very tenuous.


In his inaugural address in 1867, J. S. Mill sides with the utilitarian reformers by emphasizing the centrality of the empirical sciences, the importance of advanced mathematics and logic, and the dangers of dogmatic theology.

In a surprising move, however, Mill defends the social utility of a broad education. In his view, an enlightened elite is needed to defend democracy against the manipulations of charlatans. Ironically, Mill turns “the elite ideal of the liberally educated, cultivated intellect to the service of democracy, rather than against it.”[64]

Mill succeeds in re-affirming each component of the classical/elite education of the conservatives, but on new grounds, namely, the broader utility each furnishes a democratic society. Classical studies, to name but one instance, help students break their habits of parochial thinking by confronting a totally alien culture.

Mill rejected Bentham’s “democracy of tastes.” Not all tastes are equivalent; an elite was still needed to guide democracies towards a more progressive conception of human life (involving the higher pleasures of autonomy and sympathy) as well as to resist the homogenizing forces of middle-class conformism.

“Study of the arts and humanities . . . [countered] . . . the excessive influence of middle-class commercialism: freedom of inquiry into the proper ends of life promoted autonomy against conformism, study of the classics promoted cosmopolitanism over narrow parochialism, the arts helped cultivate imagination, broader sympathies, and nobler goals than petty egoism.”[65]

D.                Mill’s Inaugural Address at Saint Andrews University (1867)

1.                   The Purpose of University Education

“Whatever helps to shape the human being—to make the individual what he is, or hinder him from being what he is not—is part of his education.” (CCR, 224)


The Universities have a double purpose: to make “each of us practically useful to his fellow-creatures;” and to elevate “the character of the species itself.” (CCR, 252)


“Experience proves that there is no one study or pursuit, which, practised to the exclusion of all others, does not narrow and pervert the mind.” (CCR, 229)


2.                   The Elements of the University Curriculum

“There are things which are better learned out of school . . . modern languages . . . history and geography.” (CCR, 230-31)


“The leading facts of ancient and modern history should be known by the student from his private reading: if that knowledge be wanting, it cannot possibly be supplied here. What a professor of History has to teach, is the meaning of those facts. His office is to help the student in collecting from history what are the main differences between human beings, and between the institutions of society, at one time or place and at another; in picturing to himself human life and the human conception of life, as they were at the different stages of human development; in distinguishing between what is the same in all ages and what is progressive, and forming some incipient conception of the causes and laws of progress [cf. Auguste Comte’s social statics (enduring principles of order) and social dynamics (emergent principles of social progress)].” (CCR, 248)


“The only languages, then, and the only literature, to which I would allow a place in the ordinary curriculum, are those of the Greeks and Romans; and to these I would preserve the position in it which they at present occupy. That position is justified, by the great value, in education, of knowing well some other cultivated language and literature than one’s own, and by the peculiar value of those particular languages and literatures.” (CCR, 231)


“Without knowing the language of a people, we never really know their thoughts, their feelings, and their type of character.” (CCR, 232) Direct contact with other cultures through language, literature, and travel helps to divest “ourselves of preconceived notions.” (CCR, 232)


Mill argues that the classical languages and literatures are superior in their effects than any modern counterpart. They powerfully dislodge preconceptions, teach grammar most effectively, introduce basic logic through their grammar, proffer unsurpassed “wisdom of life,” and thoroughly demonstrate dialectics. In some aspects, however, the modern mind has surpassed the ancient: in science, and in the complexity of its penetration of the human soul and feelings.


“But unless an elementary knowledge of scientific truths is diffused among the public, they never know what is certain and what is not.” (CCR, 238)


Scientific instruction is a “training and disciplining process, to fit the intellect for the proper work of a human being.” (CCR, 239) It furnishes training in the ascertainment of truth by observation, reasoning, and judging evidence correctly.


“Whatever philosophical opinions the study of these [metaphysical] questions may lead us to adopt, no one ever came out of the discussion of them without increased vigor of understanding, an increased demand for precision of thought and language, and a more careful and exact appreciation of the nature of proof.” (CCR, 247)


“There is a third division [in addition to intellectual and moral education], which, if subordinate, and owing allegiance to the others, is barely inferior to them, and not less needful to the completion of the human being; I mean the aesthetic branch; the culture which comes through poetry and art, and may be described as the education of the feelings, and the cultivation of the beautiful.” (CCR, 255)


“There is, besides, a natural affinity between goodness and the cultivation of the Beautiful, when it is real cultivation, and not a more unguided instinct. He who has learned what beauty is, if he be of a virtuous character, will desire to realize it in his own life—will keep before himself a type of perfect beauty in human character, to light his attempts at self-culture.” (CCR, 258)


3.                   The Limitations of University Education

“[The university] is not a place of professional education. Universities are not intended to teach the knowledge required to fit men for some special mode of gaining their livelihood. Their object is not to make skilful lawyers, or physicians, or engineers, but capable and cultivated human beings.” (CCR, 224-25)


“Of these advanced studies [Jurisprudence, International Law, Political Economy], only a small commencement can be made at schools and Universities.” (CCR, 251)


It is beyond their [schools and Universities] power to educate morally or religiously.” (CCR, 251)


A.                 Introduction

Alfred North Whitehead was born in 1861. He made an outstanding attempt to produce a comprehensive and innovative metaphysical system. His intellectual development can be roughly divided into three periods. The first period, which concluded in 1914, focused on mathematics and logic. During this period he produced (with Bertrand Russell) his famous Principia Mathematica (1910-1913). The second period, which lasted from 1914 to 1924, focused on the philosophy and history of science. The final period, commencing with his move from England to Harvard University (at the age of 63), is largely occupied with developing a new metaphysical approach. Most of his essays on education issue from the second and early-third periods (1912-1928).


Whitehead’s later work, which was clearly indebted to his previous concerns, can be characterized as an attempt to rehabilitate western thought by overcoming the dualisms implicit in the modern scientific project. He is particularly critical of Cartesianism and its array of dualisms, including mind-body, subject-object, knower-known, particular-universal, reason-emotion, etc. In place of these debilitating dichotomies, Whitehead offers a new account of science and reality understood in terms of processes and events and not substances. His metaphysics emphasizes the interrelatedness of all events and the progressive enrichment and advancement of the whole universe, including God.


Like Hegel, he possesses a romantic sensitivity to our deep interrelatedness with all of reality. In his metaphysics, Whitehead also draws on recent developments in science, including field theory, electromagnetic theory, relativity theory, and organic evolution. All of these developments hold out the prospect of unified theories centred around energy and its various forms.


