Methods in Philosophy of Education

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

5

The problematic employment of Reason in philosophy of Bildung1and education

Jörg Ruhloff2

in memoriam Wolfgang Fischer (05.01.1928-12.06.1998)


Preliminary remarks: exposition of the problem and terminology

The methodological question under consideration, 'How do we do philosophy of (Bildung and) education?', harbours several difficulties. For example: What is it that we are doing when we engage in philosophy? Can this be characterised as a mere methodical and operative activity, an activity as it can be found in the procedures and practices of the positive sciences and technologies - including educational science as a social science? Or does this already represent a typically modern and instrumentally oriented view that would restrict philosophical thinking from the start, and would thus lead us astray? In fact, the philosophical usage of the concept 'method' can be traced to Plato, as Paul Natorp (1903) pointed out. However, despite the intellectual strictness that was associated with Plato's methodos dialektike (Politics 533C), it is doubtful whether this method could be regarded as an operative procedure that could be easily learned.

By restricting the question of method in philosophy of Bildung and education to a way of 'doing' (in the sense of a procedural technique) something important may be lost. It is crucial to realise that the modern operative idea of method is based upon the Cartesian tradition (cf. René Descartes 1701). Consequently, the issues relating to educational philosophy appear as if they obey rules that are geared to us as human beings or that are inherent in human Reason. 3 In either case, one only needs to make use of them in order to become a 'maître' and 'possesseur' and a professional educational philosopher. Though philosophical thought may occasionally turn into an operative process, it is essentially not restricted to it. In other words, philosophical thinking includes more than an operative methodology - without turning into mere mystical premonitions and vagaries because of that.

This transcending of operative rules is inherent to Plato's concept of method. His dialectical method surpasses presuppositions (hypotheseis) (Politics, 533C). Doing philosophy precisely differs from all other sciences by virtue of this recognition and transcendence in the effort to acquire knowledge. The projects of the other sciences are tied to an operative

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