Methods in Philosophy of Education

By Frieda Heyting; Dieter Lenzen et al. | Go to book overview

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Methodological traditions in philosophy of education

Introduction

Frieda Heyting


Philosophical methods: to ascertain truth and to answer questions

How do you do - or how should one do - philosophy of education, and why should one do it that way? This question served as a guideline for an international project in philosophy of education. However, as it soon turned out, debates would not result in an unequivocal answer to the question raised. Unlike John Wilkinson, participants in the project would not be able to provide their students with 'an infallible recipe to make a great (…) Philosopher of a numbskull' (Wilkinson 1969:153).

Debates rather confirmed the view that philosophy of education could never be reduced to a technical know-how. However, the absence of a univocal answer to the question about methods in philosophy of education does not indicate that there are no answers at all. In fact - as the symposium confirmed once again - the history of philosophy demonstrates an uninterrupted concern for methodical issues, resulting in a lot of judicious answers to the question 'how to do' philosophy. However, as the acute commentaries from the attending students demonstrated, each of these answers keeps being open to question in certain respects. Against this background, a book on current methodological insights in philosophy of education seemed necessary.

Two major sources from which debates on philosophical methods seem to stem match the two main functions methods should serve. Firstly, a methodical approach should ascertain verifiable truth of the results of its application. Because philosophers - unlike empirical researchers - are not inclined to simply adopt a specific view of what 'true knowledge' entails, they tend to relate methodological considerations to fundamental epistemological questions. Therefore, differing opinions on methodological issues, and consequently a plurality of methods, seem to be unavoidable.

Secondly, a methodical approach should ascertain verifiable answers to specific questions. Which questions should be answered by philosophy of education is not an established matter either. Philosophers of education, being so closely related to a social practice, can hardly ignore this issue. A

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