B.                The Aims of Education (1917)

“In training a child to activity of thought, above all things we must beware of what I will call ‘inert ideas’—that is to say, ideas that are merely received into the mind without being utilized, or tested, or thrown into fresh combinations.” (CCR, 262)


“[I]deas which are not utilized are positively harmful. By utilizing an idea, I mean relating it to that stream, compounded of sense perceptions, feelings, hopes, desires, and of mental activities adjusting thought to thought, which forms our life.” (CCR, 263)


“The mind is never passive; it is a perpetual activity, delicate, receptive, responsive to stimulus. You cannot postpone its life until you have sharpened it.” (CCR, 265)


“The solution which I am urging, is to eradicate the fatal disconnection of subjects which kills the vitality of our modern curriculum.” (CCR, 265)


“You may not divide the seamless coat of learning. What education has to impart is an intimate sense of the power of ideas, for the beauty of ideas, and for the structure of ideas, together with a particular body of knowledge which has peculiar reference to the life of the being possessing it.” (CCR, 266)


C.                The Rhythm of Education (1922)[66]

“But the only avenue towards knowledge is by freedom in the presence of knowledge. But the only avenue towards knowledge is by discipline in the acquirement of ordered fact. Freedom and discipline are the two essentials of education.” (30)


“[D]ifferent subjects and modes of study should be undertaken by pupils at fitting times when they have reached the proper stage of mental development.” (15)


“Lack of attention to the rhythm and character of mental growth is a main source of wooden futility in education.” (17)


“[T]he dominant note of education at its beginning and at its end is freedom . . . there is an intermediate stage of discipline with freedom in subordination.” (31)


There are three stages of educational progress: (1) the stage of romance; (2) the stage of precision; (3) the stage of generalization.


1.                   The Stage of Romance

In this stage, “[t]he subject-matter has the vividness of novelty; it holds within itself unexplored connexions with possibilities half-disclosed by glimpses and half-concealed by the wealth of material.” (17)


“There can be no mental development without interest. . . . without interest there will be no progress.” (31)


“[W]e should seek to arrange the development of character along a path of natural activity, in itself pleasurable.” (31)


“Romantic emotion is essentially the excitement consequent on the transition from the bare facts to the first realisations of the import of their unexplored relationships.” (18)


“In no part of education can you do without discipline or can you do without freedom; but in the stage of romance the emphasis must always be on freedom, to allow the child to see for itself and to act for itself. . . . a block in the assimilation of ideas inevitably arises when a discipline of precision is imposed before a stage of romance has run its course in the growing mind.” (33)


2.                   The Stage of Precision

“In this stage, width of relationship is subordinated to exactness of formulation.” (18)


“This stage is the sole stage of learning in the traditional scheme of education, either at school or university.” (34)


“It is evident that a stage of precision is barren without a previous stage of romance.” (18)


“The real point is to discover in practice that exact balance between freedom and discipline which will give the greatest rate of progress over the things to be known.” (34-5)


3.                   The Stage of Generalization

This stage “is a return to romanticism with added advantage of classified ideas and relevant technique. It is the fruition which has been the goal of the precise training.” (19)


“The stage of generalizations is the stage of shedding details in favour of the active application of principles, the details retreating into subconscious habits. . . . the essence of this stage is the emergence from the comparative passivity of being trained into the active freedom of application.” (37)


Because the learning of language begins much earlier than other areas, its cycle will not precisely correspond to the natural cycle of science or geometry. And that is good. For instance, the romantic stage for science will correspond chronologically with the stage of precision in language. Further, at about the age of 15 language will be at the stage of generalization when the age of precision in science is beginning.


“Education should consist in a continual repetition of such cycles. Each lesson in its minor way should form an eddy cycle issuing in its own subordinate process. Longer periods should issue in definite attainments, which then form the starting-grounds for fresh cycles. We should banish the idea of a mythical, far-off end of education. The pupils must be continually enjoying some fruition and starting afresh—if the teacher is stimulating in exact proportion to his success in satisfying the rhythmic cravings of his pupils.” (19)


A.                 Introduction

John Dewey was born in Burlington, VT in 1859. After completing his BA degree at the University of Vermont, he taught high school for several years in Pennsylvania before enrolling as a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.


Hegel’s claim that all distinctions are relative to the developing whole deeply impressed Dewey. Although he rejected most of Hegel’s metaphysical speculations, Dewey never abandoned the view that there is an emergent unity in contending forces. Hegel’s organic perspective “could be used to oppose the static and the fixed and to break down the hard and fast dichotomies and dualisms that had plagued philosophy.” [67]


Throughout his subsequent academic career Dewey was directly involved in the social and political issues of his day. During his ten-year stint at the University of Chicago he actively participated in Jane Addams’s famous Hull House. Also while at Chicago, he experimented with various pedagogical techniques in his well-known Laboratory School.


B.                Experience and Knowledge

The key concept in Dewey’s philosophy is lived-experience. For him, experience encompasses a full range of reflective and non-reflective elements. In his view, many previous philosophers had falsely identified experience with its reflective products even though people do not experience these products but the world in which they live.[68] Dewey abandoned the Hegelian emphasis on the ultimate (or Absolute) unity of all experiences. For Dewey, the centre of unification is not the cosmos but individual experiences. Human experience, much like nature itself, consists of a variety of components mutually conditioning and being conditioned by an ongoing and open-ended process.


Dewey consistently claimed that knowing (vs. “knowledge”) or inquiry is an art requiring active experimentation. Knowing does not consist in the contemplation of eternal forms, essences, or universals—what Dewey called the spectator theory of knowledge. In his Logic: The Theory of Inquiry, Dewey defined inquiry as “the controlled or directed transformation of an indeterminate situation into one that is so determinate in its constituent distinctions and relations as to convert the elements of the original situation into a unified whole.”[69] Inquiry is an ongoing, self-corrective, and experimental process. It is rational because it engenders increasing clarity about both its starting point and (tentative) conclusions. Knowing is a way of engaging the world and embracing the responses, enrichments, and new dilemmas which follow.


C.                Pragmatic Methodology

In How We Think (1910) Dewey suggested the following problem-solving methodology:[70]

1.                   A felt difficulty occurs because of a conflict or block in one’s experience.

2.                   The location, definition, and limits of the problem must be precisely specified.

3.                   A wide range of hypotheses must be formulated.

4.                   Reason must be brought to bear on these hypotheses. Possible outcomes must be mulled over.

5.                   Hypotheses must be tested to see if they yield the desired results. If they do not, they must be revised accordingly.

