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Decolonial Philosophy and Education  

Nassim Noroozi

“Decolonial philosophy of education” is an almost nonexistent term. Consequently, rigorous intellectual and scholarly conversations on education tend to be centered around a specific set of concepts and discourses that were (and still are) generated, picked up or analyzed by thinkers from a specific geographical and political space, such as Socrates, Rousseau, Dewey, Heidegger, and Foucault. This has led to the systemic ignoring and violating concepts and ideas generated from other spaces and lived through by other people. This legacy can also be related to some philosophical aspirations for gaining total, hegemonic, and universal perceptions and representations often formulated by male Euro-American philosophers; when this intellectual passion for universality becomes coupled with or stays silent about imperial and expansionist ambitions, it can see itself implicated in creating assimilationist or genocidal practices: in education, the manifestation of universality associated with imperialism is observed in Indian residential schools. While the words education, literacy, curriculum, learning of languages, acquiring knowledge, school, school desks, and school buildings might normally echo positive vibes for many, it can make an aboriginal survivor of an Indian residential school shudder. It is furthermore hard to ignore the aspirations for a European/Universalist definition of human and man in the famous “Kill the Indian to save the child” policy of Indian Residential Schools. However, the likelihood of deeming such assimilationist attempts as benign acts of trial and error and as events external to philosophy is generally high. Therefore, the “colonial edge” of these philosophies are, more often than not, left unexamined. This is the plane where decolonial philosopher dwell. They deliberate on essential key moments and discussions in philosophical thought that have either not been paused at enough or paused at all, and thereby question this lack of attention. There is an important reason for these intellectual halts practiced by decolonial philosophers. While these might seem to be abstract epistemic endeavors, decolonial philosophers see their work as practices of liberation that aim beyond disrupting the eminence of mainstream Euro-American philosophical thought. Through these interrogative pauses, they hope to intervene, overturn and restructure the philosophical, political and social imaginations in favor of the silenced, the ignored, the colonized, and the (epistemologically and physically) violated. This article engages with certain key decolonial theses and is concerned with the hope of initiating and further expanding the dialogues of decolonization in the philosophy of education. The article will, however, stay away from adding new theses or theories to decolonial education. The author believes that this field, much like other paradigms, either can or will at some point suffer from theoretical exhaustion. Instead, it directs the readers to pause at some of the decisive moments discussed in decolonial theories.

Article

Buddhist Philosophy as Philosophy  

Mark Siderits

Is Buddhist philosophy properly thought of as philosophy? The work of Buddhist thinkers such as Vasubandhu, Nāgārjuna, and Dharmakīrti is widely recognized as deploying the same sorts of tools to investigate the same sorts of topics as what one finds in the practices of academic philosophers in the early 21st century. Still there is resistance to incorporating Buddhist philosophical texts into the philosophy canon, and this both from “mainstream” academic philosophers and from Buddhologists (scholars of the Buddhist tradition). Current resistance can be traced to concerns over the soteriological context of Buddhist philosophizing. Those who wish to maintain the present Eurocentric focus of the philosophy canon suspect that the soteriological ends to which philosophical inquiry is put by Buddhists must compromise philosophy’s commitment to rationality and Buddhism’s commitment to its goal of salvation. Resistance from both sides thus presupposes that a spiritual practice necessarily involves commitments that are not rationally assessable. And this presupposition may be incompatible with the core Buddhist teaching of non-self. If this clears the way to including the Buddhist philosophical tradition in the canon, one must ask how this may affect the two parties to the project of fusion. A brief look at some recent missteps reveals that only if there is greater teamwork between philologically trained Buddhologists and scholars trained in (what currently counts as) “mainstream” academic philosophy can there be real progress. But the potential benefits—for both sides—may well justify the effort.

