3. CHAPTER 3–PHILOSOPHIES OF SCHOOLING
WHAT IS YOUR PHILOSOPHY?
Many individuals have a philosophy embedded in their subconscious minds.
Although one does not realize altogether that certain beliefs follow a selected
philosophic approach, individual actions parallel certain philosophies more
than others. The following medium offers information concerning personal
philosophic beliefs so that a basic understanding can be obtained and a
personal philosophy developed. Please answer the following statements on the
answer sheet at the end of this section utilizing the scale:
Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree
1. The subjects of a school are the most important feature of an education.
2. Schools should promote a teacher-centered environment in order to
encourage effective learning.
3. Education is a prerequisite for a student to understand life’s intentions.
4. What students are taught should be determined solely by student interest
5. The deductive approach is the most effective method of teaching any
subject to students.
6. Universal truth is an individual perception.
7. If it happens, it is real.
8. Disregard the past and you are destined to repeat it.
9. A school’s curriculum should be determined by the specific needs of each
community, where content is designed for the betterment of each student.
10. Education should focus strongly on the development of reasoning skills of
11. Curricular content should center primarily on the scientific method for
12. Students should be free to explore their interests in whatever fashion they
13. The climate in which one lives solely defines one’s behavior.
14. All children can learn the same thing, but not at the same rate.
15. Students should be placed in classrooms according to their individual
16. All reform movements in education are basically the same.
17. The curriculum for students should contain a specific nucleus of
information that is indigenous for all literate people.
18. Ethical behavior and morality should be incorporated into a student’s
4. SCHOOLING (2002)
19. The curriculum of a school should not be decided by a small circle of
school officials, but by all involved parties within the community.
20. What is real is perceived differently by individuals, therefore no two
things can be the same.
21. Learning by specified programs of material in sequence is paramount to a
22. Teachers need to give more individual assistance in the classroom.
23. Students with a mental disability cannot learn the same subject matter as
regular students and should not be placed in a regular classroom
24. Money is not the total answer to increased student achievement.
25. Learning to read proficiently is the solution to the educational dilemma.
26. Each individual in society must attain a specified body of knowledge to
27. Student needs, experiences, and interests should be the determining factor
when designing a school’s curriculum.
28. A school’s curriculum should contain more electives for students to
29. A complete curricular analysis for effective teaching should include
scope, sequence, articulation, pacing, and, most importantly, reward or
30. All teachers have an underlying concern for students and the learning
31. Effective education begins at the home.
32. Traditional education of the 1950s should be reinstated in the school
33. Teachers should not teach in areas where their proficiency is below
34. More emphasis should be placed on “The Great Men” and “The Great
Books” of past civilizations.
35. The curriculum should be entirely a hands-on, practical approach.
36. Student achievement cannot take place in a traditional, lecture-oriented
37. The environment is a tangible place where material is a solid
representation of what is.
38. Students learn best in a one-on-one basis.
39. Students, teachers, parents, and administrators should decide solely on the
curricular structure of a school.
40. What works in one environment does not necessarily work in another.
41. There should be a distinct division of subject matter, not the consolidated
collection presently advocated.
5. CHAPTER 3–PHILOSOPHIES OF SCHOOLING
42. Art/music appreciation should stress past contributions rather than
43. The teacher’s sole function in the classroom should be to guide students
through problem-solving situations.
44. A school environment should nurture students to find their roles in
45. Fool me once, shame on you–fool me twice, shame on me.
46. Children are born with universal knowledge and it is the teacher’s job to
bring forth that knowledge.
47. The universe is made from scientific laws and the scientific process is
designed to explain our existence.
48. If it works, it is true.
49. Enculturation is the primary function of education.
50. A school’s curriculum should concentrate on long-range goals, not on
51. A student should feel free to be inventive and communicate inner
curiosities without the threat of reprimand.
52. Individuals are first an introvert and second an extrovert.
53. The scientific approach is the best approach to effectively understand
explained and unexplained phenomenon.
54. Reality is what one believes.
55. Teachers should always adapt and should be flexible in the learning
56. We learn best from experience.
57. A strict, proven curricular format is necessary to ensure proper learning.
58. Even though students learn at different rates, every student should be
exposed to the same learning material.
59. School environments should be void of any autocracy by the teachers
60. Every child evolves at a different rate, both physically and mentally, and
should be free, without interference, to do so.
61. Students learn best when given an incentive or reward.
62. Students know what they need to know and should follow their beliefs.
63. Teachers are in the best position to determine appropriate learning
64. Our past dictates our future.
65. Students do not do enough outside assignments for effective exposure to
the subject matter.
66. The Socratic method of questioning should be utilized more in the
classroom to cultivate critical thinking skills.
67. Student-to-student interaction is the best learning method.
6. SCHOOLING (2002)
68. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” because there is no standardized
scale for measuring beauty.
69. Moral and ethical values are not inborn traits, but learned processes.
70. Perceptions are everything in learning.
71. Student success is a product of his/her environment regardless of
72. Field trips should be utilized more often to enhance the learning process.
73. All teachers of a given subject should teach the same content in order to
establish continuity of learning.
74. Students learn by themselves under direct supervision of the teacher.
75. Students learn better when grouped together than when separated for
76. Having a child feel good about himself/herself is more important than
what he/she learns.
77. Standardized tests are the best measures of student achievement.
78. There is no universal standard to describe beauty except in what one
79. A structured curriculum is best for students to learn.
80. I hear and I forget–I see and I remember–I do and I understand.
7. CHAPTER 3–PHILOSOPHIES OF SCHOOLING
Place each numbered response for the corresponding questions in the
appropriate space below.
Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree
A B C D E F G H
1.____ 2.____ 3.____ 4.____ 5.____ 6.____ 7.____ 8.____
9.____ 10.____ 11.____ 12.____ 13.____ 14.____ 15.____ 16.____
17.____ 18.____ 19.____ 20.____ 21.____ 22.____ 23.____ 24.____
25.____ 26.____ 27.____ 28.____ 29.____ 30.____ 31.____ 32.____
33.____ 34.____ 35.____ 36.____ 37.____ 38.____ 39.____ 40.____
41.____ 42.____ 43.____ 44.____ 45.____ 46.____ 47.____ 48.____
49.____ 50.____ 51.____ 52.____ 53.____ 54.____ 55.____ 56.____
57.____ 58.____ 59.____ 60.____ 61.____ 62.____ 63.____ 64.____
65.____ 66.____ 67.____ 68.____ 69.____ 70.____ 71.____ 72.____
73.____ 74.____ 75.____ 76.____ 77.____ 78.____ 79.____ 80.____
8. SCHOOLING (2002)
Total points for each column and place in the appropriate blank below.
A____ B____ C____ D____ E____ F____ G____ H____
Place the total of each column in the corresponding blanks below.
Major Philosophic Off-Shoots Major Philosophies
Column A = ____ Essentialist Column E = ____ Behaviorist
Column B = ____ Perennialist Column F = ____ Idealist
Column C = ____ Progressivist Column G = ____ Realist
Column D = ____ Existentialist Column H = ____ Pragmatist
Scores indicate your agreement or disagreement with a particular philosophical
point of view. The highest score indicates a more prominent consensus and the
lowest score indicates a more prominent conflict. The highest possible score
for any philosophical category is 50 and the lowest possible score is 10.
Comparing the scores on the left to the scores on the right will offer an
interesting perspective concerning original philosophic views to the philoso-
phic off-shoots. The participant is directed to corresponding sections within the
text for a review of philosophic convictions.
9. CHAPTER 3–PHILOSOPHIES OF SCHOOLING
PHILOSOPHIES OF SCHOOLING
1. Philosophy is not a science; it is an attempt to understand the world.
2. Educational philosophy is the application of formal philosophy to the field
3. Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that deals with ultimate reality;
epistemology focuses on knowledge, and axiology deals with the study of
4. Idealism, the philosophy of Plato, focuses on the search for truth.
5. Realism, the philosophy of Aristotle, supports the notion that knowledge
can be gained through the senses and from deductive reasoning.
6. Pragmatism is an American philosophy that is associated with human
experience; John Dewey was a prominent pragmatist.
7. Existentialism, an individualized philosophy, represents a radical departure
from other schools of philosophy and focuses on the individual.
8. Perennialism is an educational philosophy developed from realism, while
the educational philosophy of essentialism is the basis for the back-to-the-
basics movement in education.
9. Progressivism is associated with problem-solving techniques, while
reconstructionism focuses on social reform.
10. Basic philosophy and educational philosophy are directly related to what
occurs in school classrooms.
11. Philosophy directly impacts on curriculum and teaching practices.
12. Some philosophies encourage a highly structured curriculum with close
student monitoring, while others focus on limited structure and wide
freedoms for students.
10. SCHOOLING (2002)
CHAPTER 3–PHILOSOPHIES OF SCHOOLING
This chapter provides basic information regarding philosophy and educational
philosophy. It begins by discussing the basic philosophies, such as idealism and
realism, and then moves into a discussion of specific educational philosophies.
B. KEY TERMS–DEFINITIONS
ANALYTICAL - allows the use of language to analyze words; currently the
dominating activity of American and British philosophers; given to studying a
problem by breaking it down into its various parts.
ANALYTICAL PHILOSOPHY - philosophy based on analytical activity.
AXIOLOGY - area of philosophy that focuses on values.
BEHAVIORAL ENGINEERING - a philosophy of education that focuses on
controlling the learner’s environment.