D.                The Child and the Curriculum (1902)

“The fundamental factors in the educative process are an immature, undeveloped being; and certain social aims, meanings, values incarnate in the matured experience of the adult. The educative process is the due interaction of these forces. Such a conception of each in relation to the other as facilitates completest and freest interaction is the essence of educational theory.” (CCR, 276)


“[T]he child and curriculum are simply two limits which define a single process. . . . the various studies . . . are themselves experience—they are that of the race. They embody the cumulative outcome of the efforts, the strivings, and successes of the human race generation after generation.” (CCR, 279)


“The problem of direction is thus the problem of selecting appropriate stimuli for instincts and impulses which it is desired to employ in the gaining of new experience.” (CCR, 282)


“Hence the need of reinstating into experience the subject-matter of the studies, or branches of learning. It must be restored to the experience from which it has been abstracted. It needs to be psychologized; turned over, translated into the immediate and individual experiencing within which it has its origin and significance.” (CCR, 284)


E.                 Thinking in Education (1916)

“Specifically it [an aim] means foresight of the alternative consequences attendant upon acting in a given situation in different ways, and the use of what is anticipated to direct observation and experiment. A true aim is thus opposed at every point to an aim which is imposed upon a process of action from without.” (CCR, 309)


“They [situations out of school which cause reflection] give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking, or the intentional noting of connections; learning naturally results.” (CCR, 310-11)


“The material of thinking is not thoughts, but actions, facts, events, and the relations of things.” (CCR, 312)


“[L]earning in the sense of discovery and not in that of storing away what others pour into them.” (CCR, 314)


“In such shared activity, the teacher is a learner, and the learner is, without knowing it, a teacher—and upon the whole, the less consciousness there is, on either side, of either giving or receiving instruction, the better.” (CCR, 315)



F.                 Education and Democracy (1916)

“Now in any social group whatever, even in a gang of thieves, we find some interest held in common, and we find a certain amount of interaction and cooperative intercourse with other groups. From these two traits we derive our standard. How numerous and varied are the interests which are consciously shared? How full and free is the interplay with other forms of association?” (CCR, 289-90)


“Diversity of stimulation means novelty, and novelty means challenge to thought.” (CCR, 291) “[O]nly diversity makes change and progress.” (CCR, 294)


“The two elements in our criterion [variety of shared interests; full and free interplay between groups] both point to democracy. . . . A democracy is more than a form of government; it is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience.” (CCR, 292)


“The development of democracy was an expansion of sociality. The democratic community was in effect the community that best realized the very nature of sociability. Moral growth thus involved the acquisition of a capacity for communal life as well as personal fulfillment; we become more fully who we are as we become more able to offer ourselves to others.”[71]


Even though the plurality of interests must be respected, there is a convergent unity that emerges within a fully transparent democratic process which is friendly to pluralism but which rejects its finality.


Dewey sought to avoid the dualism of the educational debate of his day. He was critical of rigid traditional education as well as the reactionary child-centredness of progressive models. In his scheme, education ought to be a continuous reconstruction of experience “in which there is a development of immature experience toward experience funded with the skills and habits of intelligence.” (2:384)


“Education as the continuous reconstruction and growth of experience also develops the moral character of the child. Virtue is taught not by imposing values upon the child but by cultivating fair-mindedness, objectivity, imagination, openness to new experiences, and the courage to change one’s mind in the light of further experience.” (2:384)


“[T]he school must itself be a community life in all which that implies. Social perceptions and interests can be developed only in a genuinely social medium—one where there is give and take in the building up on a common experience. . . . The learning in school should be continuous with that out of school. There should be a free interplay between the two.” (CCR, 324)


“In a real sense, the deep purpose of Dewey’s philosophy of education may be said to be the infusion of social meaning and relevance into the learning activity that takes place in the school and the replacement of the individualistic and intellectualistic organization of these activities by the style of cooperative inquiry which he held to be at the heart of democratic social practice. The school was thus to be the pioneering example of a society whose business is inquiry and whose mode of inquiry is uniquely congruent with its democratic character.”[72]

G.                Experience and Education (1938)

“[T]here is an intimate and necessary relation between the processes of actual experience and education. . . . [an] organic connection between education and personal experience.” (CCR, 328, 330)


“Any experience is mis-educative that has the effect of arresting or distorting the growth of further experience. . . [or]. . . the possibilities of having richer experience in the future are restricted.” (CCR, 330)


“Hence the central problem of an education based upon experience is to select the kind of present experiences that live fruitfully and creatively in subsequent experiences.” (CCR, 331)


“[T]he principle of continuity of experience means that every experience both takes up something from those which have gone before and modifies in some way the quality of those which come after. . . . the question is whether growth in this direction promotes or retards growth in general . . . continuing growth in new directions.” (CCR 335)


“The two principles of continuity and interaction are not separate from each other. They intercept and unite. They are, so to speak, the longitudinal and lateral aspects of experience. . . . Continuity and interaction in their active union with each other provide the measure of the educative significance and value of an experience.” (CCR, 340)


“When pupils were a class rather than a social group, the teacher necessarily acted largely from the outside, not as a director of processes of exchange in which all had a share. When education is based upon experience and educative experience is seen to be a social process, the situation changes radically. The teacher loses the position of external boss or dictator but takes on that of leader of group activities.” (CCR, 347)





A.                 Introduction: Absolute Idealism

Analytic philosophies emerged in late nineteenth century Britain in response to absolute idealism, a metaphysical theory which held that the innermost essence of reality could be known through reason since it was a manifestation of Infinite Reason. In this view, “to be real is to be a member of . . . a system so constructed that the nature of its members is intelligible only in so far as the system as a whole is understood.”[73]


Brand Blanschard describes absolute idealism’s methodology as follows:  “[S]tart anywhere in experience, develop what is implied in what is before you, and you will find yourself committed . . . to an all-comprehensive system in which everything is bound by necessity to everything else. To judge that this is a flower is to use a universal. But the universal, when you attend to it, burgeons. It is necessarily connected through genus and species with a hierarchy about it. Its appearance at this spot and moment is connected spatially, temporally, and causally with every other event in the universe. And these relations, if we saw clearly enough, would turn out to be necessary also.”[74]


Absolute Idealism can be summarized as follows:[75]


·         Reality is a unitary whole; everything is logically connected with everything else

·         To be is to be capable of being known by some mind

·         Reality is ultimately mental, organic, and in process

·         Reality can only be known through reason, not sensation or science


B.                Analytic Philosophy as a Response to Absolute Idealism

1.                   Six Theses of Analytic Philosophy[76]

·         The meaning of any factual statement lies in what would verify it in sense perception. Its meaning does not consist of its relations to other statements.


·         Insights into necessary relations do not give knowledge of the world; they only explicate meanings already present in the mind.


·         None of the ultimate components of the universe is necessarily related to any other. “To be at all is to be independent.”[77]


·         Judgments of value are not really judgments at all, but exclamations expressing or reporting our own feelings.


·         When analyzed carefully, language dissolves, or at least clarifies, philosophical conundrums.


·         The philosopher’s office is one of clarifying the meaning of statements. Philosophy should clear up the vagueness and ambiguity of ordinary language.


