Thursday, June 3, 2010

Pragmatism as a school of Philosophy

"Pragmatism is a temper of mind, an attitude, it is also a theory of the nature of ideas and truth and finally it is a theory about reality.” William James

The Revolution: A Prehistoric novel

The word pragmatism is derived from the Greek word “Pragma” which means Practice . Pragmatists firmly hold that the meaning of concepts lie in their practical consequences, and knowledge develops from practice.According to Peirce, a great pragmatis, if we need to know the meaning of the word hard , we have to carry out an experiment. The experiment is we have to scratch something and find the effect of scratching. If the thing is easily scratched, it is soft, if not, it is hard.

The Slave: A novel from the prehistoric past of humanity

Theoretical Versus Pragmatic Attitude
Philosophers have identified two different types of human interests that generate knowledge and understanding of something. One is called pragmatic, and the other one is called theoretical. Theoretical interest is rooted in the feeling of wonder. If I feel wonder what these starts are , I would certainly try to know about them and start my inquiry about the stars.

Sometimes a person wonders what this universe is? Where it has come from? Who created it? Why I am here in this World? Such questions are the result of the feeling of wonder, and develop a theoretical interest in humans. They don't want any material benefit while they address these questions. Such an attitude is called theoretical attitude.

The other attitude towards things is pragmatic. I want to know how I can reach a spot? or how I can get a job? How can I educate others? Such questions are pragmatic, for the knowledge solves a problem. This knowledge is a result of my practical copncerns, and not theoretical concerns. This type of knowledge is called pragmatic.

Pragmatism Vs Idealism
 Idealists believe that it is the knowledge or the idea , that leads practice, but pragmatism holds that ideas are constructed from experience. First comes the practice , and then on its basis, principles and ideas are derived. Hence, pragmatism is also known as Experimentalism or consequentialism as opposed to idealism.

Dewey holds Plato responsible for giving ideas undue priority over existence. Plato, one of the greatest ever exponents of idealism, was responsible for reversing the relationship between idea and practice . According to Khalid, Wasim and Shams(2007):

"Dewey criticized Greek philosophers for presenting an epistemologically erroneous view of reality. Since Greeks were freemen and did not have to participate in the production process; therefore, they simply neglected the importance of process and eulogized the outcome. This resulted in Greek idealism, which erroneously considered essences as the cause of existence.On the other hand, Dewey thinks that ideas are the outcomes of the experience of existing things, and contends that Greek philosophy inverted the order of things and considered the idea, the effect, as the cause of the existing things and thus committed a fallacy. It disregarded the actual course of experience in the formation of knowledge and misconceived the nature of knowledge itself. "

One Application of this view, as quoted in (Khalid, Wasim and Shams, 2007), is found in Dewey's educational thought. Criticizing traditional educational way of teaching Ideas and theories prior to experience Dewey says:

"What Dewey has said in the chapter titled ‘Science in the Course of Study’ in his ‘Democracy and Education’, suggests that ideas should not be given priority over the actual course of experience in education. Children should not be first taught and then asked to verify concepts and theories through their experiences. Rather, they should be expected to formulate their ideas with the aid of their experience through following the process of inquiry. Thus, Dewey establishes a priority of experience over theory and fixed concepts."

Pragmatism is also called experientalism because pragmatists believe experience as the only basis for knowdge. For pragmatists, there is no absolute or fixed truth and value. Concepts are not predetermined and absolute. Knowdge and values are pragmatic and change if the underlying human experience is changed.No truth is absolute and permanent. Dewey has given a great significance to change in his educational philosophy. He says:

“With the advent of democracy and modern industrial conditions, it is impossible to foretell definitely just what civilization will be twenty years from now. Hence, it is impossible to prepare the child for any precise set of conditions.”

Pragmatism Vs Realism

Realism believes that the truths are objective and infallible. There is a reality out there, and its knowledge is absolute. This absolute does not mean to bestow eternity upon truth, but a kind of objectivity. Change is there, but despite change, people can build a consensus over a matter, and that consensus is largely objective . Objectivity of realism comes from the object of knowledge and not from the subjects.
If an object is hard, it should appear hard to all those who are evaluating it in similar conditions, for hardness is not circumstantial, neither it is subjective, hardness is a quality that pertains to the object and not to the subject. Hardness is an absolute standard.