BEHAVIORISM - educational philosophy and practice that emphasized
reinforcing appropriate behavior or learning: includes the concepts of stimulus
ECLECTIC - selecting what appears to be the best doctrines, methods, styles,
EPISTEMOLOGY - deals with knowledge; therefore, directly related to the
instructional methods employed by teachers.
ESSENTIALISM - area of philosophy that believes a common core of
knowledge and ideals should be the focus of the curriculum.
EXISTENTIALISM - philosophy that emphasizes individuals and individual
IDEALISM - a philosophy that emphasizes global ideas related to moral
METAPHYSICS - the branch of philosophy that deals with ultimate reality.
ONTOLOGY - the study of what is real; the primary focus of metaphysics
dealing with what is real about material objects, the universe, persons, being,
mind, existence, and so forth. Hard core reality.
PERENNIALISM - educational philosophy that believes in the existence of
unchanging universal truths.
PRAGMATISM - philosophy that focuses on practical application of knowledge.
11. CHAPTER 3–PHILOSOPHIES OF SCHOOLING
PRESCRIPTIVE - attempts to establish standards for assessing values,
judging conduct and appraising art: ordered with the force of authority.
PROGRESSIVISM - educational philosophy emphasizing experience.
RECONSTRUCTIONISM - educational philosophy calling for schools to get
involved and support social reform.
SPECULATIVE - considerate of possibilities and probabilities; philosophy is
a search for orderliness applied to all knowledge; it applies systematic thinking
to everything that exists.
SYNOPTIC - providing a general summary of data collected at many points to
present an overview.
SYNTHESIS - assembling various parts into a whole; reasoning from self-
evident propositions, laws or principles to arrive by a series of deductions at
what one seeks to establish; enables educators to see the relationship of ideas to
C. SOME PRECEDING THOUGHTS
1. What is Philosophy?
Philosophy is the human being’s attempt to think most speculatively,
reflectively, and systematically about the universe and the relationship to
Philosophy presents no proof; there are no theorems; there are no
questions that can be answered with yes or no.
2. Why should educational philosophy be studied by prospective teachers?
Studying educational philosophy can help teachers and other educators
focus on questions that are speculative, prescriptive, and analytical; it can
help enlarge thoughts so better personal choices can be made; it helps in
self-evaluation of beliefs and self-knowledge.
3. What is the purpose of educational philosophy?
The major role of philosophy in education is to help develop the educator’s
4. What are the three branches of philosophy?
Metaphysics–deals with ultimate reality.
Epistemology–deals with the nature of knowledge.
Axiology–the study of values.
12. SCHOOLING (2002)
5. What are the major schools of philosophy?
Idealism–certain universal absolute concepts.
Realism–work is governed by various laws, known or unknown.
Pragmatism–primarily an American philosophy; scientific analysis,
learning through experience.
Existentialism–believe students should control much of what goes on.
6. What are the major schools of educational philosophy?
Perennialism–a developed form of realism; the universal aim of education
Essentialism–the three R’s should be the core of the curriculum.
Progressivism–do not believe there is a need to search for eternal truths:
emphasizes innovative education.
Reconstructionism–calls for schools to get involved with and support
Behaviorism–manipulating people through the use of punishment and
Behavioral Engineering–control the learner’s environment to condition
7. Which schools of general philosophy gave rise to schools of
Existentialism–Pseudo or Authentic.
8. What is the role of teachers?
Just about anyone can read a teacher’s guide and present information in a
sensible order. Understanding why it is presented in a particular way, if it
should be presented in a particular way, or if it should be presented at all
requires a different kind of knowledge.
9. How does educational philosophy influence teachers’ actions?
Philosophy impacts education through both teaching methods and
curriculum. While some teachers use a hodgepodge approach to teaching,
most consistently adhere to a certain philosophical approach, even though
they may not realize it. Their methods and curriculum usually can be
associated with a specific school of philosophy.
13. CHAPTER 3–PHILOSOPHIES OF SCHOOLING
10. What is your philosophy of life?
Philosophic Questions Branches of Philosophy
Are human beings basically good or
is the essential nature of the human
What is the nature of reality?
What causes certain events in the
universe to happen?
What is the nature of reality?
What is your relationship to the
What is the nature of reality?
What is your relationship to a higher
What is the nature of reality?
To what extent is your life basically
What is the nature of reality?
How is reality determined? What is the nature of reality?
What is your basic purpose in life? What is the nature of reality?
How is knowledge determined? What is the nature of knowledge?
What is truth? What is the nature of knowledge?
What are the limits of knowledge? What is the nature of knowledge?
What is the relationship between
cognition and knowledge?
What is the nature of knowledge?
Are certain moral or ethical values
What is the nature of values?
How is beauty determined? What is the nature of values?
What constitutes aesthetic value? What is the nature of values?
Who determines what is right, just, or
What is the nature of values?
14. SCHOOLING (2002)
11. What are two essential needs individuals need to fulfill?
1. To love and be loved.
2. To feel worthwhile to self and others.
12. What are the elements of Benjamin Franklin’s Thirteen Virtues?
1. Temperance – Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
2. Silence – Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid
3. Order – Let all your things have their place; let each part of your
business have its time.
4. Resolution – Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without
failing what you resolve.
5. Frugality – Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e.,
6. Industry – Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut
off all unnecessary actions.
7. Sincerity – Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you
speak, speak accordingly.
8. Justice – Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are
9. Moderation – Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as
you think they deserve.
10. Cleanliness – Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
11. Tranquility – Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or
12. Chastity – Rarely use “very” but for health or offspring, never to
dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or
13. Humility – Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
Franklin attempted to take each of the above weekly and could repeat
the cycle four times yearly. By the end of thirteen weeks he was
implementing all thirteen.
15. CHAPTER 3–PHILOSOPHIES OF SCHOOLING
D. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS AND EXERCISES
1. What is your philosophy of education?
2. Relate your philosophy of education to a formal, general philosophy, and
an educational philosophy.
3. How does your philosophy of education impact your behavior in the
16. SCHOOLING (2002)
E. REVIEW ITEMS
1. Educational philosophy is rooted in general philosophy.
2. The three main branches of philosophy are Metaphysics, Epistemology,
3. Plato is considered the father of Idealism.
4. The bases of Pragmatism lie in the progressive movement in the United
5. Progressivism is based on the search for eternal truths.
1. The form of philosophy that establishes standards for assessing values,
judging content, and appraising art is _______.
a. analytic b. speculative c. prescriptive d. synthetic
2. The branch of philosophy that focuses on knowledge is _______.
a. Metaphysics b. Epistemology c. Axiology
3. The most American philosophy is _______.
a. Idealism b. Realism c. Pragmatism d. Existentialism
4. Perennialism, like _______, holds that subject matter should be the center
a. Existentialism b. Realism c. Essentialism
d. all of the above
5. The emphasis in synoptic philosophy is in _______.
a. seeing relationships b. discerning a gestalt
c. removing inconsistencies d. all of the above
F. PHILOSOPHIES OF EDUCATION – A Penetrating Analysis
Source: Kritsonis, W.A., & DeMoulin, D. (1996). Philosophies of education. Ashland, OH: BookMasters,
Inc. Adapted with special permission.
1. Foreword on Philosophies of Education.
Education operates under the scrutiny of every leader and every citizen.
All societies support education in some way, although not with the same
intensity. Schools are the reflections of a nation. Education affects each
17. CHAPTER 3–PHILOSOPHIES OF SCHOOLING
nation’s society and determines the status of the masses, as well as the
status of the individuals.
In early times, education was a means for survival; children were taught
the necessary skills for living. Philosophers were sources of knowledge
and wisdom. Although they did not provide specific answers, philosophers
offered avenues for serious inquiry into ideas and traditions in
rationalizing human actions. They suggested that solving problems could
be achieved through critical and reflective thought, and the pursuit of
Educational philosophy is a way of examining ideas, proposals, and
recommendations for learning and how best to use them in the educational
setting. Philosophy of education, therefore, is the application of ideas or
idea systems to educational problems. The study of philosophy helps
educators understand the best avenues for success, realizing that no clear-
cut answers to philosophical problems are provided. It does not guarantee
better thinkers or educators; however, it does provide assistance in
thinking more clearly. The roles of philosophy include:
a. to examine critically the intellectual tools of any given era;
b. to suggest alternative methods of thinking;
c. to develop sensitivity to the logic and language we use in constructing
solutions to problems in education and society.
The purpose of this section is to serve the reader as a basic guide for better
2. Philosophical Thoughts of Encouragement.
When you get into a tight place and it seems you can’t go on . . . hold on
for that’s just the place and the time when the tide will turn.
Harriet Beecher Stowe
The lowest ebb is the turn of the tide. Unknown
If there is no wind, row. Unknown
He only never fails who never attempts. Unknown
Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fall.
3. Introduction to Philosophies of Education.
People express opinions and maintain certain beliefs concerning what is
right and what is good. These opinions have remained in a state of debate
and occasionally in a state of confusion concerning interpretation.
Individual philosophers have left supportive, yet contradictory marks
throughout the slow and tedious climb of philosophical expression. Many
18. SCHOOLING (2002)
of these past thoughts and practices are operating in present-day
educational settings. We, as humans, are still searching for the ideal,
workable system that will satisfy the present and will be flexible for the
The popular view of philosophy is perplexing. One side views philosophy
in pure veneration and awe, while other sides view it with enjoyment or
even suspicion. Also, the popular view has been obscured in many of the
things philosophers themselves have expressed about philosophy.