2.                   Later Wittgenstein and the Rise of Linguistic Philosophy

In the early 1930s, Ludwig Wittgenstein repudiated his earlier hopes of constructing an ideal, universal language and turned to how people typically use words. In most cases, strict definitions or precise meanings are impossible; they vary with the use to which words are put. “Language, on this new view, has no logical essence.”[78] It “can meaningfully take on many different forms devised according to diverse human interests and purposes, constrained only by our naturally given abilities and the context of our lives.”[79]


As a response to the philosophical puzzles surrounding terms like ‘knowledge’ and ‘thinking,’ Wittgenstein argued that philosophers must begin with how these terms are used in everyday life.[80] In his influential view, philosophical problems are essentially disorders in our conceptual schemes.[81]


So-called linguistic philosophers, e.g., John Wisdom, Gilbert Ryle, J. L. Austin, etc., also held that “the traditional problems of philosophy . . . are not genuine problems at all but confusions generated by misunderstandings about language or by the misuse of it.”[82] Linguistic philosophy begins with a careful elucidation of the concepts implicit in ordinary language and rests on the assumption that lived-experience is rationally coherent. The clarification of subtle linguistic distinctions illuminates equally subtle features of the world.[83]


C.                A Model of Conceptual or Linguistic Analysis

The Goal: To make explicit the criteria by which a word or phrase is used, i.e., to uncover its meaning.

1.                   The First Step. Generate ideas about the defining criteria of the concept in question. (A defining criterion is a characteristic in the absence of which the concept would not be applicable, i.e., the word or phrase could not be used.  Being three-sided is a defining criterion of ‘triangle’, since nothing would be a triangle unless it had three sides.)

2.                   The Second Step. Test each criterion generated in step one to see if it is a defining characteristic of the concept. The test of whether a criterion is defining is this: Would the concept still apply in a situation that lacked the criterion?

3.                   The Third Step.Test the set of defining criteria assembled in step two to see if it is complete, i.e., to see if you have found all of the defining characteristics. The test of whether or not a set of defining criteria is complete is this: Could a situation have this set of characteristics and yet the concept not apply? Particular attention should be paid to contrary cases, borderline cases, and invented cases. Constructed counter-examples are especially important in testing the various criteria and their completeness.

4.                   The Fourth Step. If the answer in step three is yes, the set is incomplete. The situation you imagined as a test should give you a clue about the missing characteristic(s). Formulate this additional criterion or criteria. Run the revised set through steps two and three in order to verify its completeness.

D.                Analytic Philosophies of Education

The application of analytic methods to educational concepts can be traced to the pioneering work of Israel Scheffler at Harvard University (1958) and R. S. Peters (1962, 1964) at the University of London. In his earliest works in the field, Peters provided a detailed analysis of the concept of education (see his inaugural speech, “Education as Initiation”). His influence was immense; he drew many others into the new field.


In Ethics and Education (1964) Peters argued that the philosopher is to be engaged in the “disciplined demarcation of concepts, the patient explication of the grounds of knowledge and presuppositions of different forms of discourse. . . . Presuppositions can be drastically criticized and revised; grounds for belief can be challenged and new ones suggested; conceptual schemes can be shown to be radically inconsistent or inapplicable; new categorizations can be constructed. The philosopher is not entirely the prisoner of the presuppositions of his age.”[84]


Philosophers of education in the analytic tradition “seek to clarify the linguistic devices employed by the educator, the processes of using them, their underlying presup-positions, and the purposes involved.”[85]


Since Peter’s path-breaking work in the early 1960s, analytic philosophers of education have directed their attention to educational processes, aims, methods, pedagogies, and curriculum. To cite but one example, their analyses have revealed that the ‘knowledge’ which schools emphasize is much narrower than what counts as ‘knowledge’ in everyday life (compare ‘knowledge that’ with ‘knowledge how’).




II.                 ANALYSIS OF ‘EDUCATION’[86]

A.                 Introduction

“Teachers may be afflicted by a similar conceptual blight if they think too much in terms of their socializing role, or pay too much attention to the notion that education is a commodity in which the nation should invest, or to the suggestion that their main concern should be for the mental health of children.” (82)


To get clearer about the concept of ‘education,’ then, is an urgent necessity at the present time. Such conceptual clarification is pre-eminently the task of a philosopher of education.” (82)


B.                Towards a Conception of ‘Education’

“What is essential to education must involve an aspect under which things are done which is both intentional and reasonably specific.” (83)


“‘[E]ducation’ marks out no particular type of transaction between teachers and learners; it states criteria to which such transactions have to conform.” (97)


“Education, then, can have no ends beyond itself. Its value derives from principles and standards implicit in it.” (107)


1.                   The Value Criterion

“’Education’ relates to some sort of processes in which a desirable state of mind develops.” (85)


“[T]o call something ‘educational’ is to intimate that the processes and activities themselves contribute to or involve something that is worth while. Talk about ‘the aims of education’ depends to a large extent on a misunderstanding about the sort of concept that ‘education’ is.” (86)


“[Education is] the promotion of what is desirable.” (97)


2.                   The Cognitive Criterion

“[T]o be ‘educated’ implies (a) caring about what is worth while and (b) being brought to care about it and to possess the relevant knowledge or skill in a way that involves at least a minimum of understanding and voluntariness.” (92)


“[T]he conceptual connection between ‘education’ and seeing what is being done in a perspective that is not too limited.” (93) “’Training’ [as opposed to ‘education’] suggests the acquisition of appropriate habits of response in a limited situation. It lacks the wider cognitive implications of ‘education’.” (94)


3.                   Education as Initiation

Peters suggests that the term ‘initiation’ is general enough to encompass educative transactions if it is understood as an initiation into “worth-while states of mind that are characterized by breadth of understanding.” (98)


Education is the initiating process into “a vaster and more variegated inheritance.” (98)


“[T]he enormous importance of the impersonal content and procedures which are enshrined in public traditions. Initiation is always into some body of knowledge and mode of conduct.” (99)


"The emphasis on 'critical thinking' was salutary enough, perhaps, when bodies of knowledge were handed on without any attempt being made to hand on also the public procedures by means of which they had been accumulated, criticized, and revised, but it is equally absurd to foster an abstract skill called 'critical thinking' without handing on anything concrete to be critical about." (99)


“[The teacher’s] task is to try to get others on the inside of a public form of life that he shares and considers to be worth while.” (100)


“The job of the educator is not simply to build on existing wants but to present what is worth wanting in such a way that it creates new wants and stimulates new interests.” (105)


C.                Peter’s Broader Conception of Education

“[E]ducation is usually thought of as intentional. We put ourselves or others in the relevant situations, knowing what we are doing. I know that Rousseau claimed that ‘education comes to us from nature, from men, and from things’. There is this derivative sense of ‘education’ in which almost anything can be regarded as part of it—visiting a brothel, perhaps. But the central uses of the term are located in situations where we deliberately put ourselves or others in the way of something that is thought to be conducive to valuable states of mind.” (85)


“There is a very general descriptive use of the term ‘education’ which picks out almost any process of learning, rearing, bringing up and so on. The Oxford English Dictionary will tell you that in the nineteenth century people even spoke of the ‘education’ of silkworms. This is very general sense of ‘education’ still survives, though I doubt whether we would now feel happy about describing the rearing of silkworms in this way. For us, nowadays, education in this general sense is more or less synonymous with going to school.”[87]


Does ‘self-education’—assuming that there is such a thing—fit with Peter’s schooling assumptions (immediately above)?