For pragmatism, meanings are pragmatic. So if I say that something is hard, and my evaluation works, brings good results, I am right. If it does not bring the desired results or that results, the assertion is wrong. Pragmatism is all about experimentation and experience.

Forms of pragmatism according 

  •  Humanistic pragmatism

According to this ideology only those things and principles are true which satisfy the needs, requirements, aspirations and objectives of human beings and cater to the welfare of mankind.

  •  Experimentalism

According to this position meaning is derived from experience

  •  Biological pragmatism

According to this power or capacity of a human being is valuable and important which enables him to adjust with the environment or which makes him able to change his environment according to his needs and requirements.

Principles of pragmatism:

  • Changing nature of truth
  • Truth is construcred from experience
  • Problems as the motives of truth
  • Emphasis on social and democratic values
  • Emphasis on the principle of utility
  • Opposion to fixed ideals and values
  • Importance of man power
  • Importance of activity
  • Faith in present and future
  • Opposition to social customs and traditions
  • Faith in pluralism
  • Faith in flexibility

Pragmatism and education

Dewey has intimately related pragmatism to modern education. Dewey has advocated change in education and opposed traditional education. Gaining knowledge for the sake of knowledge is not the real aim of education. Pragmatic philosophy focuses mental, religious and aesthetic modes of human activity. Through practice, human beings create their own ideals and values. Aspects of education should be suitable to human good and human growth. According to pragmatists educational process should promote human welfare. Only flexible educational institutions can remain alive, active and satisfy the changing needs of the society and provide real experiences through activities.

Characteristics of pragmatic education

  • Education as life
  • Education as growth
  • Education as continues reconstruction of experience
  • Education as a social process
  • Education as a responsibility of the state

Pragmatism and aims of education
Dewey, in Experience and Education, has criticized traditional aims of education.  He emphasises that aims of human life always change with the changing times, places and circumstances. No specific aim of education can be predetermined which holds true and good in all times, places and situations. Aim of education according to pragmatists is more and more growth, creation of new values and to provide a direction and guidance to the child according to his natural interest, aptitude and capacities. In How We Think Dewey has identified Judgment making as the main aim of education.

Pragmatism and curriculum
According to  Dewey, experience is the content of education. Ideas formed by previous generations are vital for human survival, and it is the task of education to transmit this knowledge to the younger generations. This, however, should not be done as it was being done traditionally. Traditional education never relates ideas and experience, and due to this reason, children cannot understand the taught lessons. Dewey says that ideas should be taught as experience. Children should learn to derive ideas from their experiences.

Pragmatism and methods of teaching
Dewey advocates problem solving method. Through this method a child learns by his own activities and experiences. The teacher develops a problematic experience for learners. Learners perform an activity, and in the course of that activity , a problem is introduced. And then learners are asked to find solutions to that problem. In the course of solving that problem, children learn.

Pragmatism and teacher
According to Dewey, it is the responsibility of teacher to design and select proper educative experiences for the learner. Not only that a teacher has to design the learning experience, but he or she also has to conduct that experience.

Pragmatism and discipline
Dewey in Experience and Education, advocated a notion of discipline drawn from the field of sports. Education is activity based, and each activity, like a sports, has its own laws and regulations. This means that discipline of education comes from individual activities and is never imposed from outside. Dewy is against externally imposed discipline.

Pragmatism and school
School for Dewey is a social organization designed to provide social experience to the learners. School mimics the organization of society itself. Accordingly, in a school learners  gain real experiences of actual life which develops in them a sense of duty towards society . It is not only a centre of education but a centre of community. School is a true representative of a society.

Merits of pragmatism

  • Importance of child
  • Emphasis on activity
  • Faith in applied life
  • Social and democratic education
  • Progressive and optimistic attitude
  • Construction of project method

Pragmatism aims to develop a dynamic, flexible and adaptable mind which is always resourceful and able to create new values in the face of changing realities. This way of thinking has given a new direction and a new purpose to all educational activities and programmes. It prepares an individual to face successfully all the present and future problems and challenges of life. Pragmatism is an attitude and a way of living which opposes the old doctrines of idealism and naturalism and inspires the individual to look ahead and create new values and ideas to meet the challenges of an unknown future.