Article

Mathesis  

Baylee Brits

Mathesis universalis is perhaps the ultimate formal system. The fact that the concept ties together truth, possibility, and formalism marks it as one of the most important concepts in Western modernity. “Mathesis” is Greek (μάθησις) for “learning” or “science.” The term is sometimes used to simply mean “mathematics”; the planet Mathesis, for instance, is named after the discipline of mathematics. It is philosophically significant when rendered as “mathesis universalis,” combining a Latinized version of the Greek μάθησις (learning) with the Latin universalis (universal). The most significant modern philosophers to develop the term were René Descartes (1596–1650) and Gottfried Leibniz (1646–1716), who used it to name a formal system that could support a project of scientia generalis (Descartes) or the ars combinatoria (Leibniz). In each case, mathesis universalis is a universal method. In this sense it does not constitute the content of the sciences but provides the formal system that undergirds no less than the acquisition and veracity of knowledge itself. Although mathesis universalis is only rarely mentioned in the literature of Descartes and Leibniz, philosophers including Edmund Husserl, Ernst Cassirer, and Martin Heidegger considered it one of the key traits of modernity, breaking with the era of substance (Rabouin) or resemblance (Foucault) to signal a new period defined by formalism and quantification. Thus, in the 20th century, the scant and often contradictory literature on mathesis actually produced by the great philosophers of the Enlightenment comes to take on an importance that far exceeds the term’s original level of systematic elaboration. The term mathesis universalis was rarely used by either Descartes or Leibniz, and the latter used many different terms to refer to the same concept. The complexity and subtlety of the term, combined with difficulties in establishing a rigorous systematic interpretation, has meant that mathesis universalis is often used vaguely or to encompass all scientific method. It is a difficult concept to account for, because although many philosophers and literary theorists will casually refer to it, often in its abbreviated form (Lacan references mathesis in opposition to poesis to contrast the procedures of the sciences and the arts, for instance), there is not a great deal of consistent theoretical elaboration of the term in literary and cultural theory. Although mathesis universalis is not simply an avatar of mathematics, it is difficult to establish exactly where maths ends and mathesis begins, so to speak. The distinction is murky in both Descartes’s and Leibniz’s work, and this ambiguity would become a key controversy surrounding the term in the 20th century, with Bertrand Russell arguing that the significance of symbolic logic to mathesis universalis prevented it from being a “premier” science. Along with Russell, Ernst Cassirer and Louis Couturat would contest the relation between symbolic logic and the symbolic algebra of mathesis universalis, providing the terms of the debate for 20th-century philosophical work on ontology. Mathesis universalis was also a source of debate and controversy in the 20th century because it provided a node from which to examine the status of scientific truth. It is the work of 20th-century philosophers that expanded the significance of the term, using it to exemplify aspects of Enlightenment thought that many philosophers wished to react against, namely the aspiration to a universal science and the privileging of formal systems as avenues to truth. In this respect, the term is associated with Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, and especially Michel Foucault, whose extensive work on the “classical episteme” provided a popular method of characterizing the development and enduring features of Enlightenment science. Although Foucault’s rendering of mathesis universalis as a “science of calculation” in The Order of Things (1970) is the most commonly used definition in literary and cultural studies, debates centering on Leibniz’s work in the early 20th century suggest that critics still took divergent approaches to the definition and significance of the term. It is Foucault who has popularized the contraction of the term to “mathesis.”

Article

Postmodernism in Education  

Marek Tesar, Andrew Gibbons, Sonja Arndt, and Nina Hood

The period of postmodernism refers to a diverse set of ideas, practices, and disciplines that came to prominence in the later 20th century. It is the overarching philosophical project that responds to and critiques the principles of modernity and challenges the established ways of thinking. It opposes the ideas that it is possible to rationalize life through narrow, singular disciplinary thinking or through the establishment of a universal truth and grand narratives that strive for the value-neutral homogeneity that defined Enlightenment thinking. Postmodernism questions ontological, epistemological, and ethical conventions, and it opens up possibilities for multiple discourses and accepting marginalized and minority thoughts and practices. Openness to diversity is a key outcome of the multiplicities arising in postmodernity across a range of fields, including, among others, art, education, philosophy, architecture, and economics. Through its rejection of the totalizing effects of metanarratives and their intentions to achieve universal truths, goals, outcomes, and sameness, the postmodern condition opens an ethical responsibility toward otherness, to allow for diversity, and thus to elevate those who have been subjugated or marginalized in modernity. Postmodernism has been playing a significant role in what sometimes is termed the equity approach in education. While postmodernism may be eventually overtaken by other “posts”—post-qualitative, post-truth, post-digital—it still remains an important part of philosophy of education scholarship and broader understandings and conceptualizations of education.