The word “philosophy” comes from two Greek words meaning “love of
wisdom.” Philosophy is a theoretical or logical analysis of the principles
underlying conduct, thought, knowledge, and the nature of the universe.
Philosophy is the belief system that a person develops concerning
existence, reality in the world, truth, knowledge, honesty, logic, ethics,
thought processes, and aesthetics. In other words, a philosophy of life or
education guides a person’s fundamental belief system that serves to help
one answer life’s most perplexing questions.
What, then, is a good definition of philosophy? The answer to this question
has been a heated debate for many centuries. Philosophy, like art, religion,
or law, is difficult to define. Therefore, it is probably best to offer sample
questions that philosophy tries to answer.
What constitutes the making of a good life? What constitutes universal
law? Where do justice, morals, or beauty come into the picture? Where
does truth fit into the scheme of things? And is there a reason for our
existence in the universe of knowledge?
These questions are by no means a finite list, but they do propose some of
the perpetual inquiries pertaining to philosophy. One does not need to
explore philosophy in order to question certain viewpoints concerning
nature, existence, or truth. These are questions that occur anytime,
anyplace and often without advanced warning. This can lead many
individuals to discover similar viewpoints about basic ideas and/ or
standards. Our primary pass-time, then, is to question the rights and
privileges of others. This is what gives philosophy its fancy and interest,
and it is also the basic reason why philosophy often provides the avenue
for frequent upheaval in everyday happenings.
It is the nature of man, therefore, to pass the blame of life’s happenings to
some outside force controlled by an unknown entity. However, some
philosophers believe that happenings on this earth are products of previous
conditions. Individuals like to think of things in a concrete manner, but as
we know from science, matter is composed of concealed fields of force
19. CHAPTER 3–PHILOSOPHIES OF SCHOOLING
that do not exhibit familiar traits or function in ways that are accepted as
common occurrences. Does this phenomenon make our everyday
experience less meaningful?
Philosophy can be thought of as an ordered attempt to explain and arrange
certain beliefs and to incorporate them into everyday functions. Every
facet of knowledge has some sort of philosophical beginning, and asking
philosophical questions is not limited to philosophers. Why should they
have all the fun and excitement of trying to explain the functions of life?
There is no boundary for philosophical examinations, but philosophy is
generally divided into the main groups of Ethics, Aesthetics, Logic,
Epistemology, Metaphysics, and Axiology.
20. SCHOOLING (2002)
a. Ethics – the study of what is morally good and right and the reasoning
to explain our moral conduct. It is usually associated with the social
and political aspects of life. Ethics and education are integrated in
numerous ways. For example, ethical inquiries need to be examined to
determine the intention of education; principals should behave ethically
toward teachers and students; teachers and students should behave
ethically toward one another and to the principal; the educational
environment should be designed ethically to promote morally good and
right behaviors, and so forth.
b. Aesthetics – deals with the question, “What is beauty?” It also pertains
to the foundation on which judgment is based. Some individuals are
able to articulate the encounters they are having as worthwhile because
they provide moments of imaginatively enriched perceptions. Others
are either unwilling or are incapable of interpreting the reasons for their
enjoyment or displeasure; many times they are unsure of their feelings.
They may find some immediate fulfillment but are incapable of
articulating what they have experienced or of expressing those feelings
c. Logic – relates to the development of a distinct set of practices and
boundaries that allow the practitioners to express curiosities with a
sense of exactness (thinking effectively). From these expressions,
inferences can be created from given assumptions. Ambiguity is more
or less illuminated from thought to allow a more powerful
representative language to come through. The fire of logic is seen as a
purifier of thought, fading into the depths of knowledge, and trying to
uncover the meaning of certain claims about the universe and our
existence (What do we believe? What should we do? What should we
say? and so on).
d. Epistemology – concerns itself with what constitutes knowledge and
how we arrive at it. It promotes the concept of each assisting others in
attaining knowledge. Because each individual manifests certain
knowledge capabilities, it is within our nature to uncover the best
avenue to share that knowledge. This fundamental concept has an
important bearing on how we think and act. Although such a simplistic
view of knowledge is virtually impossible today, we have made
significant attempts to investigate and understand knowledge. The
broad definition of knowledge allows each individual the basis for
judgment and critical reflection.
21. CHAPTER 3–PHILOSOPHIES OF SCHOOLING
e. Metaphysics – the study of the most generic qualities of events. It is an
attempt to provide theory or groups of rational principles that account
for everything that exists. It is the study of the Being as a whole. The
quarrel against the metaphysical belief is that it is sometimes
considered the most inclusive of all studies–describing the supreme
character of things.
f. Axiology – the study of what is of value. It is an attempt to examine the
rules of proper conduct. Societies reward or punish behavior as it
deviates from or conforms to perceptions of what is of most value.
Whatever one may think of philosophy, it has maintained durability, if
only in interest. Whether in an attack or a defense mode, it is likely to
reveal basic views about the character of the universe and the basic
responsibilities regarding proper conduct for the essence of life.
In trying to make sense of the many different philosophical positions,
one could spend an extreme amount of time in reflection. It does seem
imperative, however, to become familiar with some of the
philosophical ideas that have impacted our past and that have set in
motion the path of the future.
4. Activities for Philosophies of Education.
a. Activity 1
Write a basic definition of philosophy. In small groups, compare
definitions and try to reach a compromise on one basic definition.
b. Activity 2
Write a brief definition for the following areas.
Share these definitions with others to see how they compare.
5. Philosophical Thoughts of Encouragement.
Out of your weakness shall come your strength. The Bible
The force of the waves is in their persistence. Gila Guri
Many strokes, though with a little axe, hews down and fells the hardest
timbered oak. Shakespeare
22. SCHOOLING (2002)
Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently. Henry Ford
The greater the obstacle, the more the glory in overcoming it. Confucius
Home is not a place, it is a moment in time. Draw your strength from that
moment in time. Annette Marchand
6. The Philosophies of Idealism, Realism, Pragmatism, and Existentialism.
The world has been saturated with philosophical doctrines created mostly
by individuals seeking to explain man’s role or existence. However, of the
many philosophical approaches, only a select few cannot be traced. Hence,
the majority of the Western philosophical views can be associated with
four primary philosophies: Idealism, Realism, Pragmatism, and
Existentialism. These four views constitute the basis for explanation and
discussion of other less prominent branches within this text.
a. The Influence of Socrates
No study of philosophy would be complete without mentioning
Socrates. It was he who provided inspiration and guidance to others
from his teachings.
Socrates was a Greek philosopher and teacher, and a controversial
figure in present-day interpretation of Greek thought. He was born in
Athens about 469 BC, the son of a stone-mason and, for a time,
practiced the trade himself.
Material goods were unimportant for Socrates and he had little respect
for social status. He left no writings of his own and probably never
made any. All that is known about Socrates is taken from his finest
students, Plato and Aristotle.
After Socrates became interested in philosophy, he began discussing it
with anyone who would listen. He did not teach in an ordinary sense
because he did not collect fees, give any formal instruction, hold any
classes, or give any lectures. He simply asked questions and would
dominate an argument at any time. His method of inquiry (Socratic
questioning) allows the individual to seek answers otherwise not
considered. His influence is still a major factor in thought and in
People often asked his advice on matters of practical conduct and
educational problems. Socrates believed that he himself was an inquirer
who knew nothing and had nothing to teach, but regarded every
question as an open question and all ideas open to challenge. Although
he was ready to converse with anyone, above all he welcomed the
company of the inquisitive youth. Socrates discussed only human
23. CHAPTER 3–PHILOSOPHIES OF SCHOOLING
concerns, which included what makes humans good as individuals or
as citizens. His discussions were much like cross-examinations.
Socrates asked questions to make people think about things they had
taken for granted. He was the first to raise the problem of definition
and always sought essence and demonstrative proofs. Socrates had a
strong belief that virtue was knowledge. To Socrates, perfection was in
the knowledge of good and evil. Pleasure was mistaken for good when
it was not really good, according to Socrates and his friends. In this
field of conduct, education was not teaching, it was opening the soul
and clearing its vision from the distorting mists of prejudice and from
the conceit of knowledge that is really no more than second-hand
opinion. He was merely undermining the morality of obedience to
authority and of conformity to custom. Socrates felt that ignorance left
man no better than a slave.
Socrates concentrated on physical descriptions of the universe and
moved forward to ethical and logical inquiries. He believed that a
person should make the best of himself and then move on. Learning
was not perceived as remembering answers but as searching for them.
Self-control was very important to Socrates, as well as the study of
language and rhetoric. Rhetoric and language were the keys to private
and political success.
Socrates had many young friends. Because of his controversial
methods, Socrates was accused by his government of corrupting the
minds of adolescents and also of introducing new gods to Athens.
Socrates was condemned to die by drinking Hemlock; however, he
could have avoided death if he chose to go into exile. He refused to do
so and was said to have died in 399 BC. Socrates died believing that
true self was not the body but the soul. In any case, his independence
will always be admired.
b. The Basic Philosophy of Idealism
Idealism was the dominant philosophy of the thinkers of western
civilizations during the latter half of the 19th
century. Idealists believe
that external reality must be understood through the medium of the
human mind. When humans come into relationship with whatever
exists, the human mind functions to grasp the nature of reality. The
three key words of idealism are growth, imitation, and maturity. By
imitating a model of behavior, we mature and grow toward an ideal
that contains the perfection of virtues.