Dewey, John, How We Think,
Dewey, John, Experience and Education,
Khalid, Wasim and Shams, Freedom, Truth and Education
Singh, Y. K. (2007). Philosophical foundation of education. New Delhi: A P H Publishing.
Shahid, S. M. (2000). Philosophy of education. Lahore: Majeed Book Depot.

Imam Ghazali By Taimoor Shah

Khalid (2005) confirms that Imam Ghazali was born in at Ghazala near Tus in 1058 A. D. He is called Ghazali because he was born at Ghazala and also his father was known as ghazali by his profession. His early education took place in Tus and he moved to Jarjan and finally migrated to Nishapur to acquire learning from the most learned man of the time Abul-Maalai. He possessed the great ability of clear expression and of addressing the people. He used to lecture before audiences of three hundred and even more great learned man in his time to their satisfaction. He used to live in Syria Egypt, Mecca and Madina. He used to wandering here and there while contemplating and thinking of the sufferings of mankind at the same time.

Imam Ghazali wrote several books nearly 78 on many subjects like tafsir, jurisprudence, hadith, politics and education. Some of his famous writings are Cheemai-i-Saadat, Mairajus-Salikeen and Aqeedat-i-Misbah and Ihya-ul-Ulummidin. He is regarded as a reviver and Imam or leader by a millions of Muslims today.

He focuses spiritual and also emphasis materialistic development of man. According to Ghazali worldly business is important for the peace of mind and for a pleasant life. He advises the people to get the basic necessities of life and forbid them to indulge in luxurious life. He believes that man should work and labour because God has made this world for that purpose.
Curriculum and Ghazali’s philosophy
Khalid (2005) stats before Ghazalis’s philosophy came more time was devoted to religious education and he opined that equal attention needed to pay both to religious and secular education and suggested to incorporate useful subjects in the curriculum. He considered logic essential for intellectual development and thinking. He also emphasis religious and moral education of learners. He regarded religious instructions important for the goodness of character. He emphasis to include religion in the curriculum. Imam Ghazali first time identified compulsory and optional subjects for the curriculum and insited the learners to learn the compulsory subjects.

Aim of education and Imam Ghazali:
According to Khalid (2005) character and personality development of the learner is the main purpose of education in the point of view of Imam Ghazali. Education should promote desirable traits and behavior of individuals. Individual is good by nature but people lead him towards the good or bad in the society. Education should enable the learners to distinguish between true and false, good and bad, right and wrong doings. He advocated that controversial issues should be taken out from the curriculum and Quran and Sunna be made part of it. Imam Ghazali advocated the need of moral education both in theory and practice. Imam Ghazali held parents responsible for their children education at earlier education. He made education compulsory for both man and woman.

Imam Ghazali and methods of teaching:
Khalid (2005) stats his method of education appears modern than the educationists’ of contemporary society. He is in favour of conducting lessons in an interesting way. He made teaching aids part of a routine lesson so that the students will be able to participate in the lesson. The teacher should develop the lesson according to the learning level of the students. The teacher should proceed from simple to complex and from concrete to abstract. He favoured lecture, participation of students in the teaching and learning process, discussion and tutorials.
Discipline and Imam Ghazali’s philosophy:
Khalid (2005) stats Imam Ghazali forwarded very important views about discipline. He is not in favour of maintaining discipline on the basis of fear and intimidation. Discipline should be maintained on the basis of love and understanding. He is in favour of developing a good relationship between the students and the teachers. The teacher should not scold the students and treat them with kindness and sympathy. The teacher should act as a role model for the students. He is deadly against of using punishment in educational institutions, because it did not bring any positive result in the learners. It does not encourage students to be creative and flourish their minds.
Khalid (2005) says Imam Ghazali was a great Muslim educationist and presented many fruitful theories, aims, methods and curriculum of education. He suggested a utilitarian type of education to enable the learner to carry a successful vocation and profession. He emphasis personal experiences and teacher- pupils’ relationship. The same views have been presented by the modern educationist even after lapsing of one thousand years. Whatever he had presented many years before is implemented today. He was a great educator.

