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The Relationship Between Philosophy And Education Religion Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

Children are born illiterate; the Empiricists would even go to the extreme of saying that we are born in a state of ‘tabula rasa’. Jean Jacques Rousseau in this regard says, “We are born weak, we need strength; we are born totally unprovided, we need aid; we are born stupid, we need judgment.” [1] Rousseau would argue that this ignorance can be overcome by teaching [2] ; the second oldest profession [3] .

The domain of ‘education’, a fragment of the larger field of philosophy, incorporates the study of the purpose, process, nature and ideals of education. It comes without a surprise that it has attracted the attention of philosophers and thinkers from every generation. Plato, a leading giant in the field, who set the discussion in motion, through his works especially the Republic, together with Meno and the Laws, summed up the history of educational thought and of philosophy of education. [4] Together with Plato, one has to mention in the same respect other figures such as Aristotle, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, John Dewey and Immanuel Kant among others.

In this assignment I aim to highlight the mutual relationship between Philosophy and Education. Moreover, I shall show how the two can only be separated merely for convenience sake and my ideas will be supported by the words of leading figures in the field.

Something that is very particular to the study of philosophy is the study of what philosophers from different times thought. This methodology cannot be applied to other disciplines such as chemistry or maths. If a particular hypothesis is disproved, it is immediately discarded from its teaching and it only survives, as a historical curiosity. Philosophy is different and particularly unique since its study is, “not in the ordinary sense of the phrase a body of knowledge but rather an activity of criticism or clarification”. [5] 

Philosophy, again compared to science, does not give us as such new knowledge. Rather it gives a new view point, a different perspective of what we already know. Philosophy provides a comprehensive understanding of reality, and it can be helpful and I would say vital in making the best choices among goals, values and priorities.

Sometimes philosophy is classified as being ‘the critical eye’. This should not be understood as a sort of ‘intellective demolition’; rather its role is more as, “a sort of inspector or assayer who rejects those theories and arguments which can be shown to be faulty by the logical touchstone or gauges which are his stock in trade”. [6] Philosophy can give more positive guidance to educational theorists and can therefore be more than placed in a very restricted scenario of being like a censorship. There are ways in which philosophy as a specialized discipline is predominantly relevant to education. Philosophical methods and findings can be of a particular service to educational theorists, just as for argument’s sake being of the same service to other sciences. It can be of major help in sorting and analyzing concepts like ’cause’, self’, ‘being’; that play a major part in our scientific, moral and political thinking. Edward Alsworth Ross would continue to argue that, “Philosophy and education are like the sides of the same coin, present different views of the same thing and that one is implied by the other.” [7] 

So what is exactly education, or Education theory? What is implied in the word ‘education’? Education theory according to D J O’Connor is, “an established hypothesis, … a logically connected set of such hypotheses whose main function is to explain the subject matter.” [8] A theory that, “does not grow like Topsy, but rather comes from an attempt to understand various practices.” [9] Education is more than just directing the students to draw on subjects such as reading, writing, mathematics, science or history. The word ‘education’, derived from the Latin word ‘educare’ means, bring out, bring forth what is within the individual, and ‘ducere’, “to lead” [10] .

Education refers to a set of skills and attitudes that impart knowledge. These techniques are provided with the backing of various theories which purport to explain or justify their use. After all, the whole system is derived from a set of values or ideas embodied and expressed in the purpose for which this knowledge, attitudes and modus operandi is imparted and should direct the training that is given.

Education aspires to pave the way for living life; and life with a purpose. It must help the students (in organized education) to live not only by being placed in society and earn a living but live with a wider sense of life. Although the main age group, that are primarily concerned with education are children and young adults, education is a preparation; the foundation of a lifetime. It also concerns adults that wish to orient the directions of their lives.

The basic intent of education nowadays, more than ever before, requires an educational method that shall be efficient as possible. It must help the individuals to accomplish the day-to-day working, which are compulsory skills and attitudes, which unfortunately for various reasons today children more than before, are no longer successfully achieving from their family. Education should also provide the learner with a vocational training that will enable them to live as ‘useful’ members of their thrust society, to be more capable as much as possible to support oneself.

Education involves the acquisition of a body of knowledge and understanding which surpasses mere skills, know-how or the collection of information. Such knowledge and understanding must involve the principles which underlie skills, procedural knowledge and information, and must transform the life of the person being educated both in terms of his general outlook and in terms of his becoming committed to the standards inherent in the areas of his education. [11] 

Education, just sharing the obvious, must awaken interest in knowledge; intelligence that can be achieved by various studies especially in involving oneself in the study of philosophy. Together with this, man as an individual should be aware and appreciate the cultural and moral achievements of mankind. The main characteristic of Homo-sapiens is the relay of their knowledge from one generation to another that kept not only the wheel turning but changed the spin in energy. It speaks of the facts that man managed to evolve in creating havens for himself to live life easier, more comfortable and nevertheless more meaningful.

