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Philosophical Issues in Critical Thinking  

Juho Ritola

Critical thinking is active, good-quality thinking. This kind of thinking is initiated by an agent’s desire to decide what to believe, it satisfies relevant norms, and the decision on the matter at hand is reached through the use of available reasons under the control of the thinking agent. In the educational context, critical thinking refers to an educational aim that includes certain skills and abilities to think according to relevant standards and corresponding attitudes, habits, and dispositions to apply those skills to problems the agent wants to solve. The basis of this ideal is the conviction that we ought to be rational. This rationality is manifested through the proper use of reasons that a cognizing agent is able to appreciate. From the philosophical perspective, this fascinating ability to appreciate reasons leads into interesting philosophical problems in epistemology, moral philosophy, and political philosophy. Critical thinking in itself and the educational ideal are closely connected to the idea that we ought to be rational. But why exactly? This profound question seems to contain the elements needed for its solution. To ask why is to ask either for an explanation or for reasons for accepting a claim. Concentrating on the latter, we notice that such a question presupposes that the acceptability of a claim depends on the quality of the reasons that can be given for it: asking this question grants us the claim that we ought to be rational, that is, to make our beliefs fit what we have reason to believe. In the center of this fit are the concepts of knowledge and justified belief. A critical thinker wants to know and strives to achieve the state of knowledge by mentally examining reasons and the relation those reasons bear to candidate beliefs. Both these aspects include fascinating philosophical problems. How does this mental examination bring about knowledge? What is the relation my belief must have to a putative reason for my belief to qualify as knowledge? The appreciation of reason has been a key theme in the writings of the key figures of philosophy of education, but the ideal of individual justifying reasoning is not the sole value that guides educational theory and practice. It is therefore important to discuss tensions this ideal has with other important concepts and values, such as autonomy, liberty, and political justification. For example, given that we take critical thinking to be essential for the liberty and autonomy of an individual, how far can we try to inculcate a student with this ideal when the student rejects it? These issues underline important practical choices an educator has to make.

Article

Wrongful Influence in Educational Contexts  

John Tillson

When and why are coercion, indoctrination, manipulation, deception, and bullshit morally wrongful modes of influence in the context of educating children? Answering this question requires identifying what valid claims different parties have against one another regarding how children are influenced. Most prominently among these, it requires discerning what claims children have regarding whether and how they and their peers are influenced, and against whom they have these claims. The claims they have are grounded in the weighty interests they each equally have in their wellbeing, prospective autonomy, and being regarded with equal concern and respect. Plausibly children have valid claims regarding the content and means of influence they themselves are subjected to. For instance, considerations of concern and respect for children confer duties on others enable them to know important information and develop important skills. Children also plausibly have valid claims to be free from certain means of influence, including indoctrination. This is because indoctrinatory practices threaten to diminish both their capacity to reason soundly, thereby constituting a wrongful harm, and their opportunities to form judgements and choices in response to relevant evidence and reasons, thereby constituting a wrong of disrespect.

Article

Catholic Theology and Philosophy of Education  

Jānis T. Ozoliņš

It has been said that little or no Catholic philosophy of education has been articulated since about 1980, suggesting that it has been subsumed under more general philosophical conceptions of education. This implies that there is nothing particularly distinctive about a Catholic conception of education that would enable us to distinguish it from a nonreligious conception of education. There is no doubt that a philosophy of Catholic education shares many of the features of liberal education. The roots of a Catholic philosophy of education are grounded in Catholic theology. That is, the great Mediaeval Christian commentators articulate their conceptions of education and its purposes informed by a Christian theological understanding of the nature of human beings, their relationship to God, and to their common, final end. Without theology to articulate how human knowledge, purpose, and fulfillment are connected, education is incomplete and reduces to training and the gaining of skills for the workforce. It is theology that enables us to understand how training and gaining of skills is connected to the final end of human beings, which is God. A philosophy of education that is Christian cannot be separated from theology.

Article

Aristotelian and Kantian Virtues and Education  

Guðmundur Heiðar Frímannsson

Virtues are conditions for education, a part of education, and a result of it. Virtues are stable, desirable traits of persons. For a person to be virtuous, these traits of character must be regularly expressed in action. Choosing rationally to perform good actions is not sufficient for virtue; even though it may be a necessary condition for an action to be good, performing is necessary as well to exercise virtue. It is sometimes claimed that moral theory along utilitarian and deontological lines neglected or forgot the virtues in its theoretical work in the 20th century. This is true about much of 20th-century moral theory. Aristotelian moral theory has grown in influence since the early 1970s and it can be reasonably said that it is now just as influential as deontology and utilitarianism if not more so. Naturalism is a part of Aristotelian moral theory and has proved a much stronger base for moral action and moral argument than 20th-century moral theory was willing to accept with its fundamental distinction between facts and values. Values are just as fundamental to our understanding of the world as facts. Arguments in moral theory move easily from facts to values and values to facts. The relation between facts and values is more complicated than much of 20th-century moral theory allowed for. Immanuel Kant is often taken as an example of a philosopher who neglected the virtues. Yet Kant wrote a work, The Metaphysics of Morals, half of which was devoted to virtues. Education is a normative endeavor aiming at well-rounded individuals capable of fulfilling those functions that modern society requires from them, such as being a citizen, entering working life with valuable complex skills, or governing one’s own life. It is not possible to fulfill these functions without mastering the moral and intellectual virtues.