Article

Alain Badiou and Education  

Torill Strand

The French philosopher Alain Badiou (1937–) is one of the most significant philosophers of our time, well known for his meticulous work on rethinking, renewing, and thereby strengthening philosophy as an academic discipline. In short, his philosophy seeks to reveal and make sense of the potential of radical innovations in, or transformations of, any given situation. Although he has not written extensively on education, the pedagogical theme is vital, constitutive, and ongoing throughout his work. Badiou is an outspoken critic of the analytic and postmodern schools of thought, as he strongly promotes the virtue of curiosity, and prospects of “an education by truths.” “Truths” are not to be confused with matters of knowledge or opinion. Truths are existential, ongoing, and open-ended ontological operations that do not belong to any epistemic category. An education by such truths operates through a subtraction from the state of the situation and proposes a different direction regarding the true life. According to Badiou, the task of philosophy is to think these truths as processes that emerge from and pursue gradually transformations of particular situations. Overall, the structure of Badiou’s philosophical system demonstrates an extraordinary ontological style as it concurrently stands in relation to, and breaks off from, the history of contemporary French philosophy, German Idealism, and Greek antiquity. His system, which is of vast complexity, is based on mathematical set theory, consisting of a series of determinate negations of the history of philosophy, and also created by the histories of what Badiou terms philosophy’s conditions: science, art, politics, and love.

Article

Citizenship and Ethics  

Dianne Gereluk

The dominant premise underlying contemporary educational theory and practice is that citizens are members of political communities who have inherent rights as part of that membership and concomitant responsibilities that inform their beliefs, commitments, capabilities, and actions as members of these same communities. How individuals govern themselves in relation to others within the political community is a primary aim of education in contemporary policy documents, aims, and objectives statements. Yet, despite the urgency and salience of students learning to live together in the face of social division and conflict, the framing of citizenship and ethics in schools varies at least as much as the different visions of what constitutes a good citizen in the first place. This lack of consensus is reflected in how and where citizenship is framed in schools, how it is considered in policy, and how it is interpreted and facilitated in classrooms. Various educational theorists have also conceptualized the notion of citizenship and its place in schools. The variety of perspectives on these questions underscores the difficulties that educators experience in navigating ethical challenges in an educational and social context, where citizenship has become a publicly contested issue.

Article

Indigenous Notions of Interconnection and Formation by the World  

Carl Mika

In various ways, the notion of interconnection between all things takes on importance for all aspects of Indigenous life, and therefore, writers in the field of Indigenous education often allude to the priority of interconnection for teaching and learning. The theoretical lens on interconnection, in Indigenous writing, tends to fall into two camps: one, that the world is comprised of distinct entities that are nevertheless connected; and, the other, that one thing is constituted by the entire world. In both cases, Indigenous theories of interconnection can be contrasted with, and even galvanized by, Western rationality, which overwhelmingly tends to fragment things in the world from each other. Education itself for the Indigenous participant may then be more a reflection of the fact of all things—its constitution of the self and all other things—than simply a transmission of knowledge. In this sense, the problem of “education” for Indigenous peoples may not lie only in the fact that education is separated out from other disciplines in dominant Western practice, but also that its attitude towards the world, with its focus on the mind, and with the clarity that fragmented things bring, does not reflect interconnection. It is unlikely that dominant Western modes of education can fully incorporate the values and ethics of Indigenous interconnection. In both pre-tertiary and tertiary education, however, some advances towards holistic and interconnected approaches are possible. In pre-tertiary, a focus on the development of the rational mind (which, from an Indigenous perspective, sits unspoken at the base of Western education) can be moderated somewhat by looking to the human self as a culmination of the world (and vice versa); and, in tertiary education, participants may revise notions of ethics and proper writing to incorporate those things that exist beyond human knowledge.

Article

Confucianism and Education  

Charlene Tan

Issues related to the aim of education, curriculum, teaching, and learning are perennial concerns in Confucianism. Within the Confucian canon, two texts, Analects (Lunyu) and Xueji (Record of Learning), are particularly instructive in illuminating the principles and practices of education for early Confucianism. Accordingly, the aim of education is to inculcate ren (humanity) through li (normative behaviors) so that learners can realize and broaden dao (Way). To achieve this aim, the curriculum should be holistic, broad-based, and integrated; students should constantly practice what they have learned through self-cultivation and social interaction. Supporting the curriculum is learner-focused education, where the teacher is sensitive to the individual needs of students. The “enlightening approach” is recommended, where the teacher encourages and guides students using the questioning technique and peer learning. The impact of Confucian education is evident in the creation and flourishing of “Confucian pedagogic cultures” in East Asia. However, a key question confronting a Confucian conception of education is whether such a paradigm is able to nurture critical and creative thinkers who are empowered to critique prevailing worldviews and effect social changes. A textual analysis of Xueji and Analects reveals that critical and creative thinking are valued and indispensable in Confucian education. Confucius himself chastised the rulers of his time, modified certain social practices, and ingeniously redefined terms that were in wide circulation such as li and junzi by adding novel elements to them. Confucian education should be viewed as an open tradition that learns from all sources and evolves with changing times. Such a tradition fulfills the educational vision to appropriate and extend dao, thereby continuing the educational project started by Confucius.