24. SCHOOLING (2002)
Idealism applies to any theory that views the world as being made up
of mind, spirit, or reason. True knowledge to the idealist is a coherent,
systematic interpretation of events. Values come as a result of an
individual’s perception of attainment and enjoyment in his/her
experiences. The idealist feels that to learn is to distinguish among
values because some values are a matter of personal preference while
others are absolute regardless of time, place, and circumstance.
The main goal of idealism is for the “finite person” to develop into an
“infinite person.” One accomplishes this feat through the process of
education. The philosophy of an idealist education, therefore, is to
cultivate the personality. Education is seen as perfecting humanity in
the image of an ideal. The aim is infinite, the process is endless and
education is a means to an end.
There are many common grounds on which most idealists agree.
Idealists feel ultimate reality is of the same substance as ideals. Behind
the astonishing world is an infinite Spirit or ideal that is both
substructure and creator of the cosmos. Hence, Idealists believe that
they are spirits, but that they are also finite.
Concerning knowledge, idealists believe that man can achieve truth by
examining personal ideas and testing personal consistency. Value and
meaning are obtained by relating parts as wholes.
Idealism is a mental approach to philosophy. One does not directly
know circumstances around him/her. These formalities are conceived
in relation to personal experience.
c. Major Contributors to Idealism
1. Formal Idealism
Plato. Plato is considered to be the first and foremost Idealist.
Platonic Idealism rests on the distinction between appearance and
reality. Out of his analysis of this distinction grew his theory of
Plato has been often called the Prince of Philosophy due to certain
fundamental questions that he explored. These questions are still
being examined today. He lived from 427 BC to 346 BC, but many
of the biographically important events in his life remain hidden or
must be inferred from his writings. His lifetime corresponded with
the Golden Age of Athenian democracy; a time of plagues, winless
confrontations, and revolutions.
25. CHAPTER 3–PHILOSOPHIES OF SCHOOLING
Plato came from a family of high distinction. However, the political
environment exuded a counterrevolutionary tone where democracy
was synonymous with corruption and the class system. It was at this
time that Plato concluded that mankind would find no cessation
from evil until either the real philosophers gain political control or
else the politicians become, by some miracle, real philosophers.
One of the great influences on the life of Plato was the life and
teachings of Socrates. However, Plato altered the Socratic faith as
much as it altered him, modifying this Socratic ideal of philosophy
into a new Platonic system.
Plato believed that these formal structures, grasped by the mind
alone, were more knowable and more real than the changeable
material objects that are grasped through the senses. He emphasized
that men should concern themselves with the search for truth
because truth is, in essence, perfect and eternal. He considered
mathematics as an eternal truth because it represents one area that
people can agree. It also represents a balance that approaches the
ideal in the world of chaos.
Plato believed that critical discussion (dialectic) helps one move
toward the Good (considered to be the source of all true knowledge)
by advancing from mere opinion to true knowledge. Dialectic
provides the impetus to examine both sides of an issue. Through
dialogue, Plato felt that individuals would come closer to
agreement, therefore closer to the truth.
The Platonic aim of developing the power of reason is evident in
our educational system. Plato believed that proper education
supersedes law. There would be no need to dictate laws to humans
of good breeding, for they will find out for themselves what
regulations would be needed. Good breeding develops through a
sound educational system that produces reasonable humans. Once
such a system is established, each repetition can lead to better
humans until the ideal representation is reached for whom no laws
Plato believed that intelligence was determined genetically and that
each person was born with a soul. This soul, either of gold, silver,
or bronze determined his or her capacity to rise through the
education system. He advocated strong censorship by the
government to protect this ideal educational system from corruptive
innovations. Education ideas in his Republic were never adopted
and, at one point, some were labeled reactionary.
26. SCHOOLING (2002)
The rulers in Plato’s Republic were to be the steadiest, bravest,
most handsome and most gifted for the task of governing. This elite
“Philosopher King” group would be sifted from the masses at
different levels of the educational program. This system
incorporated a ruling group of gold, an administrative group of
silver and the free laboring class of bronze–following his concept of
predetermined intelligence. Since one’s composition would be
determined by birth rites, only the elite would be educated to the
task of ruling. Their education would continue throughout their
lifetimes to fit them best for their specialty. Others would not be
given the opportunity for such an advanced education.
This scenario is extremely out of line with modern principles of
democracy. Most Americans believe that all individuals should be
educated for the task of governing, since America is of a “rule by
the people” conviction. Plato would think it impossible for all
individuals to be capable of ruling and making choices. He might
have speculated that instead of one class of elite rulers, Americans
have been led to believe that the majority of people help establish
the continuity of the country when, in reality, only a hand full of
individuals actually control the power. Plato advocated that when
the people falsely believe that they can think for themselves, they
become even more susceptible to propaganda and advertising.
Plato would argue that, since we believe that special talent and
special training are required for mastery of the arts and crafts, we
should also see the need for such mastery in our leaders. This line
of reasoning seems convincing, and it is one area that is impossible
to disprove. Nevertheless, one can point to the greatness and
longevity of American democracy as a practical example of the
benefit of education of the masses.
The writings of Plato are historically divided into three periods. The
dialogues occupy the first period. These writings exemplify the
Socratic method in that the definitions of general notions are given.
A dialogue may take the question, “What is beauty” and explore
many facets of it, answering in tones of philosophical grandeur.
The middle-period writings are filled with lively dramatizations and
argumentation. During this phase, Plato began to espouse a positive,
philosophical doctrine. The Republic, perhaps Plato’s most well-
known work, is found here.
27. CHAPTER 3–PHILOSOPHIES OF SCHOOLING
The third period concerns itself with sophisticated issues. The
writings consider grammatical and semantic matters. Questions of
truth and falsehood abound.
As history unfolds itself, it is clear the middle period of Plato’s life
contained the most dramatic philosophies. He developed the view
of an ideal society or state and devoted substantial space to the ends
and means of education. Some historians think that the Republic is a
blueprint for a totalitarian state, but educators have hailed it as the
foundation for advanced education.
Plato managed to separate the world of things, as they are, from the
world of ideas where things are perfect. He believed the ultimate
end of all education is insight into the harmonious order of the
whole world. In other words, the main role of education is to
develop the ability to bring to consciousness the knowledge hidden
within the soul. True knowledge, therefore, is not perceived by the
senses, but is discovered by reason. Plato sees the sensory world as
continually changing and not as eternal.
Consequently, Plato established within his curriculum subjects that
he thought would accomplish his desired aim. He held that
geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, music, and solid geometry were
the subjects that held the power of turning the soul’s eye from the
material world to objects of pure thought. These areas were the only
true sciences to him. The natural sciences were not justified because
the sensory world could not hold exact and eternal truths.
2. Religious Idealism
Saint Augustine. Saint Augustine, a Roman Catholic, believed that
we should release ourselves from the world of Man and enter into
the world of God. He proposed the use of meditation and faith as
the means to the end. This classification can be tied to Eastern
philosophy since the Judeo-Christian faith is characterized by
ultimate reality in God with the soul as the bridge to this ultimate
The Roman Catholic church was influenced by the philosophy of
Idealism. The concern of the church was that mankind inherited the
sin of Adam and was continuously engaged in a struggle to regain
purity. Augustine emphasized that the world of God is the Good to
which Plato referred. He believed that the world of Man is the
material world of darkness, sin, ignorance and suffering and man
should try to enter the world of God through meditation and faith.
28. SCHOOLING (2002)
This, he concluded, is because knowledge was created by God and
can only be found trying to find God.
3. Subjective Idealism
George Berkeley. George Berkeley (1685-1753) is thought to have
introduced subjective Idealism to the world. Berkeley, an Episcopal
minister, related that matter did not exist except through the mind.
All knowledge that a human has of an object is his/her sensations of
it. He argued that ideas exist only in human consciousness.
Berkeley believed that all existence was dependent on some mind to
comprehend it and that nothing would exist unless it was perceived
by God; there was no existence without this perception. The ideas
and spirit had been profaned by science that created atheists. His
purpose was to prove that God is the true cause of all things.
4. Absolute Idealism
George Wilhelm Friedreich Hegel. George Wilhelm Friedreich
Hegel (1770-1831) promoted this branch of philosophy. Hegel was
a German-born philosopher and one of the most influential thinkers
of recent times. Hegel considered evil necessary to stimulate change
in order to bring about God. Thus, the human mind grows and the
world improves. In a contended state, there is insufficient
contradiction to stimulate improvement.
Hegel believed that humankind was made for achievement, not for
happiness to achieve. For this belief, humans should be willing to
risk revolution. Convinced that “the times make the man,” Hegel
was confident that a leader would arise to synthesize the forces and
to bring harmony out of chaos.
Hegel affirmed that logic, nature, and spirit were necessary to his
belief and that thought was a continuum and not a series of unions.
He suggested that nature is the difference between value and fact
and he did not view logic and nature as separate. He believed that
spirit was the final absolute and the final end toward which anyone
can move (search for the Absolute Spirit).
5. Modern Idealism
Josiah Royce. Modern Idealism can be traced to Josiah Royce
(1855-1916) and Herman Harrell Horne (1874-1946). Royce was a
spokesman for Hegelian Idealism and maintained that the external
meaning of a thing depends entirely on its internal meaning–an
embodiment of purpose. This internal essence is all mental. Royce
29. CHAPTER 3–PHILOSOPHIES OF SCHOOLING
believed that ideas were purposes or plans of action that have been
put into action and that one of the most important things for humans
to develop is a sense of loyalty to moral principles and causes. He
regarded a human’s purpose as teacher of how individuals can
become active ingredients in the purposes of life.