Note: Also see:

Khalid, T. (2005). Education. An introduction to educational philosophy and history. Islamabad: National Book Foundation


According to Ali (2009) the syllabus that he laid down is named after him as Dars-e –Nizami a land mark in the history of teaching of Islamic sciences in India. This curriculum laid greater emphasis on the study of logic, philosophy and other sciences and become the most popular curriculum across the India subcontinent. While it was revolutionary for its time. The prevalence today of a curriculum the predates the industrial revolution might be deemed anachronistic.
Pakistani Madrassha even today use man of the Dars-e-Nizami texts which have their roots in the faranigi, mahal madrassah established in lucknow by Mullah Nizam – al- din Muhammad. Old Arabic and Persian books written in the AD 1500 or even before are used to teach languages. Anzar(2003,p 16) characterizes the curriculum as follow.
The students are made to memorize the rhymed couplets from the ancient texts as well as their explanations. As the explanations in a number of texts are in Persian, Which is also memorized the student generally fails to apply his/her knowledge to the living language. Some ancient texts, such as the Mizbah-ul- nahu are explained in Urdu, but in this case the Urdu is much arabicized. The explanation is scholastic and would not be understood by, let alone convince, somebody who is not familiar with the special branch of medieval Islamic philosophy on which it is based in addition, many of the madrasahs teach Muallimul Insha which is written by an Indian Alim, which is a response to modernity .in this book history begins with the fall of Spain in the hands of Moorish prince Traik Bin Zaid. It also states that the English were always the enemies of the Muslims and advice that Muslim should adopt certain behaviors to challenge the modern advances that may encroach upon a Muslims identity.
Ali,H.S., (2009). Islam and Education: Conflict and conformity in Pakistan’s Madrassahs.
Karachi: Oxford University Press.

