A Situated Philosophy of Education
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Philosophy of education today is broadly divided between two fundamentally different views about the nature of philosophy itself. This meta-debate is almost never engaged directly, and yet it is exemplified in one way or another in many of the paradigmatic disagreements we have with one another. One view is typified by Thomas Nagel’s phrase, “the view from nowhere”: on this account, philosophy’s virtue as a mode of inquiry is its distanced objectivity, its commitment to timeless standards of argument and reason, and its recurring attention to fundamental questions of truth, value, and meaning that establish continuity across philosophers from before Socrates to the present day. The other view is a radically historicized account of philosophy as the expression of worldviews within a particular cultural and historical context, always partisan and implicated in social dynamics of power, and merely contingent in its ability to persuade or compel assent — there is nothing “timeless” about it. Few espouse these views in such extreme forms, but we believe they will be basically familiar to all. Our project here is to sketch a broadly pragmatist alternative to this dichotomy, as other pragmatists, like John Dewey, have tried to do. Our version of the pragmatist argument is to start with the idea of a practice. The activity of philosophizing is one such practice. Considering philosophy as a situated practice, then, focuses immediate attention on how people do philosophy, and on the ways in which it is done by particular people, under particular conditions of place and time, and in particular prototypical ways that are deemed proper by the norms of the practice itself.
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