Herman Harrell Horne. Herman Horne demonstrated a wide
interest in questions of religion and education, and this interest was
reflected in the more than 20 publications bearing his name. He
believed that not only knowledge but also reality was idealistic
rather than actual. Further, reality, if found only in reason, permits
humans to reconcile contradictions into a more harmonious
relationship throughout the universe.
Modern Idealism can be described as systematization and
subjectivism. The belief is that matter cannot exist except as a form
6. Other Contributors
René Descartes. René Descartes (1596-1650) challenged the
Catholic Doctrines. He searched for undoubtable ideas because of
his methodical doubt of all things, including his existence.
Descartes brought forth the idiom, “I think, therefore I am.” He
emphasized that any idea depended on other ideas because they
referred to another idea; the only idea that did not refer was the
Perfect Being (God), the source of all things. Descartes believed in
two principles: Cogito, or the undoubtability of human thought; and
Deity, or the foundation of all objects of thought.
Immanuel Kant. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) believed the
rationalist thinks analytically while the empiricist thinks
synthetically. He considered the mind is conscious of the
experience of the thing-in-itself and that each experience of a thing
is one additional piece of knowledge about the total thing. All we
know, he contended, is the content of experience.
Kant found it impossible to make universal and necessary
judgments about human experience purely on rational and scientific
grounds. He believed that man’s most difficult problem is
education. He affirmed that each person should treat others as an
end and never as a means. He viewed education as important
because humans were the only beings that needed it. The disciple
was a primary ingredient and the education of children was
necessary to improve the future. Kant firmly established the need to
30. SCHOOLING (2002)
teach a child to think according to principles and the importance for
children to perform their duties toward oneself and others.
7. Implications for Education
The educational philosophy of Idealism focuses on three concerns:
(a) who should be responsible for education, (b) who should be
taught, and (c) what should be the curriculum. The aim of education
to the idealist is to assist in the development of the mind and self of
the pupil, and to assist in attaining the good life of the Spirit. The
schools are to emphasize intellectual activities, moral judgment,
aesthetic judgment, self-realization, individual freedom, individual
responsibility and self- control.
The curriculum must be based on the idea of the spiritual nature of
humans and must draw on both sources of truth and right opinion
for its subject matter. Truth is preserved in a literary intellectual
inheritance. This inheritance is characterized by performance and
stability. The prime purpose is to teach students to think—to teach
skills that develop conceptual ability.
Education must preserve the subject matter content that is essential
for the development of the individual mind. The chief
characteristics are constant subjects, required subjects, individual
differences, normative, cultural enrichment, and logical
organization. Greater emphasis is placed on aesthetics. The actual
content of the subject is less important than the teacher or purpose
for which it is taught. Every human experience cannot be included
in a school’s curriculum. This leaves educators to employ a process
of selection and the school’s curriculum should contain the most
rewarding, the most formative experiences. When students leave the
school, they should be cultivated human beings ready to transcend
the realm of nature to engage in the world of thought, ready to
assume their obligations as good citizens and ready to see the
beauty and hold in awe the mysteries of the universe. More than
anything else, they will be persons ruled by thought.
To a great extent, the teacher is central in the idealist pattern of
education. The teacher is more the key to the educative process than
any other element comprising it. The teacher is in the singular
position of determining what the student’s opportunities for
learning and growing shall be.
Teachers must lead their students toward a fuller understanding of
their own capacities, help them see more clearly what they may
31. CHAPTER 3–PHILOSOPHIES OF SCHOOLING
become as persons, and give them the confidence for realizing the
visions they have of themselves.
In schooling’s first years, idealists maintain, teachers come close to
creating an educational environment for their students, but as
learning proceeds and as students become better equipped to meet
learning on their own terms, teachers should prudently withdraw.
They should know when students need them and when they are
better left alone.
The idealist teacher must possess:
a. a personification for the child;
b. knowledge of pupils;
c. excellent technical skills;
d. dexterity that commands the respect of the pupil;
e. friendship of the individual student;
f. the ability to awaken a desire to learn in each pupil;
g. a spiritual relationship with God in perfecting mankind;
h. the ability to communicate with his/her pupils;
i. the appreciation of the subjects he or she teaches.
Idealist teachers are tolerant not only of the mistakes their students
will inevitably make, but of opinions differing from their own.
Teachers should guide and stimulate the students to search for
personal solutions to the problems life poses. And at the same time,
these teachers should be alert to the requirements of logic and the
demands of truth and should never be ready to sell either at a
The student is the foremost concern. Idealists say that education
actually takes place within the self of the pupil, that is to say that
what students do in reaction to what is done to them constitutes the
core of education. Consequently, for the idealist, all education is
self-education. The development of mind is from within out, not
from without in. The teacher may lead the pupil to the fonts of
learning, but the teacher cannot make the pupil drink its juices.
Teaching is not so much the cause of learning as it is the occasion
or condition of learning. The cause of learning is the pupil and the
pupil’s effort. The ultimate responsibility for winning in education
rests with the will of the pupil. The educational process is,
therefore, not so much the stimulus shaping the individual as the
32. SCHOOLING (2002)
individual responding to the stimulus. Growth can come only
through self-activity and self-direction.
Self-activity leading to self-development, according to idealists, is
not an abstract process having little relation to bodily or temporal
factors. To develop the self certainly includes development of the
body and fully embraces physical education. But, development of
the body is limited to developing and strengthening what is given
the individual at birth. Education cannot add to the nerve cells of
the brain, but it can fully develop capacities for which potential is
given to the individual.
Educational philosophers must have some understanding of the
human capacity before they can say anything about the purpose of
education or the kind of learning most suitable for the formation of
human beings. Plato, although uncertain of the good to be reaped,
spoke of the sensibleness in educating both boys and girls.
Depending on their talent, persons of either sex could go all the way
to the top of the intellectual ladder by capitalizing on the chances
they had for forming their minds.
The basic principle of idealism is to recognize the superiority of
mind over matter, so it must be in a person’s mind that education is
commissioned to cultivate. When idealists speak of education being
a cultivating agent, there is no intention to restrict this cultivating
function solely to schools. The whole society is a teacher and this
social teaching may be far superior to any other teaching that
individuals will ever have and self-realization is the central aim.
Social inheritance contains a kind of information incomparable to
all subjects taught in school. Education is a social enterprise and its
principle purpose is to immerse all persons in society into the
mainstream of the cultural and intellectual inheritance. A great deal
of teaching from the idealist view is informal and no school can
ever take its place.
Idealism promotes a system of learning that stresses questioning
and discussion, lecture, and individual and group projects. The
pupil is a spiritual being that possesses a uniqueness. This
uniqueness involves the belief that the pupil is in the process of
becoming. Therefore, a child is neither good nor evil at birth and
the potential for good or evil depends upon the environment.
Idealists cannot guarantee that human beings will always act for
their own good or for the good of their society despite an internal
33. CHAPTER 3–PHILOSOPHIES OF SCHOOLING
motivation to do so. But the idealist’s philosophy permeates the
foundation on which genuinely human life must always stand.
7. Basic Philosophy of Realism.
Whether something is “real,” whether it exists and in what sense it exists
scarcely constitutes a problem for people most of the time. When
something is either unclear or in dispute, the reality of a given thing or
event is the central issue.
Realism has been pictured as a critical philosophy in which truth is
determined scientifically. It respects both the scientific product and the
scientific method. Like idealism, it is based on absolute truths; and like
pragmatism, it is an experience-based philosophy that requires
experimentation. However, behind all disputes about what should or
should not be done are certain assumptions of “what is.” Realism
proclaims that objects of perception are objects and contain real existence
outside the mind. This idea was developed in opposition to all forms of
The idea of inter-penetration between the world and the consciousness,
body, and mind is one whose full implications are still being explored. The
equation between the two spheres of body and mind, if infinitely subtle,
may be inexpressible and seems not to exist. Perhaps there is a degree of
perception that what is real and what is imagined are one in the same.
Most persons divide the world into two kinds of reality. One is taken to be
a world of objective fact in which the world is asserted to exist
independent of any knower. A fact simply is, and is, in no way, affected by
Quite apart from the world of fact existing independently of humans is
another world in which reality is internal. This world usually encompasses
artistic values, performance in music, taste, and other phenomena that are
personal or subjective in nature. This world is seen as having no
relationship with the world of facts and belonging exclusively to one’s
private judgment. In this world, what is good is good for me.
The position that Realism has historically opposed is the belief that reality
is internal. The core of the realistic position is that reality is something that
exists external to mind, thought, observation, or belief. Realists usually
maintain that ultimate reality is a thing whose structure or function is
independent of any knower. Realists assert that a thing exists first and that
knowledge of reality is simply a mental picture of the object.
The central core of realism is referred to as the Theory of Independence.
This theory is a simple and unqualified assertion that ultimate reality is
34. SCHOOLING (2002)
independent of any knower. Frederick Breed, a 20th
promoted a concept for the realist that becoming known is an event that
happens to things assumed to exist prior to and independently of the act of
Present-day realism is a complex, highly refined position that is usually
grounded in some theoretical description of a method of physical and
natural sciences. Realists prefer to adhere closely to what might be called a
hard-line stance with scientific theory. It is based on the assumption that
however difficult it is to pierce through inaccurate observations,
preconceived ideas, and variable perceptions, reality can be known in its
own terms. What is said about reality and what reality is may or may not
be the same thing. When reality corresponds precisely to a “what is”
concept, we are speaking of truth.
