Philosophy and the American School: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education

By Van Cleve Morris | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
Comparative Ontologies

It is admittedly a long way, both logically and psychologically, from the concerns of ultimate reality to teaching young Joey Doakes in, say, eighth-grade social studies. But eventually, as we have seen in the previous chapter, the way we handle Joey and the material we wish him to know reveals our idea of what we think the world is like. The task of educational philosophy, among other things, is not so much to justify one ontology over another, nor, as a consequence, to justify one teaching practice over another, but quite modestly to try to build a connection in thinking between our ideas of basic reality and our day-to-day procedures in the classroom.

While the possibility of this linkage was examined in Chapter Two, it is now necessary to come more directly to the business of particular ontologies and their implied specifications as to the manner in which boys and girls learn and teachers teach. In order to do this systematically, we will take up in turn five ontologies: Idealism, Realism, Neo-Thomism, Experimentalism, and Existentialism, establishing the main concepts of each and pointing to their educational significance. The history of philosophic thinking is not, of course, quite so neat as we are to present it here. These systems (and the many others) were not established and then put in place as distinct and disparate theories of life. Instead, they grew and developed, like everything else, out of the conditions of the human situation at the time. As such, they represent what different men, living in different places and times, believed to be significant and important in their experience. Viewing these separate theories in this light, we must not expect them to be mutually exclusive in every respect -- that is to

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