Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Educational Philosophy of John Dewey

Educational Philosophy of John Dewey

John Dewey is the most distinguished American thinker who is both a philosopher and
an educator of the twentieth century. He was born in October, 1859 in Burlington and graduated from the University of Vermont in 1874. For many years he worked as a professor of philosophy at the Universities of Minnesota, Michigan and Chicago. Before his death 1952, he remained a professor of education and philosophy at the University of Columbia, New York. He has intimately identified philosophy with education.

In this paper I will discuss, what education is? What is philosophy? Philosophy

and education, Philosophy of education, Relationship between philosophy and education.

What is Education?

Education is an important social activity panned shared by the parents and the society.

Education is a process of learning to live the life of a community.

Definition of Education:

Aristole has defined education as “creation of a sound mind in a sound body”.

Pastalozzi defined education as “a natural harmonious and progressive development of man’s innate powers”.

Mahatama Gandhi wrote, “By education, I mean an all-round drawing out of the

best in the child and man-body, mind and spirit”.

What is Philosophy?

Philosophy aims at the fundamental understanding of things, the problem of human

conduct, the assumptions that under lie religious and scientific believes, the tools and

methods of thinking or any issue that arises in any field of human activity.

Philosophy seeks to provide a complete account of man’s world, which is reflective and

critical in nature. Philosophy wants to understand man in relation to the whole universe,

nature and God. Philosophy deal with the nature of the human mind and personality and

the ways in which man and all his instructions can be understood. Philosophy seeks to

understand whether man is free or within bondage and whether he can change the course

of history. Philosophy, therefore, may be understood as a search for a comprehensive

view of nature, an attempt at universal explanation of the nature of things. Philosophy

gives man that knowledge and wisdom with the help of which he understands the whole

universe and the implications of the same or relations to himself and all the people

around. The eternal quest for truth lends the origin of philosophy. A love of wisdom is

the essence for any philosophic investigation.

Definition of philosophy:

The word philosophy originated from the Greek language.

Betrand Russel defines, that “Philosophy is to be studied not for the sake of

any definite answer to it’s question, but rather for the questions themselves,

because these questions enlarge our conception of what is possible but above

all because – the mind also becomes capable of that union, with the universe,

Which constitutes its highest good”.

In Coleridge defined philosophy as “the science of all sciences”.

Cisaro called it “the mother of all arts a true medicine of mind”.

Philosophy and Education:

According to Ross, philosophy and education are two sides of a coin:

The former is the contemplative side and the latter the active side. Education is nothing

but applied philosophy. Philosophy deals with the abstract whereas education deals with

the concrete. Both of them go together. Philosophy is the wisdom acquired after mature

thinking and education is the practical step of translating theses ideas into action.

Without philosophy education would be nothing but blind, effort; and without education

philosophy would be no better than a cripple. So long we need aims of education, based

on philosophy and based on the ultimate goals of life, this need will always be there.

Philosophy will continue influencing and determining both the matter and the method of

education. It will continue making a unique contribution of the development of the

educational theory and practice.


There are three areas of philosophy

1) Metaphysics, is a branch of philosophy which deal with the problem of reality.

Questions usually discussed are; what is nature of universe we live in? What is


2) Epistemology: Epistemology is the branch of philosophy which deals with the

problem of knowledge, question discuss are: how do we get knowledge? How does a

man know what is real? Different philosophers have different answers.

3) Axiology: This branch of philosophy which deals with the problems of value.

The problems of values include questions; what are the principles of life? How do

they support the view of reality?

Philosophy of Education:

Cunningham explains,

1- First philosophy is a science of all things; so the philosophy of education looks at

the problem of education in all its main aspects.

2- In the second placed philosophy is the science of all things ‘through their ultimate

reasons and cause’. So too the philosophy of education studies only the deeper

problems in the field of education as a whole, leaving to the science of education.

The study of those problems which are immediate and can best be approached

through the scientific method, e.g., the problem of measurement of students ability.

Relationship between philosophy and education:

The major task of philosophy is to determine what constitutes a life worth living and

major task of education is to make life worth living. It may said that there is a close

relationship between philosophy and education.

Inter-dependence of Philosophy and Education.

Philosophy tells the goal and essentials of good life. Education tells the mean to achieve

those goals and learn those essential of good life. Philosophy sets for us “whether we are

bound and whether we ought to be bound”. It can, therefore, be said that “Philosophy is

the theory while education is the practice. “Philosophy is the contemplative side while

education is the active side”. Education is applied philosophy. Philosophy deals with the

ends, education with the means and philosophy lays down the ends. Education transmits

to the children that wisdom which philosophy has expounded for the good of ‘man’. It

was Fichte who said, “the art of education will never attain complete clearness without

philosophy”. John Dewey endorsing the view of Ross believes that “philosophy is the

theory of education in it’s most general phases”. Philosophy answers thousands of

questions pertaining to the whole field of education. If the child is to be educated; why is

he to be educated; for what is to be educated; how is he to be educated; by whom is he to

be educated are questions which are answered by philosophy.


After a thorough study of Educational philosophy of John Dewey, one can conclude by

saying that philosophy and education go side by side, one cannot do without the other. As

it was stated above that without philosophy education would be nothing but blind effort;

and without education philosophy would be no better than a cripple. Sir John states, that

education is the dynamic side of philosophy.



Bharathi, D. D. & Rao, D.D.B. (2005). Educational Philosophy of John Dewey. New

Delhi: Discovery Publishing House.

Shahid, S. M. (2006). History and philosophy of education. Lahore: Yousuf Mukhtar.

Khalid, M. T. (2005). Education: An introduction to educational philosophy and history.

Karachi: National Book Foundation.

Bhatia, B. D. (1957). Philosophy and education. New Delhi: Discovery Publishing


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