Article

Bildung-Centered General Didactics  

Ilmi Willbergh

Bildung-centered general didactics is a tradition of schooling and teacher education in Germany and the Nordic countries. It originated from the late 18th century during the development of nation-states, when the professions had designated areas of responsibility. The teacher’s duty was to interpret the curriculum, transforming it into meaningful teaching for the students in the classroom. Teaching comprises the totality of the three aspects of any teaching situation; the teacher, the student, and content, and their relations in specific practices. Bildung-centered general didactics puts content to the fore. It is a hermeneutical discipline centered on the topics of the culture as a whole. Bildung, in German and Nordic general didactics, is a concept grasping the normative ideals behind any educational phenomenon. Hence, the meaning of Bildung will vary from culture to culture and across time. However, the idea of Bildung is mostly associated with the ideals of modernity in Western history; the core question being how to educate autonomous and responsible democratic citizens. Since then, pedagogy has implied a paradox: how to cultivate the freedom of individuals through the exercise of power. Bildung-centered general didactics centers on this paradox in theory and practice, and at the macro and micro levels of the educational system. The most influential Bildung-centered general didactic approach is that of Wolfgang Klafki (1927–2016). Klafki’s primary term is categorical Bildung, a dialectic of the content and the student, and a didactic analysis as the means for teachers to contribute to the empowerment of students.

Article

Ecopedagogy and Education  

Ruyu Hung

The neologism ecopedagogy was coined in the late 20th century to represent the joining of ecology and pedagogy. However, ecopedagogy is not an education about ecology but an education through ecology, meaning that it is an education based on an ecological worldview. A worldview is the fundamental understanding of life and the world. Ecological worldview means the ecological approach to the understanding of life and the world. The basic ideas of the ecological worldview come from the science of ecology, of which there are two interpretations: ecology of stability and ecology of instability. Both provide a general, shared outline of the world and how it works but each offers distinctive values of philosophy, ethics, culture, and society with regard to the ecosystem. Ecopedagogy, which encompasses both ecological worldview and education, develops into two broad movements: philosophical ecopedagogy and critical ecopedagogy. For the former, referred to as ecosophy, focuses on the metaphysical investigation of the human-nature relationship and related issues in education. For the latter, ecojustice, the mission is to critique the injustice and oppression involved in environmental issues and to construct a utopian society of planetary civilization.

Article

Open-Mindedness and Education  

Susan Verducci

Open-mindedness disposes us to value and seek truth, knowledge, and understanding by taking a particular stance toward ourselves, what we know, new information, and experience. It aims to improve our epistemic standing, both individually and socially. Widely accepted as a valuable educational aim, scholarship on the nature and extent of open-mindedness’ epistemological and civic value is growing. Epistemological conceptions range from its role in rational inquiry to thinking of it as an attitude toward one’s self as a knower, or as an attitude toward individual beliefs. Conversations on its status as an intellectual virtue, its associations with personal transformation, and its role in aesthetic experiences are also on the rise. Of particular note for schooling are its connections to democratic citizenship. Theorists argue that open-mindedness operates in respecting others, tolerating differences in pluralistic contexts, and exercising autonomy. Central challenges to its value, however, abound. They include the difficulty of pinpointing the line between open-mindedness and gullibility, and the ways that human cognitive limitations make open-mindedness more aspirational than possible. Its incompatibility with holding strong commitments serve as some of the most relevant challenges to its value. Are there any ideas or beliefs that we ought not be open-minded about? And if (and when) there are, can open-mindedness support structures of power and/or oppressive forces? Additional challenges come from those who explore how open-mindedness fares in posttruth and postfact conditions. The educational discourse on open-mindedness shows that its objects, occasions, and processes have expanded over time and in response to new understandings of historical, social, and cultural conditions. In this light, educational philosophers may no longer be theorizing about a singular phenomenon with a set of agreed upon characteristics. Instead, open-mindedness may have become a constellation of related and overlapping epistemological phenomena with similar features, much like what Ludwig Wittgenstein calls family resemblances. If so, this constellation requires a conceptual framework, such as the one Jürgen Habermas laid out in Knowledge and Human Interests, to provide open-mindedness with theoretical and educational coherence. Despite the growing incoherence of thinking about open-mindedness as a singular phenomenon, most educational theorists maintain a fundamental commitment to open-mindedness as an educational aim. Regardless of whether one considers open-mindedness to have essential characteristics, to be a constellation of epistemic phenomena with Wittgensteinian family resemblances, and/or a concept in search of a singular framework (such as Habermas’s), much of the educational discourse on open-mindedness will likely continue to be maintained as it improves our epistemic, moral, and civic standing. This line of thinking assumes and suggests that we simply need to educate for the right orientation, the right attitude, the right sort of openness, and the right skills to attain these goods. However, increasing exploration of the political nature of open-mindedness and emerging perspectives from critical theory seem to be coalescing into a second strand of counterdialogue. Examination of “the goodness” of open-mindedness in contexts of oppression, intolerance, closed-mindedness, and posttruth/postfact conditions provide increasingly serious challenges to open-mindedness’ secure status as an educational aim.