Bear in mind that the wonderful things that you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labour in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honour it, and add to it, and one day faithfully hand it on to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common. If you always keep that in mind you will find meaning in life and work and acquire the right attitude towards other nations and ages. [12] 

Albert Einstein talking to a group of school children, 1934

Non scholae, sed vitae discimus [13] (We do not learn for the school, but for life), is a particular catchphrase used remarkably in school learning environments that abridge the following point in my next discussion [14] . This ethos responds, more than ever, to the needs of the universal education in the industrial democracy we are living in this day and age. Today’s children are being faced with the ‘unknown’, with situations that challenge all of our understanding, that make it particularly impossible for schooling to prepare adeptly for these influxes. The theory stems largely from arguably the most influential figure in educational Progressivism, John Dewey and continued by other Progressive educational thinkers that developed effectively the educational consequences of Dewey’s thought.

Life adjustment education is basically, opening the doors of knowledge to help children organize and select facts and develop skills in ways in which these can be useful for life. Therefore it means that Educational theories must look at the constants -persistent situations of life, and our education leads to actions based on understanding and uses programs that minimize the artificial barriers between schooling and living. It must help in achieving the interests of individuals when confronted with problems arising from time to time in their communities. “Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself” [15] , would argue Dewey and therefore education for him, “is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.” [16] 

One of the wrong judgements with regards to this theory is that life adjustment education teaches children to adjust to the particular society without the stipulation of educating a change in society. However, the teaching that Life adjustment education tries to implement is not conformity or mediocrity but rather aims clearly to a forward movement towards a more complete realization of the goals of each society.

The development of Education is determined by the social conditions of nations and epochs in history. Although there is a sense that education’s telos can be summed up by all societies and ages, this is not completely accurate since the sum total of human skills and knowledge will certainly be greater with every generation. Further more in a brief overview of history one can realize this, and at the same time does not suppose that the teaching given in ancient times was much less than that of our present-day-schooling, different for sure but not necessarily today’s education proves to be superior. Education’s aims progress with the necessities of the particular culture.

In societies distressed by constant attacks of enemies, the highlighted aims of education were to inculcate virtues, strict discipline, fearlessness, bodily powers, courage, patriotism, and a spirit of self sacrifice at the call of the state. Athenian’s society focus was a sense of appreciation for the objects of beauty especially the beauty of physique and of character. The Medieval times were characterized with the development of morality and building ones character.

In the Modern period, emphasis is more on the development of the inherent qualities, aptitude and capacities of the children; influenced predominantly by the awakening studies in Psychology. The aim continues to develop particular focus on the development of the child’s personality to the fullest extent.

Hence the aims of education are in continuous change and the living of these aims change the outlook of life. Thus the shift in the philosophy of life changes like a spiral transformation the aims of education. This makes Education and Philosophy a dynamic sphere, changing continuously onto each other through diverse generations. Sir John Adams was particularly right when he supposed that, “Education is the dynamic side of philosophy. It is the active aspect of philosophical belief.” [17] 

Plato once said that “Knowledge becomes evil if the aim be not virtuous.” [18] A good educational value should maintain moral concepts that can be explicit in terms of character traits. These desirable traits such as kindness, courage, friendship or fairness are known as virtues and should be cultivated through moral learning.

The virtue theory is inspired mainly from Aristotle, especially in his best known work on ethics, Nicomachean Ethics. He argues that, “Good habits formed at youth make all the difference.” [19] Values achieved in doing the right habits are an essential part of what people think makes their lives worthwhile.

The Virtue Theory was followed latterly by Alasdair MacIntyre, and maintains that children need to be educated on ethics initially through a process of training and subsequently through the increase of reflective practice.

Freedom is one of the perennial goals of human civilization and one of the primary measures gauging cultural progress. Modern history emphasized this characteristic of mankind, by the growing recognition that liberty belongs not only to a small privileged class but to all men. “Man is condemned to be free” [20] . Freedom in a special relation to education is focused mainly on personal freedom that is the development of one’s own peculiar talents. The real goal of achieving self-fulfilment, is not just through happiness in any small sense, but with a sense of social responsibility to arrive to the point of citizenship. Jean Paul Sartre would continue to state, “To be free’ does not mean ‘to obtain what one has wished’ but rather ‘by oneself to determine oneself to wish” [21] .

The objective of my train of thought in this assignment was to give a snapshot of the interlock association of philosophy and education; the two sides of a priceless coin. Philosophy, is not so much a discrete discipline occupying a small niche of the intellectual life. It is rather a, “terrain on which all forms of thought encounter their most profoundly formative and their most profoundly disruptive ideas.” [22] An indication of the richness and complexity of the philosophical studies surrounding Education is the critical examination of our more deeply embedded assumptions of the ‘big ideas’ which run across the wider intellectual culture.

This is very briefly the base line of the relationship between Education and Philosophy.


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