Truth is a perfect copy of what exists. This theory of truth is referred to as
The Correspondence Theory and is the test for true, reliable, and
accurate knowledge. Therefore, reality is not invented; it is discovered
through observation by logical means following logical scientific
procedures. In some cases, observations need not be careful or lengthy, for
it does not take much observation to determine that a bucket of water is
larger than a drop of water. However, in other cases, reality is discovered
by careful, systematic, and controlled observation. This process involves
performing certain operations in a precise manner.
8. Major Contributors to Realism.
a. Classical Tradition
Aristotle. Aristotle was born in 384 BC and died in 322 BC, the son of
a physician. He was sent to study at Plato’s academy about 367 BC and
remained there until Plato’s death. Aristotle followed Plato’s traditions,
but as his life experiences dictated, he developed his own style and
Aristotle’s writings, as Plato’s, are divided into three periods. In many
of his writings, he followed Plato’s model, but his own style was
indeed at work. Popular writings are contained in the first division.
The second division contains memoranda and collections of material
with just enough research to introduce the third category where
scientific and philosophical treatises emerge. Aristotle applied natural
history to animals and metaphysics and came to the conclusion that the
body is an instrument of the soul. For this, he is often referred to as the
first biologist. Scientists and philosophers have long referred to his
works for information and inspiration.
35. CHAPTER 3–PHILOSOPHIES OF SCHOOLING
Even though Aristotle was a student of Plato, it is evident from the
study of these two philosophers that many of their ideas and theories
are different. Plato viewed philosophy from the perspective of the artist
while Aristotle’s view was from that of a scientist. Plato’s philosophy
is embedded in an art form itself—that of dialogue, while Aristotle
treated philosophic problems in a cold, analytical prose style. Plato was
intent on the ideal; whereas, Aristotle was grounded in the reality.
Aristotle contributed a great deal to the development of philosophy in
ancient Greece. As a student of Plato, he spent some 20 years studying
and teaching. Aristotle established a school called the Lyceum.
Aristotle believed that a proper study of matter could lead to better and
more distinct ideas (forms). Forms, such as the idea of God or of a tree,
can exist without matter, but there can be no matter without form. Each
piece of matter has both a universal and a particular property. Particular
properties of one acorn differentiate it from other acorns; that is, size,
shape, color, weight, and so forth. These forms are the non-material
aspects of each particular object that relate to all other particular
objects of that class.
Aristotle believed that one could understand form by studying
particular material things. He argued that the form of things, the
universal properties of objects, remain constant and never change;
whereas, particular components do change. He contended that form
was within particular matter and was even the motivating force of that
Aristotle also believed that each object has a tiny soul that directed it in
the right way. The deeper one goes into the matter, the more one is led
to philosophy. His two extremes (too much and too little) constituted
his belief that one should strive for the Golden Mean (the proper
perspective or a path between the extremes). When the Golden Mean is
reached, balance, the central component to his view, is assured and
this, in his mind, produces good citizens.
Aristotle believed that organic development was the tool of
understanding and that reality existed in individual things that were in
the process of change. He regarded the natural world and the pursuit of
human interests in this world as the only subjects worthy of human
concern. He wrote nothing directly on education, but references to
education appear throughout his works. He felt that education was
designed to preserve the stability of the state, to create good
citizenship, and to prevent revolutions. Children, like young animals,
needed training in good habits, with experiences selected for them to
36. SCHOOLING (2002)
help them find happiness in a secure state. Aristotle did not consider
himself a reformer, but a scientist.
Aristotle proclaimed four causes: Material, the matter from which
something is made; Formal, the design that shapes the material object;
Efficient Cause, the agent that produces the object; and Final Cause,
the direction toward which the object is tending. He believed that
ultimate reality was the power or source to which matter points beyond
itself. God, the Creator, he believed, was a logical explanation for the
order of the universe.
His logical method of inquiry was deductive reasoning because truth
was derived from generations of research. He believed, however, that
one major problem with deductive reasoning was that if the major
premise was false, the conclusion would also be false.
Aristotle asserted the chief good was happiness that depended upon a
virtuous and well-ordered soul. This can happen only as one develops
virtuous habits shaped through education. Education, he believed,
developed individual reasoning capacity so one can make correct
choices. This means the path of moderation, of acceptance, and of
following such a principle became the core of educational proposals.
b. Religious Realism
Saint Thomas Aquinas. St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) became a
leading authority on Aristotle. He realized that teaching truth to minds
made for truth was of such intrinsic excellence that, as far as he could
see, no human could teach, but only God himself. He argued that God
was pure reason and that God created matter out of nothing and He
gave purpose to the universe. Aquinas felt that all truths were eternally
in God and that truth was passed to humans by divine revelation.
He believed that all creatures were under God’s governance of the
world but that some creatures have a share in this divine governance
because they can understand the end and use specific means to attain
the understood end. Aquinas also believed the soul is a creation; it is
immortal and from God.
Aquinas integrated Aristotle’s philosophy with the teachings of the
church and worked out a relationship between reason and faith. For this
he was referred to as the Angelic Doctor. He questioned whether one
human can teach another or whether this role belongs to God alone. He
viewed that only God should be called “Teacher” because one human
mind could not directly communicate with another mind unless through
usage of symbols. Regarding teaching, he thought that only God could
37. CHAPTER 3–PHILOSOPHIES OF SCHOOLING
touch the inside–the soul. Others could only point the learner to
Aquinas believed that each of us is born with an immortal soul with the
seeking of perfection of human beings and the reunion of the soul to
the soul of God as major educational goals. He thought the soul
possessed an inner knowledge; therefore, a proper education
recognized both the spiritual and material natures of an individual.
Since he felt the spiritual side was higher and more important, he
favored education of the soul. Aquinas also felt the family and the
church were the primary agencies of education. The mother is the
child’s first teacher and she should set the moral tone. The church
should be the source for understanding God’s law. The state should
formulate and enforce laws concerning education.
Philip H. Phenix. Philip H. Phenix (1915- ) Professor Emeritus of
Philosophy and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University,
elaborated a philosophical theory of curriculum for general education.
During 1981, Professor William Kritsonis served as a Visiting Scholar
at Teachers College and studied under Dr. Phenix. Phenix, a classical
realist, emphasized that knowledge in the disciplines has logical
patterns, structures, and forms. Understanding these typical patterns is
essential for guidance of teaching and learning. Professor Phenix
identified six fundamental patterns of meaning: symbolics, empirics,
esthetics, synnoetics, ethics, and synoptics. Phenix believes that
learning these patterns is the clue to effective teaching and learning. He
also stressed the importance of understanding representative ideas,
methods of inquiry, and the importance of appealing to the
c. Modern Realism
Francis Bacon. Francis Bacon (1561-1626) brought about the study of
realism stemming from a revolt against the spiritualistic idealism of
Hegel. Bacon, also referred to as the “father of the scientific method,”
recommended the method of scientific inquiry be adapted to determine
truth. He believed that knowledge was power and acquiring this know-
ledge could allow one to deal effectively with problems. He thought
that science could not be burdened with preconceived notions from
deductive generalizations. From this, he formulated the inductive
method for problem solving. The premise for inductive reasoning was
to begin with observable instances and then reason to general
statements. He surmised that one who begins with absolute truths is
less likely to change them.
38. SCHOOLING (2002)
Bacon urged that individuals examine all previously accepted
knowledge and rid the mind of various idols or presumed falsities.
Induction would allow each individual to arrive at generalizations on
the basis of systematic observations of particulars.
d. Other Contributors
John Locke. John Locke (1632-1704), another contributor to modern
realism, held the view that the desire for happiness and the desire to
know (curiosity) were widespread throughout mankind. Locke
stipulated the human mind could encompass as much as was necessary
for happiness; it is capable of knowing a very great deal. He traced the
origin of ideas to thought where all knowledge is acquired from
sources independent of the mind. He believed that all ideas are
developed from experience by sensation and reflection. He concluded
that what is known is what is experienced.
Herbert Spencer. Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) was one of the first
individuals to propose a scheme for selecting the subject matter best
suited to the needs of the pupils. He promoted that knowledge,
contributing to self-preservation, was of the utmost usefulness and
should appear first among the things taught to children.
e. Implications for Education
Given the character of American education, it is important for teachers
to understand what kind of assumptions lie behind education and
educational goals. Therefore, the aim of realistic educational practices
is to present material to students so they may become acquainted with
the subject matter as a pre-established block of material. Successful
learning consists of understanding that material. The teacher with a
philosophy of realism is science-oriented and is likely to be impersonal
and objective rather than rigid and mechanical. Problems are set for the
learner to work on individually rather than cooperatively. The learner is
not expected to develop a conscience that differentiates right from
wrong; instead, the student is guided by the unyielding laws of nature
that will apply to social as well as to physical situations.
Teaching techniques consist of any approach that most effectively
acquaints students with what they are to know. However, lectures and
textbooks should consist of systematic and well-organized descriptions
of subject matter. Field trips are acceptable modes of instruction if they
deal with concrete demonstrations and are considered superior to
39. CHAPTER 3–PHILOSOPHIES OF SCHOOLING
Discipline is a reasonable balance between control and freedom.
Because the laws of nature are considered inflexible, a lack of
discipline would be expected to result in disorientation in adult life.
Evaluation should be as objective as possible and should represent an
accurate measure of achievement. Achievement is therefore determined
by comparing evidences of what has been learned with what should
have been learned. Students who have learned the most material with
the fewest errors receive the highest grades.