Article

Psellos, Michael  

Stratis Papaioannou

Psellos, Michael (baptismal name Constantine) (1018–1078 CE) was born into a middle-class family in Constantinople, at a time when the capital of the Byzantine Empire was again at the peak of its power, after the crisis of the 7th and 8th centuriesce. Psellos’s life was punctuated by the reigns of the emperors and the careers of other members of the Constantinopolitan ruling elite, whose patronage and friendship he successfully or (occasionally) less successfully sought. Because of his education and learnedness in all fields of the Byzantine curriculum, which must have appeared spectacular in the eyes of his contemporaries, Psellos gained and sustained various posts in the imperial court and related networks of elite society as secretary, professional public speaker, and teacher during the thirty-five years (until 1078) when we can follow his career. His impressive erudition, but also his brilliant talent (by Byzantine standards) in literary discourse were also the reason for his inclusion, almost immediately after his death, in the reading canon of Byzantine advanced literacy and, therefore, the continued copying and preservation of his vast discursive production.

Article

Isocrates  

J. D. Mikalson

Isocrates (436–338 bce) of Athens is generally classified as an orator, although because of a weak voice and a lack of confidence, he never delivered an oration to a legislative or legal assembly. He wanted and practised a quiet life, free from political and legal wranglings. Early in his career he wrote legal speeches for others, but soon turned to moral and sophistic essays and pseudo-orations epideictic in style but serious in purpose. He earned a fortune as a teacher of rhetoric for elite local and foreign youth. His teachings included a philosophy directed to practical, conventional morality intended to produce good citizens and future leaders. From the Panegyricus of 380 bce to the end of his long life, he promoted in various writings the idea of a Panhellenic expedition, always with some form of Athenian leadership, to Asia Minor to free the Greeks living there from Persian domination. For military leadership of the expedition he appealed over the years, successively and unsuccessfully, to Dionysius I of Sicily, Archidamus of Sparta, and finally Philip of Macedon. In the 350s bce he unfavourably compared the current Athenian democracy with that established by Solon and Cleisthenes and decried Athenian mistreatment of their allies in the Second Athenian Confederacy.

Article

Apuleius writer and orator, b. c. 125 CE  

Stephen J. Harrison

Apuleius was born of prosperous parents (Apol. 23) at *Madaurus in Africa Proconsularis, and educated in Carthage, Athens, and Rome ( Flor. 18, 20, 16); at Athens he gained enough philosophy to be called philosophus Platonicus by himself and others. He claims to have travelled extensively as a young man ( Apol. 23), and was on his way to *Alexandria (1) when he arrived at *Oea, probably in the winter of 156ce. The story from that point is told by Apuleius himself in his Apologia , no doubt in the most favourable version possible; at Oea he met a former pupil from Athens, Pontianus, who persuaded him to stay there for a year and eventually to marry his mother, Pudentilla, in order to protect her fortune for the family. Subsequently, Apuleius was accused by various other relations of Pudentilla of having induced her to marry him through magic means; the case was heard at *Sabratha, near Oea, in late 158 or early 159.

Article

Spirituality and Education in the United States  

Roland W. Mitchell, Nicholas E. Mitchell, and Chaunda A. Mitchell

Spirituality and education have historically been tightly intertwined concepts. Spirituality is the timeless pursuit by humanity for certainty, understanding, and an abiding connection to each other and the cosmos. Education represents humanity’s efforts at grouping practices, insights, and often contested knowledges in such a manner that they are passed across generations, groups, and communities. The combination of the two reflects humanity’s pursuit at making sense out of the environment.