Reflections on the Oxford English Dictionary definition of ‘education.’  See next page.

III.              ANALYSIS OF ‘TEACHING’[88]

A.                 The Activities of Teaching

“[T]here is no one immediately recognizable activity which the term teaching picks out.” (445)


“[W]e cannot hope to get clear what teaching is simply by producing an exhaustive list of activities . . . teaching is what is technically known as a polymorphous activity.“ (446)


B.                The Logical Correlation Between Teaching and Learning

“[T]here is no such thing as teaching without the intention to bring about learning . . . the notion of teaching is totally dependent for its characterization on the concept of learning.“ (448)


Hirst elects to concentrate on the task sense of teaching (the intention to promote learning) vs. the achievement sense (actually producing learning). Is this legitimate?


“Of course, taking the education of children as a whole, what they pick up in the context of our unintentional teaching may indeed be important. Still this does not alter the fact that in schools we are centrally concerned with intentional teaching and that as soon as we turn our attention to what has been unintentional in teaching, we thereby necessarily change its character (emphasis added).” (449)


C.                The Concept of Learning

“The end or aim of learning is, I suggest, always some specific achievement or end state.” (449)


“Learning like teaching is a polymorphous activity. If then learning is the activity of a person, say B, the intention of which is the attainment of some particular end, we can say that B necessarily learns something, say X, where X may be a belief, a skill, an attitude, or some other complex object that characterizes this end.” (449)


Is intention a necessary feature of learning? Can we not come into a “new state,” that is, we learned something without anyone intending this specific state?


“[T]he end achievements of learning are new states of the person and . . . these differ radically from each other.” (449-50)


D.                The Concept of Teaching

“A teaching activity is the activity of a person, A (the teacher), the intention of which is to being about an activity (learning), by a person, B (the pupil), the intention of which is to achieve some end state (e.g., knowing, appreciating) whose object is X (e.g., a belief, attitude, skill).”  (450)


There is a logical dependence of ‘teaching’ on ‘learning’ and ‘learning’ on the achievement of that to which it is directed.  (450)


1.                   The expressly indicating criterion:

“[T]he [teaching] activity must, either implicitly or explicitly, express or embody the X to be learnt, so that this X is clearly indicated to the pupil as what he is to learn.” (451)


“[T]he teacher makes plain in his activity what he intends to be learnt.” (451)


2.                   The present learning state criterion:

“There is a gap between the knowledge, skills, or state of mind of the learner and what he is to learn, which it seems to me any teaching activity must seek to bridge if it is to deserve that label. Teaching activities must therefore take place at a level where the pupil can take on what it is intended he should learn.” (452)


“This logical demand is for the teacher to have psychological and other knowledge about the learner.” (452)


“[A] specific teaching activity must necessarily indicatively express the X to be learnt by B and be so related to the present state of B that he can learn X.” (452)


E.                 Thomas F. Green on the Concept of Teaching[89]

Green suggests that the activities of teaching are of three general types:


The Logical Acts

The Strategic Acts

The Institutional Acts






Collecting Money






Patrolling the Hall

Giving Reasons


Attending Meetings

Amassing Evidence


Taking Attendance



Consulting Parents



Making Reports


“The institutional acts of teaching are distinguished because they are not necessary to the activity of teaching. . . . There is no inconsistency in the idea that teaching may go on even when the institutional acts of teaching are not going on.” (5)


[On the other hand] “Activities associated with the logic and strategy of teaching are indispensable to the conduct of teaching wherever and whenever it is found.” (5)


“[T]he performance of the logical and strategic acts of teaching is a necessary condition for the conduct of teaching. The same point cannot be made about the institutional acts of teaching.” (6-7)


“The performance of the logical acts of teaching is appraised on logical grounds”—that is, it can be a good explanation even though no one learns from it. “Performances of the strategic acts of teaching are appraised by their consequences for learning.” (7-8)


A.                 The Greek Notion of Liberal Education

“The fully developed Greek notion of liberal education was rooted in a number of related philosophical doctrines: first about the significance of knowledge for the mind, and secondly about the relationship between knowledge and reality.” (246)


“[K]nowledge satisfies and fulfils the mind . . . [t]he pursuit of knowledge is thus the pursuit of the good of the mind and, therefore, an essential element in the good life.” (246)


“[T]he mind, in the right use of reason, comes to show the essential nature of things and can apprehend what is ultimately real and immutable.” (247)


“[E]ducation is determined objectively in range, in structure and in content by the forms of knowledge itself and their harmonious, hierarchical interrelations.” (247)


I wonder if Hirst has not overintellectualized the Greek conception of knowledge and the liberal arts. [He argues that Greek liberal education was “concerned simply and solely with the pursuit of knowledge.” (247)] For Plato a proper education has to do with the formation of the just soul (and not simply intellectualized knowledge) and for Aristotle, liberal education has to do with the perfection of the citizen as a member of the city.


“[L]iberal education has a value for the person as the fulfilment of the mind, a value which has nothing to do with utilitarian or vocational considerations.” (247)


B.                A Typically Modern Notion of Liberal Education

Without assuming a realist metaphysic or epistemology, can liberal education be reconstituted so that it retains close relations between mind, knowledge, and public criteria?


Modern justifications of liberal education typically appeal to the qualities of mind it produces (“to think effectively, to communicate thought, to make relevant judgments, to discriminate among values”) and/or the forms of knowledge (the natural sciences, social studies, and humanities) with which it is concerned.


Hirst argues that it is impossible to characterize liberal education in terms of the abstracted qualities of mind specified above until and unless we specify what success amounts to. In other words, we must be able to specify the public criteria by which effective thinking, for instance, can be ascertained.[91] 


Hirst argues furthermore that the criteria for thinking effectiveness vary by context or discipline; the various forms of knowledge have their own criteria as to what counts as the attainment of these desirable mental activities. In other words, there are no generalized or unitary qualities of mind that can be specified apart from the forms of knowledge.