Realism is a critical philosophy limited to precise scholars. In
implementation, it exists principally in research studies in higher
education but it has had an indirect influence on the public school
system. Permanent elements of human experience are valued but there
is a continuous reexamination of evidence using the scientific method.
There is insistence on examinations that are pertinent, authentic, and
comprehensive. Realism is used for the view that objects exist
externally to us and independently of our senses. Realism is primarily
an attitude toward knowledge. Against skepticism, realism affirms the
existence of knowledge and holds the object of knowledge has a reality
independent of the knowing mind.
In general, the claim that perceiving is thus genuine and amounts to
knowledge is said to be the best hypothesis to explain the order and
nature of our sense experiences. The claim of the realist is simply that
once ordinary errors and illusions are ruled out by comparing the
evidence of different senses or of different persons, the simplest
explanation of the situation is there are external objects causing the
sense data or contents. The process then is to correspond to them in
In one common-sense theory of realism, one kicks a stone to prove that
matter exists. One can come to know the world by observation and
9. The Basic Philosophy of Pragmatism.
Pragmatism comes from the Greek word for action, also the root for the
words practical and practice. Many ancient philosophers used part of the
pragmatist’s philosophy but its modern and full origin and development
can be traced to Charles Peirce. Peirce believed that pragmatic beliefs are
really rules for action and that to develop a thought’s meaning need only to
determine the conduct to be produced.
Pragmatism, therefore, represents the empirical attitude in philosophy.
Everywhere pragmatism is said to unstiffen all our theories, limber them
40. SCHOOLING (2002)
up and set them at work. Pragmatists believe that ideas (which themselves
are but parts of our experience) become true in order to get into
satisfactory relations with other parts of our experience.
In practice, pragmatism was introduced into philosophy as a method of
ascertaining the purpose of hard words and abstract conceptions and
interpretation of intellectual concepts that hinge on reasoning. Pragmatism
may also be explained as a returning to things past. The history of this
philosophy is primarily a gathering of truths discarded at some point in the
a. Free Will and Determinism
Most people who believe in free will do so after the rationalistic
fashion. It is a principle by which dignity is enigmatically augmented.
For this reason, pragmatists believe that individual men originate
nothing but merely transmit to the future the whole push of the past
cosmos of which they are so small an expression.
Pragmatists have long disagreed over the free will/determinism
controversy. William James, a famous pragmatist, promoted the
concept of free will and a reality of that freedom. He maintained that a
human’s role was not merely to measure so completely but to create
and recreate based on experiences from the past. James believed the
universe is not an absolute; it is open, and it is full of novelty; it
contains chaos, disorder, and evil. Life as it comes has an air of being.
Humans do not merely reflect on a finished product; they register the
truth they help to create.
Later in life, James’ view of free will mellowed and, with this changing
view, the complexion of pragmatists also changed. Free will is now
held by contemporary pragmatists as a staid belief. However,
pragmatists are nevertheless capable of the kind of interaction with the
world that changes the direction of events and determines future
direction without effecting any essential change in their beliefs.
b. Major Contributors to Pragmatism
William James. Most scholars have given Charles S. Peirce the
distinction of illuminating pragmatic ideals although he was heavily
influenced by the writings of William James. Peirce had a background
in math, chemistry, and theoretical sciences, and wrote as a logician.
For Peirce, the pragmatism was primarily a method for analysis and
explanation of the meaning of intellectual concepts. He once
characterized pragmatism’s maxim as the “definition of definitions.” It
was intended as a procedure for promoting linguistic and conceptual
41. CHAPTER 3–PHILOSOPHIES OF SCHOOLING
clarity and successful communication when one was seeking the
resolution of intellectual problems. Peirce’s pragmatism then may be
thought of as a theory of meaning rather than a theory of truth. It is to
be understood as a regulative idea, one that functions solely to order,
integrate, and promote inquiry.
William James, a psychologist, was probably the man most responsible
for influencing the writings of Peirce. Though James never took public
credit for the establishment of pragmatism, he did write that
pragmatism was the only philosophy with no humbug in it.
From his summer home in New Hampshire, William James wrote that
he was unfit to be a philosopher because at the bottom he hated
philosophy. This seemed ironic coming from a man classified as
making a great impact in philosophy.
William James was born in 1842, the son of Henry and Mary Walsh
James. William was faced with much sickness throughout his youth
and early adulthood. He developed a nervous instability (neurasthenia)
that was a deep-rooted depression. This condition delayed his choice of
careers until his mid-20s. Another reason for his career being delayed
was that he had a great interest in painting; however, his father did not
want a painting career for his son. Therefore, in 1864, James entered
Harvard Medical School.
In 1875, James taught his first class in psychology and this began an
important transition in his life. Once this began, it was not long before
James quit the medical profession and his teaching in the medical area.
He became totally devoted to his writing and lecturing on psychology
Much in the 20th
century history of psychology in America has been
colored and shaped by the wisdom of William James. Few are the
failures and frustrations of this same psychology that he did not
The Principles of Psychology, one of James’ early works, was
published in two volumes in 1890, a dozen years after James had
undertaken the work. One of the interesting features of the book is that
it deals with many fundamental philosophical problems. Its chapters
cover issues concerning the nature of consciousness and reason, the
debate between freedom and determinism, the relation of the mind and
the body and “necessary truths.” In this book, James pushes
psychology toward the goal of making it a natural science, but however
42. SCHOOLING (2002)
fails to recognize that psychology and philosophy stand close together
with respect to the problem they treat.
James and his Principles did not found American psychology in the
sense of inventing a new method or uncovering a basic law. Rather, his
works and ways saved academic psychology from sinking to the mere
busy-work of the laboratory or rising so high toward metaphysics as to
abandon its proper subject.
Throughout his life, James was an empiricist, a believer in experience
as the basic source of knowledge. James’ version of empiricism, that he
sometimes called radical empiricism, urged us to start with experiences
that humans feel and live through rather than immediately fitting these
experiences into theories and frameworks that we have developed in
Although James thought of himself as an empiricist, he also wanted to
combine empiricism and spiritualism. By uniting empiricism and
spiritualism, James developed a pragmatic philosophy that he believed
was just a new way of stating old ideas.
James believed that a pragmatist was willing to follow logic or the
senses, and to learn from the most personal and humblest experiences.
James stressed that pragmatism was a broad philosophical view that
stressed pluralism, freedom, and change. This is not any radical shift of
James’ interest in thinking; it is a natural and a logical extension of his
earlier philosophical/psychological views.
James’ philosophy can be related to his reverence for, and his faith in,
the individual. The pragmatism lectures, given first as the Lowell
Lectures in Boston and then again at Columbia, surprised James by
their reception. He became nearly a cult figure to his eager young
audience at Columbia, as he had for some time been a father figure to
leaders of thought on both sides of the Atlantic.
During the years 1900 to 1914, much criticism and change was brought
about. It was a time where a widespread and remarkably good-natured
effort of the greater part of society was undertaken to achieve some
vague and unclear self-reformation. During this era of self-reformation,
James printed his lectures of Pragmatism. This philosophy expanded
the so-called progressive movement. It assured humans of options and
gave mankind a formula to evaluate effectiveness of actions. For James
and for Americans of generations before and after him, the relativism
suggested by pragmatism meant that humans could get better.
43. CHAPTER 3–PHILOSOPHIES OF SCHOOLING
Through all of his writings, one must realize the importance of William
James to American psychology and philosophy. It may be said that he
did not invent or discover some great principle, but permitted the world
to achieve a goal more quickly or effectively. However, he provided
the boundaries of thought and supplied the terms that an entire
generation would discuss and understand as a way of life.
James argued that the knower was an actor, and in certain ways, played
a role in creating truth. James was not merely advancing empty
theories; he was arguing from the depths of his own personal
experiences and suffering. He made it clear that pragmatism was a
theory of truth, as well as a theory of meaning.
Oliver Wendell Holmes. Oliver Wendell Holmes was considered one
of the most important practitioners of pragmatism in law. Holmes
defined not only legal concepts, but also law itself stemming from the
need under pressure of which both prediction theory of law and
pragmatism took form. Holmes’ philosophy is considered pragmatic
because he regarded the history and the theory of the law as
instrumental in understanding and revising it as an evolving institution.
Of all the individuals who may be termed pragmatists, Holmes alone
has recognized the use of force and power involved in pragmatism as
only he accepted an institutional position of power.
John Dewey. John Dewey also promoted the pragmatic point of view.
His version differed somewhat from Peirce’s, and was similar in many
respects to James’. Dewey often spoke of using intelligence as an
instrument (instrumentalism) to overcome certain physical and social
situations that called for a series of new responses.
John Dewey was one of the most influential of all American
philosophers and educators. He was actively interested in the reform of
education, both theoretically and practically. In his book, Experiences
and Education (1939), Dewey addressed educational issues that are
still of vital relevance and importance to educators today.
Dewey’s philosophy of education, often labeled as experimentalism or
instrumentalism, emphasized many things including experiences,
experimentation, and freedom. Dewey believed the learner must
interact with that which is learned if a productive educational
experience was to be achieved. Though Dewey believed that all
genuine education came through experience, he also pointed out that
experience may be miseducation. He therefore suggested that teachers
should carefully define educational objectives and desired outcomes
using experience as a constructive learning instrument.