Article

Gratitude and Education  

Inga Bostad

Gratitude may at first glance seem foreign to philosophy of education. Being grateful is often described and interpreted in psychology, anthropology, sociology, or religious contexts, while philosophers have to a lesser degree regarded gratitude as an interesting topic, and there is no agreed upon definition or status of gratitude in philosophy of education. However, the discipline of pedagogy is more than what happens in school, in education and upbringing; it may be interpreted in a broad sense, as the study of how we live together for the renewal and reproduction of a society, and thus the concept of gratitude throws light on the double relationship between teacher and student, wherein one both gives and receives, and makes us see ourselves as relational and dependent on others. In the philosophy of education, gratitude may work as a critical concept revealing imposed social and political orders, power relations, and repressive mechanisms as well as delineating interdependence and interconnectedness, appreciating the efforts and contributions of others as well as social justice. One can define gratitude as a positive, appropriate, and immediate feeling or attitude toward, or a response to, an advantage or something beneficial. Gratitude thus depends on a subject, a being with some kind of intention, consciousness, or emotional life directed toward something or someone. Being grateful to others may express and accordingly justify social hierarchies as well as a balance between actions and benefits, between behavior and quality of life. There are thus arguments for seeing gratitude as both a critical and an enlightening concept. Some argue that gratitude is first and foremost an imposed burden, and that the debt of gratitude is intimately interwoven with, but also differs from, being grateful, as the first implies that a person experiences indebtedness to someone for having received something that also requires some kind of response or reciprocation. Others view gratitude as a neglected and meaningful enrichment of people’s lives: gratitude may promote feelings of community, responsibility, and belonging. Moreover, it can strengthen our appreciation of other people’s efforts and kindness, and of valuable social and cultural institutions. Someone is grateful because they acknowledge what someone else has invested, and being able to express gratitude, or being hindered from it, is also part of the pedagogic relation. It is first and foremost the relationship that defines gratitude; it is both something other than the object—the undertaking or the experience that makes us grateful—and in relationship with that object. To be grateful expresses a sense of life, a condition that addresses not only what you get, but also the responsibility we have as relational human beings.

Article

James McCosh: Bridge Builder Between Old and New Psychology  

Elissa N. Rodkey

James McCosh (b. 1811–d. 1894) was a contributor to early American psychology, writing several books on the topic of mental science. Born in Scotland, he immigrated to America in 1868 to serve as the president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). There he promoted science and welcomed the new psychology that was emerging, even supporting his students to pursue psychology graduate study in Europe. McCosh saw faith and science as compatible and embraced theistic evolution as in keeping with Christian theology. McCosh’s psychological works (The Intuitions of the Mind Inductively Investigated; The Emotions; Psychology: The Cognitive Powers; and Psychology: The Motive Powers) were all relied on Scottish-Realist informed inductive methodology, used to map the functions of the mind and uncover mental laws. Although McCosh believed the new psychology had the potential for a dangerous materialism if wrongly interpreted, he thought the new physiological and laboratory research was valuable and worth pursuing. His last major work (Psychology: The Cognitive Powers) attempted to integrate recent physiological psychology research into his mental philosophy methods. McCosh has traditionally been omitted from histories of psychology, but modern scholarship has noted his absence and explored the reasons for this. Scholars generally agree that there was significant continuity between the old mental and moral philosophy and the new experimental psychology in a number of respects. The new psychologists, in attempting to professionalize and define their discipline, sought to erase their dependence on earlier forms of American psychology. Thus, it is more accurate to understand neglect of McCosh not as a sign of his irrelevance or hostility to psychology but as a historical product of the emergence of a distinct American psychology. His erasure points to the new psychologists’ uneasiness with their folk American elements and their efforts to achieve scientific status as they worked to indigenize German experimental psychology. Given his actions at Princeton, McCosh is rightly understood as a bridge builder between old and new psychology.