C.                A Reassertion and a Reinterpretation

If the preceding is correct the concept of liberal education “must be worked out fully in terms of the forms of knowledge. By these is meant . . . the complex ways of understanding experience which man has achieved, which are publicly specifiable and which are gained through learning.” (253) Later in the article Hirst identifies the following forms of knowledge: mathematics, physical sciences, history, religion, literature, the fine arts, and philosophy. (260)


Each form of knowledge implies a unique set of mental competencies that are developed in those initiated into its way of understanding experience. Each is “a distinct way in which our experience becomes structured round the use of accepted public symbols.” (258)


Hirst reaffirms the Greek understanding that there is a harmony between knowledge and mind. This harmony is no longer understood in metaphysical terms, but in terms of the logical relationship that exists between the mind and forms of knowledge, that is, there is a necessary relation between the achievement of knowledge and the development of mind. (254)


“To acquire knowledge is to learn to see, to experience the world in a way otherwise unknown, and thereby come to have a mind in a fuller sense.” (255)


“[T]o have a mind basically involves coming to have experience articulated by means of various conceptual schemata. It is only because man has over millennia objectified and progressively developed these that he has achieved the forms of human knowledge and the possibility of the development of mind as we know it is open to us today.” (255)


Reinterpreting the Greeks [by removing their metaphysical realism] allows Hirst to claim that “[a] liberal education is, then, one that, determined in scope and content by knowledge itself, is thereby concerned with the development of mind.” (255) Forms of knowledge, therefore, are the “disciplines that form the mind.” (259)


“In spite of the absence of any metaphysical doctrine about reality this idea of liberal education has a significant parallel to that of the original Greek concept. It is an education concerned directly with the development of the mind in rational knowledge, whatever form that freely takes. This parallels the original concept in that according to the doctrine of function liberal education was the freeing of the mind to achieve its own good in knowledge.” (257)


“For it is a necessary feature of knowledge as such that there be public criteria whereby the true is distinguishable from the false, the good from the bad, the right from the wrong.  It is the existence of these criteria which gives objectivity to knowledge; and this in its turn gives objectivity to the concept of liberal education.” (257)


What are the implications for Hirst’s thesis if the forms of knowledge are not simply benign “ways of understanding experience” but created, in part, by the social, political, economic, and institutional agendas of elite caretakers? Who are the formers of these “forms of knowledge” and how do they shape knowledge itself and thus, liberal education?




A.                 Hermeneutics as Anti-Platonism

“The Platonic picture is of human beings as possessing an organ—Reason—which is naturally suited to pick out the real from the unreal, the true from the false. Education enables that organ to be efficiently used.” (522)


“[For Plato and his followers] . . . there is a natural attunement between Reason and The Nature of Things.” (523) Truth, for which the mind is uniquely suited, corresponds to reality.


“’Hermeneutics’ has become a catchword for the intellectual movements which start from this Nietzschean conviction [“We simply lack any organ for knowledge, for ‘truth’; we ‘know’ (or believe or imagine) just as much as may be useful in the interests of the human herd, the species.].” (522)


“Understanding is not a construct from principles but the development of knowledge we have gained of a wider context and which is determined by the language we use."[93]

"It is only the whole of mankind that is in a position to completely understand a human product."[94]

For Nietzsche and his followers, the notion of “objective truth” is a residual of religious belief. There is nothing beyond mankind to which it is man’s duty to be faithful. Hermeneutics expresses the post-modern “willingness to live without metaphysical comfort.”[95]


B.                Hermeneutics and Pragmatism

Rorty argues that recent European hermeneuticists share a great deal with the American pragmatists, including John Dewey. For instance, both parties reject Platonism in holding that “human experience is ‘essentially linguistic’.” (524)


For both, language does not express or reveal pre-existing truths: “true assertions are not expressive of something pre-linguistic or non-linguistic.” They are “simply successful moves in the social practice . . . called a ‘language game’.” (524)


“[T]he goal of inquiry and of life . . . [is not] . . . getting in touch with something which exists independently of ourselves . . . .  [E]ducation . . . [does not help] . . . to get us in touch with something non-human called Truth or Reality, but rather in touch with our own potentialities.” (525)


“[T]he moral consensus built into our language is all we’ve got by way of back-up. To say that our experience is essentially linguistic is to say that there is no way to get behind our language to a reality against which to check it.” (526)


“[T]here is a middle way between reliance on a God-surrogate [Plato] and on one’s individual preferences [“vulgar relativism”]—namely, reliance on the common sense of the community to which one belongs.” (527)


C.                ‘Humanistic’ and ‘Scientific’ Education

“[H]umanistic learning and laboratory science are both intellectually liberating, simply because any way to unblock the road to inquiry, to prevent thought from being imprisoned within a single vocabulary, is liberating.” (528)


“We do not lift ourselves out of history by doing laboratory experiments any more than by reading St. Thomas—we merely, with luck, get some new suggestions about how to solve our problems. This means that neither education in science nor education in the humanities has any special claim to centrality. All that either can do is to give students some sense of what certain human beings at various historical periods did, in the hope of solving certain problems they had.” (529)


“To see the human community as engaged in problem-solving, and to see the great figures of the past as those who solved old problems by inventing new ones is the . . . alternative to seeing Man as aiming at Truth, and the great figures of the past as those who added bricks to the edifice of knowledge.” (531)


D.                Communal Romance

"'General Studies' is a catchword for the sort of education which aims at Romance. The fear that education may become merely 'vocational' and no longer 'liberal' is the fear that the student will never have heroes, will never fall in love with anything . . . . The goal of general studies seems to me to make sure that no student has only one hero, and that there is enough overlap between the students' sets of heroes to permit the students to share their romantic sensibilities, to have interesting conversations with one another. The aim of such conversations is, once again, not to seek the Truth but just to bind us together." (531-32)


“To pick a core curriculum is, therefore, to pick a community—or, better, to decide what sort of community one would like to see come into being.” (533)


“Teaching general studies (the last years of high school or the first year of college—the stage of Romance [a la Whitehead])—is erotic or nothing. Either the student is moved to think of himself as a potential member of a community which includes both his teacher and the author of the book being read, or nothing happens at all.” (534)


“If hermeneutics is taught as a new Truth or a new Method, then it will indeed have all the demoralizing effects which its critics fear. But if we can manage to teach it as just one more attempt to try to figure out what our problems are, an attempt no more privileged than any other, then it may contribute to the communal romance which . . . it is the function of general education to create.” (536)


A.                 Introduction

The traditional view of the liberal education is being challenged by what John Searle calls, for lack of a better term, “multiculturalism.” (536)


At its most simplistic level, supporters of the traditional liberal arts education hold that there are identifiable texts that evey educated person must be familiar with since they have helped define our cuture. (537)


The challegers (i.e., anti-traditionalists) hold that these “canonical” texts simply ignore (or fail to give due weight to) the contributions of minority groups within and without western culture. (537)


Searle argues that the traditionalists should simply concede this general objection and include the best works from these sub- and other cultures. However, this common sense concession is typically not acceptable to either party. Why is that? In Searle’s view, this is because there are fundamental assumptions that both camps cling to which render each position impervious to any pragmatic curricular resolution.


B.                The Tacit Theory Behind Educational Traditionalism

1.                   The criteria for inclusion in the “canon” is a combination of intellectual merit, literary excellence, and historical importance.