Article

Love of Wisdom  

B. B. North

Philosophy as the love of wisdom is informative and can be inspiring and generative to students; it opens up possibilities for philosophical thinking to be more relevant for everyday life. Highlighting philosophy as the love of wisdom emphasizes the ancient and deep-rooted value of philosophy and does not restrict philosophy to the use of specific methodologies or to a specific subject matter, but rather expands it to encompassing a way of life. In this way, philosophy is meant to help promote valuable human lives and the public good at large. Philosophy as the love of wisdom is a call to remember that philosophy is not only a discipline to be studied in academia. Plato’s Socrates can be interpreted as a paragon of philosophy as a way of life and as exemplifying a love of wisdom. Contrary to philosophy as the love of wisdom, the popular conception of philosophy—as the paramount use of logic and argumentation—can be alienating. The scholastic or instrumental view of education promotes this popular conception and conceptually segregates the different academic disciplines. When this occurs, education is not seen as continuous with life. To move beyond the narrow and popular conception of philosophy, it is helpful to look at how John Dewey explicitly connects philosophy and education: when considering the many different types of education, one should not forget the ethical value of the given intellectual pursuits. This opens up space for the peripheries of philosophy to be more centralized. Emotion, art, and practical considerations of everyday life are illuminated as the material of philosophic thinking. Philosophy is the lived love of wisdom.

Article

Revolutionary Critical Rage Pedagogy  

Peter McLaren and Petar Jandrić

Revolutionary critical rage pedagogy was first introduced in Peter McLaren’s 2015 book Pedagogy of insurrection: From resurrection to revolution. It is aimed at development of heightened recognition of the deception perpetrated by those who write history “from above,” that is from the standpoint of the victors who have camouflaged or naturalized genocidal acts of war, patriarchy, settler colonialism, and other forms of oppression as necessary conditions for the maintenance of democracy. Revolutionary critical rage pedagogy is carried out not only in educational institutions but throughout the public sphere. Its broader social aim is both a relational and structural transformation of society that cultivates pluriversal and decolonizing modes of democratization built upon a socialist alternative to capitalist accumulation and value production.

Article

Aspirations to Gender Equality in Philosophy, Political Activism, and Education  

Gregory Bynum

Late 20th-century and early 21st-century social movement toward gender equality in society has been significant. Parents and educators commonly expect that all youngsters should have the same life opportunities regardless of gender. In education, girls and young women are excelling, often equaling and even surpassing boys and men in academic performance and in earning college degrees and graduate degrees. Further, women are more frequently assuming traditionally “masculine” professional roles (doctor, lawyer, manager, legislator, governor, and others) while men more frequently assume traditionally “feminine” roles, successfully taking on more child care and housework, and working in nursing and other traditionally “feminine” fields. At the same time, preferences for gender hierarchy are still strongly expressed in many areas of society. At the top of leading social institutions including government and business, men still possess far more political, economic, and intellectual leadership power and authority in comparison to women; and in reaction to political and economic power imbalances, women’s rights activists sometimes express the idea of female superiority instead of arguing for gender equality. In the area of socialization, girls and women continue experiencing high levels of gender-specific pressure to conform to narrow ideals of physical beauty and emotional supportiveness, while boys and men continue experiencing pressure to avoid communicating about their vulnerabilities and emotions, possibly stunting their emotional development and impairing their mental health. In this context, gender equality emerges as a vital, early-21st-century educational imperative that is essential in actualizing what the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has designated the right of all people to an education for the “full development of the human personality.” In the gender equality imperative’s emergence in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the following elements are all interrelated: philosophical perspectives and sociopolitical developments indicating a need for gender equality, thinking and practices opposed to gender equality, and the development of pro-gender-equality educational understandings and practices.