Article

The Philosophy of Mathematics Education  

Catherine Henney and Kurt Stemhagen

The philosophy of mathematics education (PoME) is a field of inquiry that pursues questions arising from the long tradition of mathematics as a school subject. An integrated area of study, PoME draws on other established disciplines such as philosophy of mathematics and philosophy of education. However, propositions and theses within PoME also have implications for the theory and practice of mathematics education. Rather than actively blurring boundaries among contributory disciplines, PoME is a subdiscipline that reflects their inherent interdependence. Many of PoME’s core questions address the very nature of mathematics, how we come to learn it, and the historical and contemporary aims of mathematics education. Though not the first to address these individual lines of inquiry, Paul Ernest’s The Philosophy of Mathematics Education (1991) may be regarded as PoME’s inaugural text. His landmark publication also demonstrated how philosophical inquiry may guide critical analysis of educational practices and policies. Questions about what mathematics is are not disentangled from those about its teaching and learning. Thus, PoME demonstrates a kind of internal elasticity: how we answer one question has a bearing on how we might answer another. For example, is mathematics something “found” or “made”? The perception of mathematics—how we tend to characterize its nature—can underscore beliefs about mathematics pedagogy. The view of mathematics as a cultural construct (rather than an absolute body of knowledge and related skills) likely dovetails with a constructivist pedagogical approach. But at the same time, such a view of mathematics may encounter ideological tension, if not outright resistance, in sociopolitical arenas. Reconceptualizing mathematics and mathematics education may be considered philosophical endeavors that challenge dominant assumptions and build frameworks with the potential to make mathematics fundamentally more inclusive. The story of PoME is the story of its genesis, its role in imagining a more equitable and humanistic school math experience, and the need to make room for new, alternative approaches and viewpoints that honor the radical spirit in which PoME was developed.

Article

Political Representation: From Classical Research Traditions to Comparative Perspectives  

Jean-Pascal Daloz

The literature on political representation is split between research traditions that have remained largely separate: a philosophical normative strand, a behavioralist one focusing mainly on the roles held by representatives, and a third, more distinctly sociological one concerned primarily with issues of representativeness. These classical perspectives have been extended through the introduction of new dimensions into the analysis. The normative tradition has thus been able to formulate novel questions by considering, for instance, issues relating to the representation of nonhuman species or of future generations. Present-day writings on political representation also depart from accepted premises by integrating additional infra-institutional forms of representation. Similarly, a postmodern vein of thought has drawn increased attention to the fluidity of the processes involved and a rather hybrid literature has emerged that combines empirical and normative ambitions. Despite claims by some analysts to have renewed approaches on the topic, there are not so much major theoretical innovations as developments relating to the dynamics of political representation itself in the contemporary era. It is important to realize that much of the analysis of political representation has been couched in very general terms and that the field itself suffers from a lack of serious comparative work. In this respect, more inductive explorations are needed into the perceptions of representation (too often reduced to mere constructivist mechanisms), the concrete logics of accountability, and the “theatrical” dimension of the relationship—in all of which there has been underinvestment by political scientists.

Article

Toleration and Political Philosophy  

Sune Lægaard

Toleration is a classic category of Western political theory. Liberalism can be said to have evolved as a generalization of debates on religious toleration from the 17th century onward. Many debates in political theory about matters of current concern, ranging from debates about free speech and hate-speech legislation, over attitudes to practices of minority groups, to the legitimate extent of state interference in particular areas of social life, are framed as debates on toleration. Finally, some of the most prominent theories within political philosophy view toleration as a central concept, for example, Rawls’s political liberalism. This continuous presence of the notion of toleration within political philosophy has resulted in a standard definition of toleration and a set of standard debates about toleration. Toleration is standardly understood as requiring disapproval or dislike, the power to interfere, and to consist in the abstention from this interference. This has given rise to debates about which kinds of disapproval or dislike are required, whether the condition of power is in itself problematic, and whether noninterference only counts as toleration if motivated by certain kinds of reasons. Nevertheless, this standard concept of toleration curiously fails to capture some of the prominent debates that are often framed in terms of toleration. It is for instance not at all clear whether and how the standard concept applies to states and to individuals regulated by state laws. It is also often unclear whether toleration as defined is a normative ideal or merely a descriptive concept and what the point of using the concept is in either case. Finally, there is surprising little reflection on what the significance is of the space of toleration between interference and lack of disapproval or dislike, and how changes in this space of toleration can be understood.