2.                   There are intersubjective standards of rationality, wit, truth, validity, and general intellectual merit.

3.                   The standard canon overcomes mediocrity and provincialism.

4.                   A primary function of education is criticism of oneself and one’s community.

5.                   Objectivity and truth are possible since metaphysical realism is true.

C.                The Tacit Theory Behind the Traditionalists’ Challengers

1.                   The subgroup into which one is born matters decisively.

2.                   All cultures are roughly equal (or would be, if given a chance).

3.                   Every culture must be represented in the curriculum and in the faculty.

4.                   The primary purpose of the humanities is political transformation.

5.                   There are no transpersonal moral, aesthetic, or intellectual standards.

6.                   Anti-realism is true; metaphysical realism is false.

7.                   Western civilization is oppressive.


D.                Searle’s Defence of Traditional Education

Searle argues that the anti-realism of the challengers is ultimately incoherent since the very possibilitly of a dispute or argument implies the existence of a public world accessed through publicly intelligible concepts. He argues that any public world presupposes metaphysical realism. Accepted standards of rationality are implicit in the very acts of presenting a thesis or defending a particular view.


Searle argues, furthermore, that the fact that the canon has political consequences does not directly support the additional claim that it should be dominated by politicized, and thus, narrow, purposes.[97]


Further, the power that white males have exercised is not a feature of their maleness but their personal influence and, more importantly, the positions they have held in powerful organizations. It does not follow from their historic influence that white males, as a group, are powerful or that every white male is powerful.


Against the traditionalists, Searle argues that the canon needs to be thoughtfully extended to high-quality works which have been overlooked.


[1]Kingsley Price, “Philosophy of Education, History of,” In The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 8 vols., ed. Paul Edwards (New York: Macmillan/Free Press, 1967), 5:230. Howard Ozmon and Samuel Craver suggest that “philosophy of education began when people first became conscious of education as a distinct human activity.” See Howard Ozmon and Samuel Craver, “Introduction,” in Philosophical Foundations of Education, 7th ed., ed. Howard Ozmon and Samuel Craver (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2003), 1.

[2]Price, “Philosophy of Education,” 230.

[3]Sheldon Wolin, Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Political Thought (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1960), 29.

[4]Wolin, Politics and Vision, 32.

[5]Ozmon and Craver, “Introduction,” 2.

[6]The aims that follow are adapted from Amelie Oksenberg Rorty, “The Ruling History of Education,” in Philosophers on Education: New Historical Perspectives, ed. Amelie Oksenberg Rorty (London: Routledge, 1998), 1.

[7]I am indebted to Paul Woodruff in this section. See his “Socratic Education,” in Philosophers on Education: New Historical Perspectives, ed. Amelie Oksenberg Rorty (London: Routledge, 1998), 14-31.

[8]Plato, Meno in Classic and Contemporary Readings in the Philosophy of Education, ed. Steven M. Cahn (New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, 1997), 19.

[9]Plato, Meno, 20.

[10]Plato, Meno, 29.

[11]Woodruff, “Socratic Education,” 19.

[12]The character, Callicles, in Plato’s dialogue, Gorgias, passionately articulates this view.

[13]W. T. Jones, The Classical Mind, vol. 1, A History of Western Philosophy (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970), 55.

[14]David Bolotin, “Thucydides,” in Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey, eds., History of Political Philosophy, 3d ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 15.

[15]Sheldon Wolin, Politics and Vision (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1960), 40.

[16]Jones, The Classical Mind, 72-73.

[17]See Leo Strauss, “Plato,” in History of Political Philosophy, 42.

[18]See J. S. Wilson, “The Argument of Republic IV,” The Philosophical Quarterly 26 (April 1976): 120.

[19]Wilson, “The Argument . . . ,” 121.

[20]Ernest Barker, “Introduction,” in The Politics of Aristotle (London: Oxford University Press, 1946), l-li.

[21]Wilson, “The Argument . . . ,” 122, n. 23.

[22]Plato, “The Republic,” in Classic and Contemporary Readings, 86.

[23]CCR = Classic and Contemporary Readings in the Philosophy of Education.

[24]Kathleen V. Wilkes, “The Good Man and the Good for Man in Aristotle’s Ethics,” in Essays on Aristotle’s Ethics, ed. Amelie Oksenberg Rorty (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1980), 341.

[25]J. L. Ackrill suggests that Aristotle is making two points about eudaimonia, namely, that “you cannot say of eudemonia that you seek it for the sake of something else” and “you cannot say you would prefer eudemonia plus something extra . . . .”  See “Aristotle on Eudemonia,” Essays on Aristotle’s Ethics, 22.

[26]Thomas Nagel, “Aristotle on Eudaimonia,” in Essays on Aristotle’s Ethics, 8.

[27]Cited in An Introduction to Ethics, ed. Robert Dewey and Robert Hurlbutt (New York: Macmillan, 1977), 296.

[28]See “Translator’s Introduction,” in Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, trans. Martin Ostwald (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1980), xxii.

[29]A. MacIntyre, After Virtue  (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981), 139.

[30]C. D. C. Reeve, “Aristotelian Education,” in Philosophers on Education, 51.

[31]Reeve, “Aristotelian Education,” 54.

[32]Reeve, “Aristotelian Education,” 54.

[33]Reeve, “Aristotelian Education,” 57.

[34]This idea is suggested by Walter Hobhouse, The Theory and Practice of Ancient Education (New York: G. E. Stechert, 1910), 28.

[35]Ian Harris, The Mind of John Locke: A Study of Political Theory in its Intellectual Setting (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 283.

[36]Harris, The Mind of John Locke, 284.

[37]Harris, The Mind of John Locke, 286.

[38]John Yolton, “Locke: Education for Virtue,” in Philosophers on Education, 180.

[39]Harris, The Mind of John Locke, 288.

[40]Harris, The Mind of John Locke, 288.

[41]These attributes are suggested in James Clapp, “Locke, John,” s.v. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 8 vols., ed. Paul Edwards (New York: Macmillan/Free Press, 1967), 4:500.

[42]This list is taken from Yolton, “Locke: Education for Virtue,” 180-81.

[43]John Passmore, The Perfectibility of Man (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1970), 159, 163.

[44]Allan Bloom, “Jean-Jacques Rousseau,” in Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey, ed., History of Political Philosophy, 3d ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 562.

[45]Amelie Oksenberg Rorty, “Rousseau’s Educational Experiments,” in Philosophers on Education, 240.

[46]J. J. Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin and the Foundations of Inequality Among Men I:35 [1755], in The Discourses and other early political writings, trans. Victor Gourevitch (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 212.

[47]Rorty, “Rousseau’s Educational Experiments,” 240-41.

[48]Allan Bloom, “Jean-Jacques Rousseau,” 564-65.

[49]Rorty, “Rousseau’s Educational Experiments,” 239.

[50]Rorty, “Rousseau’s Educational Experiments,” 242.

