What Do Philosophers of Education Do? And How Do They Do It?

What Do Philosophers of Education Do? And How Do They Do It?

What Do Philosophers of Education Do? And How Do They Do It?

What Do Philosophers of Education Do? And How Do They Do It?

Synopsis

This volume of essays demonstrates and comments on philosophical methods in educational research.
  • Offers a clear picture of what philosophers do when they study education
  • Brings together a series of essays from an international cast of contributors from Canada, UK, Finland, and Cyprus
  • Examines a range of new and established philosophical methods which can be used in educational research
  • Demonstrates how philosophy of education can be understood methodologically
  • Draws from both Continental and Analytical traditions
  • Fills a gap in the research methods literature in education and the social sciences

Excerpt

The question of method in philosophy is a vexed one, and for good reason. Empirical research into education constructs its research questions and then determines the best means to find answers to them; and sometimes the methods that are available, or those in which the researcher is adept, determine the kinds of questions that can be asked. In philosophy too there can be this fit, and sometimes philosophy is none the worse for this. But one does not go far in philosophy without realising that one has embarked on an on-going engagement with the literature, and the consequences of this are multiple: the presuppositions one brings to the enquiry are challenged, the questions with which one starts change their shape, and whatever one might have thought of as one’s method becomes caught up in the substance of one’s research interest. Sometimes content and method are one. This is found most obviously to be the case when we examine the words we use, for surely language is the very stuff of the philosopher’s work, messily entangled, as it is, with the conceptual clarity, perspicuity or theoretical alignments we seek to achieve, and inseparable, as we can scarcely deny, from the practical purchase the enquiry yields. Philosophers, then, are rightly wary of being too quick to explicate their methods.

Yet this is something philosophers are now commonly asked to do. This is most plainly the case in the context of applications for funding, where a box asking for a stipulation of ‘the research methods to be used’ remains to be filled. But it is there also in a more pervasive way where the politics of educational organisations requires the case for a subject’s importance to be made in terms not so much of its realm of enquiry, the distinct modes of its understanding, but of its particular methodological expertise. Philosophers can easily feel that they are caught in a game they do not wish to play.

By contrast, however, a different response is possible: it is not as if there is nothing to be said about what philosophers do. Nor is it erroneous to talk of the different methods they employ. And for anyone new to philosophical enquiry—for anyone, for example, on a research methods course in Education or social science—there is much that can be said about the different ways one might go about philosophical research into education. Experienced philosophers too should be sensitised to the benefit that reflection on such matters can bring. Insight into this variety of approaches is not only practically useful: it also opens possibilities of thought that otherwise escape the agenda of research. And in the end these release the kinds of enquiry into education that answer to the demands of practice in unparalleled ways. Hence, there is every reason to attempt some kind of examination of what philosophers of education do and how they do it.

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