Article

Multiculturalism and Political Philosophy  

Annamari Vitikainen

Multiculturalism has been used both as a descriptive and a normative term, as well as a term referring to particular types of state policies. As a descriptive term, multiculturalism refers to the state of affairs present in contemporary societies: that of cultural diversity. As a normative term, multiculturalism affirms cultural diversity as an acceptable state of affairs, and provides normative grounds for accommodating this diversity. As a policy-oriented term, multiculturalism refers to a variety of state policies that aim to accommodate people’s cultural differences—most notably, different types of culturally differentiated rights. The main focus of the debates on multiculturalism within political philosophy has been on normative multiculturalism, and the broader normative questions relating to the appropriate grounds for responding to people’s cultural differences. The debates on descriptive multiculturalism and on particular multicultural policies, however, feed into the debates on normative multiculturalism. One’s views on the nature of culture, the value of culture, and the appropriate means of demarcating group boundaries have implications on the ways in which one understands the proper objects of cultural accommodation, as well as the extent to which such accommodation should be applied. The different types of multicultural policies—including rights of indigenous groups, immigrants, and national minorities—incorporate slightly different sets of normative considerations that must be independently assessed and that also feed into the more general debates on the normative foundations for cultural accommodation. Equality-based and identity-based arguments for cultural concern provide strong grounds for the state to be concerned about people’s cultural differences and to aim to alleviate culturally induced disadvantages. The case for (or against) culturally differentiated rights as a means for responding to these disadvantages may, however, come from several sources, including approaches to cultural diversity based on equality, autonomy, toleration, and state neutrality. While there is relative (albeit not full) agreement among normative theorists of multiculturalism that differentiated rights may be acceptable, though not always required or even desired, responses to cultural diversity, disagreements about the normative bases, and extents of application, remain.

Article

Gustav Theodor Fechner: Psychophysics and Natural Science  

David K. Robinson

Gustav Theodor Fechner (b. 1801–d. 1887) is well known to psychologists as the founder of psychophysics, a set of methods for empirically relating measured sensory stimulus to reported sensation. Rich as this field of research has proven to be, especially as detection instruments and recording devices have improved in modern times, Fechner himself would be disappointed to discover that he is remembered merely for psychophysics as psychologists understand it today. To Fechner, those particular methods and approaches were only one part of the domain of psychophysics—outer psychophysics—whereas he envisioned psychophysics (both outer and inner) to be the key to the broadest kind of scientific worldview: the study of the relationship between the material world and the mental world (indeed the spiritual universe; in German, die geistige Welt). The preface of Fechner’s 1860 masterwork, Elements of Psychophysics, states, “[I]t is an exact theory of the relation of mind to body. . . . As an exact science psychophysics, like physics, must rest on experience and the mathematical connection of those empirical facts that demand a measure of what is experienced or, when such a measure is not available, a search for it.” In that definition, Fechner reveals his view of natural science, and how psychophysics was meant to expand the range of natural science and the scope of its achievements. Fechner’s influence emerged during the mid-19th century, as the physical and medical sciences were achieving great breakthroughs and establishing fundamental and unifying concepts; this was especially true in Germany, including the city where he came to study and remained for the rest of his life, Leipzig. Fechner was one of the most enthusiastic and optimistic believers in unifying concepts of science. Fechner’s psychophysics gave important impetus to psychometrics and experimental psychology; he also proposed a statistical approach to aesthetics and a “theory of collectives” that pointed toward statistical interpretations of many (perhaps all) areas of experience. In his early career he was a central figure in German physics and an early supporter of the atomic theory of matter as well as Darwinian evolution. His profoundly spiritual ideas, however, were out of step with the science of his time. This aspect of Fechner’s thought is evident in his inner psychophysics, where he searched for the full measure of “what is experienced.”

Article

Liberalism in American Religious History  

Matthew S. Hedstrom

Liberalism describes an interrelated set of political and religious frameworks that grew out of the Enlightenment and the English, American, and French revolutions, though the term itself dates only from the early 19th century. Liberalism values individual rights and freedoms, secular rule of law, and reasoned public discourse, and has become the dominant political and economic philosophy of the Western democracies. Critics argue that there are oppressions entailed in this dominance, especially for women and racial, religious, and sexual minorities—members of groups that stand outside liberalism’s implicit, normative subjectivity—while proponents contend that liberal individualism has provided the conceptual framework for civil and human rights movements. Liberalism has shaped religion in the West in two interrelated senses. As a political philosophy, liberalism considers religion to be a matter of personal conscience and free association, and advocates broad (if always imperfectly applied) religious freedoms. The religion clauses of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution represent the quintessential legal forms of liberalism regarding religion. Liberalism has also greatly shaped religious thought and practice, especially among European and North American Protestants. Religious liberals have sought to apply reason, modern scientific and scholarly advances, and notions of minority rights and freedom of conscience to theology and ethics. Religious liberalism has shaped mainline Protestantism and related religious movements such as Unitarianism and Quakerism most especially, but also laid the groundwork for the growth of post-Protestant and post-Christian forms of spirituality. Given the historic dominance of Protestantism in the United States, Protestant liberalism has determined the nature of American secularism and thereby required theological and political adaptation from religious minorities, most notably Roman Catholics and Jews.