[51]Rousseau, Emile, or On Education, trans. Allan Bloom (New York: Basic Books, 1979), 85.

[52]Rousseau, The Social Contract, ed. Charles Frankel (New York: Hafner Press, 1947), 14-15.

[53]Martin Luther, The Freedom of a Christian [1520] in Luther’s Works, 55 vols. (Philadephia: Fortress Press, 1955-76), 31:344.

[54]Turrettin, Sermon sur la loy de la Liberte [1734], cited in Pamel A. Mason, “The Communion of Citizens: Calvinist Themes in Rousseau’s Theory of the State,” Polity (Fall 1993): 46.

[55]Rorty, “Rousseau’s Educational Experiments,” 248.

[56]Rorty, “Rousseau’s Educational Experiments,” 248.

[57]In this subsection and the one that follows I am indebted to Andrew Bailey, First Philosophy: Fundamental Problems and Readings in Philosophy (Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 2002), 222-23, 634-42.

[58]Immanuel Kant, Foundations of the Metaphysic of Morals (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1980), 29.

[59]Immanuel Kant, Opus Postumum, cited in Lewis White Beck, "Kant's Theoretical and Practical Philosophy," Studies in the Philosophy of Kant (Indianapolis: Bobbs Merrill, 1965), 51-2.

[60]Material in this subsection in taken from John H. Hallowell and Jene M. Porter, Political Philsosophy: The Search for Humanity and Order (Scarborough, ON: Prentice Hall, Canada, 1997), 502-10.

[61]Jeremy Bentham, A Fragment on Government and An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, ed. Wilfrid Harrison (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1967), ch. 1, para. 1.

[62]Jeremy Bentham, A Fragment on Government, ed. J. H. Burns and H. L. A. Hart (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), Preface, 3.

[63]Material in this section is taken from Elizabeth Anderson, “John Stuart Mill: Democracy as Sentimental Education,” in Philosophers on Education, 333ff.

[64]Anderson, “John Stuart Mill,” 336.

[65]Anderson, “John Stuart Mill,” 350.

[66]Citations in this section are taken from two essays by Alfred N. Whitehead, “The Rhythm of Education (1922),” and “The Rhythmic Claims of Freedom and Discipline.” Both are reprinted in The Aims of Education and Other Essays (New York: The Free Press, 1967). Parenthetical references to page numbers between 15 and 19 refer to the former source; page numbers between 30 and 41 refer to the latter.

[67]Richard J. Bernstein, “Dewey, John,” in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 8 vols., ed. Paul Edwards (New York: Macmillan/Free Press, 1967), 2:380.

[68]Philosophical Foundations of Education, 7th ed., 136.

[69]John Dewey, Logic: The Theory of Inquiry (New York, 1938), 104.

[70]See Philosophical Foundations of Education, 7th ed., 138.

[71]Alan Ryan, “Deweyan Pragmatism and American Education,” in Philosophers on Education, 407.

[72]Frederick A. Olafson, “The School and Society: Reflections on John Dewey’s Philosophy of Education,” in New Studies in the Philosophy of John Dewey, ed. Steven M. Cahn (Hanover, NH: The University Press of New England, 1977), 185-86.

[73]John Passmore, A Hundred Years of Philosophy (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1980), 50.

[74]Brand Blanchard, “The Philosophy of Analysis,” Proceedings of the British Academy (38):40.

[75]These are adapted from: Contemporary Analytic and Linguistic Philosophies, ed. E. D. Klemke (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1983), 24.

[76]These theses are adapted from: Contemporary Analytic and Linguistic Philosophies, 16-17. Analytic traditions or philosophers would not necessarily subscribe to all of these theses.

[77]Passmore, A Hundred Years, 207.

[78]Lord Quinton, “Linguistic Philosophy,” s.v. The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, ed. Ted Honderich (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 490.

[79]Paul H. Hirst and Patricia White, “The Analytic Tradition and Philosophy of Education: An Historical Perspective,” in Philosophy of Education: Major Themes in the Analytic Tradition, vol. 1, Philosophy and Education, ed. Paul H. Hirst and Patricia White (London: Routledge, 1998), 3.

[80]Passmore, A Hundred Years, 426.

[81] Hirst and White, “The Analytic Tradition,” 4.

[82]Quinton, “Linguistic Philosophy,” 489.

[83]Morris Weitz, Twentieth-Century Philosophy: The Analytic Tradition (New York: Free Press, 1966), 327.

[84]R. S. Peters, Ethics and Education, 1966. Cited in Hirst and White, The Analytic Tradition, 5-6.

[85]Howard Ozmon and Samuel Craver, “Analytic Philosophy of Education,” in Philosophical Foundations of Education, 7th ed., ed. Ozmon and Craver (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2003), 287.

[86]The argument in this section is derived from R. S. Peters, “Education as Initiation” (1962) in Authority, Responsibility and Education, 3d ed. (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1980).

[87]R. S. Peters, “Education and Seeing What is There,” in Authority, Responsibility and Education, 116.

[88]The material in this section is derived from Paul H. Hirst, “What is Teaching?” Journal of Curriculum Studies 3:1 (May 1971): 5-18, reprinted in CCR, 444-455.

[89]This material is derived from Thomas F. Green, “The Structure of Teaching,” chap. 1 in The Activities of Teaching (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1971), 2-18.

[90]The material in parenthesis in the section is from Paul H. Hirst, “Liberal Education and the Nature of Knowledge,” in Philosophical Analysis and Education, ed. Reginald D. Archambault (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1965).  Reprinted in Philosophy of Education: Major Themes in the Analytic Tradition, vol. 1, Philosophy and Education, ed. Paul H. Hirst and Patricia White (London: Routledge, 1998), 246-66.

[91]See Hirst’s critique of ‘critical thinking’ in the previous topic in these class notes.

[92]Unless otherwise noted, material in this section is taken from Richard M. Rorty, “Hermeneutics, General Studies, and Teaching.”  Reprinted in CCR, 522-36.

[93]Josef Bleicher, Contemporary Hermeneutics: Hermeneutics as Method, Philosophy and Critique (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980), 121. 

[94]Johann Wolfgang Goethe, in Josef Bleicher, Contemporary Hermeneutics, 91.

[95]Richard M. Rorty, “A Response to Dreyfus and Taylor,” The Review of Metaphysics  34(September 1980): 93.

[96]Unless otherwise noted, material in this section is taken from John Searle, “Is There a Crisis in American Higher Education?” Reprinted in CCR, 536-546.

[97]Searle has in mind a claim like that made by Michel Foucault [1926-84]. "It seems to me that the real political task in a society such as ours is to criticize the workings of institutions which appear to be both neutral and independent; to criticize them in such a manner that the political violence which has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight them." Michel Foucault, cited in R. Rabinow, "Introduction," The Foucault Reader, ed. R. Rabinow (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984), 6.