Philosophy of Education: Essays and Commentaries

By Hobert W. Burns; Charles J. Brauner | Go to book overview

In an attempt to overcome these psychological as well as expository difficulties, Lawrence G. Thomas, in the following essay, undertakes to explain the ontology of Experimentalism from a non-Experimentalist point of view. This is a dangerous but challenging undertaking; dangerous because the chances of misunderstanding are multiplied by the mixing of radically different philosophic positions (can one obscurity be explained in terms of another?), and challenging because literary as well as philosophic skills must be fused to preserve meaning in such alien surroundings.

Thomas carries it off, however, thanks largely to the masterful "analogy of the ocean" in which he depicts individual subjects and objects as waves on the great ocean of experience--an ocean that is in continual movement, and from which waves emerge and take on individual identities and are differentiated as subjects and objects before they sink back into the restless, ever-creative ocean of experience.


The Ontology of Experimentalism

Lawrence G. Thomas*

One of the major problems in achieving an understanding of philosophies different from one's own is the difficulty of shifting from one frame of reference to another. Hard as this is, it is a crucially needed skill in a democracy. In a country committed to a pluralism of religions, politics, and educational policies, an understanding of the opposition's viewpoint is essential to peaceable negotiation, compromise, and co-existence. On the one hand, there is a strategic advantage in understanding the views one is opposing as well as the view one is advocating. To misunderstand an opponent is one form of under-estimating him. It is more important to know his philosophy than to know his numbers. On the other hand, mutual understanding often allays fears, widens the area of acknowledged common ground, and opens the road to cooperation. When the understanding is widespread, former enemies in the opposition are often transformed into needed critics and stimulating challengers. As much as I am committed to experimentalism as a philosophy of life, I would dread the day, were it likely to come, when no other philosophy was actively held.

Sometimes a person professes to seek understanding of an opposing philosophy by examining its logical structure from the premises of his own position, usually concluding, of course, that the opposing view is inconsistent and irrational. To look at a differing philosophy solely from the postulates and premises of one's own viewpoint is to invite a caricature of the other philosophy. Disciples of the other viewpoint are then likely to appear, at the best, dull-witted and, at the worst, viciously anti-intellectual.

____________________
*
Reprinted by permission from Educational Theory, VI ( July, 1956), 177-183.

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