44. SCHOOLING (2002)
The idea that every experience is seen as a moving force that will
ultimately impact upon future experiences is the key factor in Dewey’s
educational philosophy. Even an individual’s knowledge of the
consequences is based on previous experience. Dewey believed that no
experience lives or dies to itself. Regardless of desire or intent, Dewey
believed that every experience lived on in further experiences. The
teacher, as an agent through which knowledge is communicated,
should draw upon these experiences in a framework or foundation for
learning. Used in this manner, Dewey believed that experience arouses
curiosity, strengthens initiative, and sets up desires and purposes that
strengthen the educational process.
Dewey believed that education was a continuous process. True learning
situations have longitudinal dimensions. Dewey expressed there was no
such thing as educational value in the abstract. Outside and apart from
the individual are circumstances and situations that give rise to
experience; thus “experience does not occur in a vacuum.”
Dewey proposed that education should prepare students for the
continuation of learning in adult life by suggesting that the most
important attitude that can be formed is the desire to go on learning.
Dewey also proposed the recognition of students as individuals. The
teacher must be aware of the needs, capabilities, and past and existing
experiences of students. The teacher must also be aware of what goes
on in their minds in order to formulate plans for stimulating new ways
of learning and thus expand the experiences already present. This
process could be self-perpetuating as new experiences result in possible
insights whose explorations would result in other new experiences.
Dewey was responsible for many philosophical offshoots:
Instrumentalism, Progressivism, Experimentalism, and so forth, that
will be discussed in later sections. However, the essence of his
philosophical beliefs set patterns for classroom operations that are still
being used and debated. Although it is widely accepted that Dewey’s
promotion of educational values was based on pragmatic convictions,
he was basically an adventurer in originating a certain flavor
surrounding his belief and his followers.
Dewey believed that knowledge was a means of controlling the
environment, hopefully to improve the quality of human life. He
further stressed the importance of attaining cooperation between
science and the demands of moral life.
Dewey often sought the causes that made communities change from
generation to generation. He believed the difference was due to the
45. CHAPTER 3–PHILOSOPHIES OF SCHOOLING
accumulated influences of individuals, of their examples, their
initiatives, and their decisions.
Dewey is credited with elevating pragmatism to the status of
philosophic respectability and providing the most tangible links in the
educational institutions of higher learning between pragmatism and the
American social structure and between philosophy and society. Dewey
advocated laboratory instruction, formulating such terms as inquiry,
reflective thought, and scientific method.
One of Dewey’s most outstanding works, Logic: The Theory of Inquiry
(1938), is such a commanding achievement that pragmatism is often
identified with the position he expounded there as a naturalist logic for
evaluating and reconstructing human experience.
c. Other Contributors
Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Jean-Jacques Rousseau noted the importance
of environment in shaping human experience and thought. He
maintained that civilization was harmful because it had led us away
from nature. Rousseau thought that individuals were basically good,
but were corrupted by civilization. He emphasized naturalism in
education and believed education should be guided by the child’s
Auguste Comte. Auguste Comte intensified efforts to apply science to
society. He believed the possibilities of using science could be
harnessed to help solve social problems. His dream was to reform
society by the application of science.
Charles Darwin. Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, believed that
nature operated by means of a process development. He argued that a
species evolves naturally through what he called a universal struggle
for existence. Reality is open-ended in process. He stipulated that a
person’s education was directly tied to biological and social
d. Implications for Education
Philosophies often vary in their total applications to education. One
component of the pragmatic view is the treatment recommended for the
pupil. This treatment can usually be seen to fit into the total
philosophical system of different philosophies. This part of philosophy
is always recognized as very important. Not only are the pupils the
leaders for the future, they also possess a great amount of energy and
capability for the present.
46. SCHOOLING (2002)
Pragmatism has been given a primary place among social institutions,
essentially because it may be that pragmatism, more than any other
philosophy, requires an association of education with a social function.
Students are distinct and concrete centers for experience. They must be
guided so they will experience the ever embracing flow of knowledge.
The students are not isolated from the public flow of events. The
concreteness and distinctness do not separate them from the life
process. Individual selves and individual pupils, therefore, are unique
in nature, always reaching out to engage in the flow of experience.
Pragmatists feel that elements of learning are not brought forth by
either the teacher or the pupil. They perceive that learning revolves
around students’ interests and experiences. Learning is the direction of
finding possible solutions to problems that are presently experienced.
Learning is following a planned path from a teacher. Pragmatists build
and execute units of study patterned after and matching cycles of
experience. Creative and constructive projects are heavily employed in
the pragmatic educative process.
Pragmatists view reality as a constantly changing force. Reality can be
known only through experience. Therefore, there is no absolute or
permanent knowledge level because only what can be observed and/or
experienced is real.
Those who judge the merits of pragmatism should be clear as to which
of its varieties they are criticizing, who held the complex ideas being
judged, and in what context. The pragmatic legacy inherited by 20th
century American thought does not provide a neat, finished system,
legislating for intellectual or moral questions, but it does provide a
philosophical stance in the defense of freedom or inquiry and
experimental ways of thinking.
Because education occurs from generation to generation, it should not
be looked upon as the mere acquisition of academic subject matter, but
as a part of life itself. Pragmatists believe that training is not the same
as education. The child’s own instincts and powers provide the material
and starting point of all education and the educator’s knowledge of
social conditions is necessary to interpret the child’s powers.
10. The Basic Philosophy of Existentialism.
Existentialism is largely a revolt against other traditional philosophies.
Where other philosophies attempt to grasp the ultimate nature of the world
in abstract systems of thought, existentialists consider what it is like to be
an individual human being living in the world. These philosophers are
47. CHAPTER 3–PHILOSOPHIES OF SCHOOLING
primarily interested in existence or being, concerning themselves with the
personal and relevant. They seek to learn from the full range of human
Key features in existentialism are individuality, subjectivity, introspection,
and feeling. It is an approach to a philosophy of human situations, not a
philosophy of things. Existentialism is a rejection of all purely abstract
thinking and a way of life capable of being lived. Existentialists believe
that existence precedes essence, and ideas about Heaven, Hell, and God
are all human inventions.
Individuality and the priority of existence before essence indicate
emphasis on present situations and personal meanings for individuals. The
existentialist is concerned with the particulars of today, not in absolutes or
permanent ideals. In consideration of the mind/body question, the
existentialist tries to visualize in concrete terms the ways the mind and
body are personally experienced. Time and space tend to void abstractness
and relate only to present conditions. Little attention is given to logic or
A principle upheld by the existentialist is that individuals are what they
make of themselves and nothing less. This principle is also known as
subjectivity. Individuals first exist and then become what they have
planned to become by their own wills. Individuals make decisions about
their futures and, because of this decision-making; they are responsible for
their decisions not only individually, but also to all mankind. When
individuals make personal choices, those choices affect others. From
personal choices and acts, self-image is made, along with personal values
and ideals. Thus, an existentialist involves self in making decisions that
affect all mankind. So deep are existentialists convicted by their
responsibility that they may be in a state of anguish or despair although
they may not display visible signs of this anguish. Existentialists make
decisions because they feel they are free to do so. They are also
responsible for their behaviors as a result of the decisions, no matter how
difficult it may become. Existentialists believe in action and, if the action
brings punishment, the punishment must be accepted.
Existentialists are basically concerned with three points in respect to their
values. First, there is an uncompromising acceptance of anguish and
suffering as a necessary condition of their experiences. If a person claims
to have made a decision without anguish, the existentialist would believe
that it was a petty choice and not really a choice at all, for suffering is an
integral part of life.
48. SCHOOLING (2002)
Second, for people who refuse to accept anguish as part of life, anguish
takes the form of tedium, fear, apathy, or petty anxiety. Subsequently, the
function of the existentialist is to free people from this pettiness. This
emphasis on negative aspects of life has brought the label “pessimistic” to
the existentialist’s movement.
Third, existentialists’ values intensify the conscious mind, arouse the
passions, and commit the individual to a course of action that will engage
total use of energies. Existentialism is very concerned with an individual’s
willingness truly to commit to something with heightened intensity. For
the existentialist, the commanding value of life is intensity as manifested
in acts of free choice, individual self-assertion, personal love, or creative
Existentialists do not believe in progress as time passes, as progress is
associated with betterment. Hence, although situations tend to vary, a
person is always the same. Some choices a person makes are based on
truth while others are based on error. Existentialists never consider
humanness as an end because mankind is always in the making.
a. Selected Contributors to Existentialism
Sǿren Kierkegaard. One of the earlier existentialists was Soren
Kierkegaard (1813-1855). Kierkegaard related existence to the
individual human beings and went against 2,000 years of philosophy
when he denied the link between objectivity and reality. According to
Kierkegaard, to exist meant to be a thriving, decision-making
individual who was committed to something. He believed that one did
not exist unless one consciously participated by one’s own will and
choice in activities; truth was subjective to this thinking process.
Kierkegaard believed that a human’s essential self is developed in three
stages. First is the aesthetic stage in which a person behaves according
to impulses and emotions. Senses govern people, and life at this stage
cannot result in true existence. Second is the ethical stage in which a
person recognizes and accepts rules of conduct based on moral law and
becomes conscious of his/her guilt. Third is the religious stage in
which a commitment of faith will bring about a subjective and unique
relationship between God and the individual.
Kierkegaard challenged the individual to seek out individual truth. He
promoted the concept that Christianity had become warped by modern
time because it perpetuated war. He called for a “leap of faith” in
which individuals would accept the Christian deity without proof of
God’s existence; they must abandon reason and accept groundless