Concept of Education in Islam in the light of Quran and Sunnah By Kiran

The word Islam defined by the Quran itself means submission to the Supreme Being and compliance with His laws, which constitutes Nature. Islam lays special emphasis on the acquisition of knowledge.
Concept of vicegerent of man: According to Quran, Allah has made man as a vicegerent due to knowledge (IIm-ul-Asma), when angels argues about the vicegerent of man than Allah (SWT) taught Adam the names of some things and then Adam told them and hence proved his ability for vicegerent on earth. This shows the importance of acquiring knowledge from the Quranic point of view (Surah AL-Baqra Foruth Ruku). It is obligatory alike for both Muslim male and female.
Knowledge is of two types, revealed knowledge and acquired knowledge. Revealed knowledge has been given to human beings, through prophets by Allah. Acquired knowledge is that which is being acquired by the human beings though the study of natural phenomena, attitude of man and through the study of society. Quran says that for the prosperous life on earth both kinds of knowledge, revealed and acquired is necessary. It shows the basis of the educational set-up in Islam where the children are not only equipped with religious knowledge but also with acquired that is scientific knowledge so that they can live a righteous and prosperous life. That is why the knowledge in Islam is considered as the greatest gift of Allah to Man. It helps man to attain righteous and prosperous life. Education is the process through which knowledge is transmitted from a section of society to another section. It also reflects the philosophy on which it is based. Islamic philosophy derives its origin from the spirit of teachings of the Quran and Hadith (the saying of the Holy Prophet may peace be upon him). The Qayas and Fiqqah, are also the crucial components.
The word Quran literally means reading or recitation. Islamic education aims to discovering and formulating Allah’s will.
Quran indicated basic principles that lead a Muslim to observation of the universe and Nature, where he can find the answers to many question by his own efforts.
We would certainly appreciate that how nicely Quran gives hints in respect of various branches of learning and advises man to use intellect. So much so that Quran says in Surah Al-Aaraf that those who do not us their abilities us as intellect, eyes and ears will enter into the fire of hell because they are inferior than animals. It should be noted that the Quran explains the actual practical shape of life by demarking the borders of the various aspect of life.
Quran being a complete code of life says “We have sent down to you the book, as an explanation for everything.”
The Quranic text is divided into 114 chapters. Each chapter is called “Surah” which consist of a certain number of verses each called “Ayah”.
The revelations continued in Quran were not all revealed on one occasion but at long intervals and in response to special needs to the prophet (peace be upon him) lived at Mecca for thirteen years and at Medina for ten years. The revelations which the Prophet (peace be upon him) received in Mecca period are mostly concerned with general percepts that urges strongly and earnestly the man to righteousness.
Quran is not a book of science or any other particular field of knowledge but it deals, mainly with basis principals of human life. Therefore, Quranic concept of education is that it explicitly teaches its readers principles in each and every sphere of life so that its followers have complete knowledge about their pattern of life.
Quran is the fountain head of wisdom, from which all other sources of knowledge derive their authority. It consist of very words of Allah, revealed on Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) in twenty three years, first in Mecca and completed in Medina. The Holy Quran says, “This day have I perfected for you, your religion and completed My favor on your, and chosen for you Islam as a religion.
Islamic education system comprises of the following principles:
1. Belief in the oneness, immateriality, absolute power, mercy and supreme compassionateness of the Creator.
1) Charity and brotherhood among mankind.
2) Subjugation of passion.
3) The outpouring of a grateful heart to the Giver of all good.
4) Accountability of human actions in another existence.
5) Developing a sense of social consciousness i.e. enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong.
The next source of Islamic foundations of education is the Hadith, Ahadith as plural. Hadith derives its authority and validity from Holy Quran. Quran says ‘obey Allah and obey the Messenger’ (4:49). Thus, Hadith offers best explanation or interpretation to Quran.
Ahadith are not only explanatory to the Quranic text but also complementary to it. Prophet (peace be upon him) is a teacher appointed by Allah who not only teaches the Book and philosophy but purifies the soul as well. He (peace be upon him), himself was a role model who presented ideal practical life in the light of those limits enunciated by the Quran. Thus, the Quran declared the Prophet (peace be upon him) to be the interpreter of Quranic texts. Hadith is the index and vehicle of the Sunnah which gives concrete shape to the Quranic teachings. A Hadith is a statement of the Prophet (peace be upon him). A sunnah may be embodied in a Hadith, but is not itself a Hadith. His (peace be upon him) Sunnah is both an instrument for the institutionalization and practice of Allah’s will, as well as a strong force for the propagation of Islam. As we studied earlier that the man is expected to learn through experiments on the foundations given by the Quran and whose example is preserved in the life, activities and saying of Prophet (peace be upon him). The Prophet (peace be upon him) before emigration (Hijrat) to Medina deputed a teacher, there to arrange the education of the believers. After the Hijrat, the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina became the center of education. A covered platform called Suffa, was built in front of the Prophet (peace be upon him) house to give instructions in the Quran and Hadith. On the other hand the Prophet’s wives (MAPT) were in charge of the education of women.
The foundations laid by Hadith and Sunnah for Islamic education is that children should not only be taught theoretically but there should be a practical guidance for them to adapt in practical life. That is why prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was given the task to teach his companions, Quran, practically.
There are hundreds of Hadith which emphasize on necessity and supreme value of gaining knowledge. Some of them are the following:
· He dies not who takes from learning.
· The ink of the scholar is more holy than the blood of the martyr.
· He who leaves home in search of knowledge walks in the path of Allah.
· The acquisition of knowledge is a duty incumbent on every Muslim male or female.
· Seek after knowledge even though it may in China.
· To be present in a circle of learned men is better than prostrating oneself in prayer a thousand times or visiting a thousand sick persons and attend a thousand funerals.
· A word of wisdom is like the lost treasure of a believer who has got the best right to secure it wherever he might have found it.
In Islam to acquire knowledge is an act piety, he/she who speak of it praise Allah, he/she who seeks it adores Allah and he/she who imparts it performs an act of devotion.

Education and Philosophy By Kiran

Education is an important human activity. It was born with the birth of the human race and shall continue to function as long as the human races live. The importance of education may be summed up as an essential human virtue, a necessity for society, important for integration of separate entities, gives significance to life, educated men are superior, sign of freedom, a controlling grace and the basis of a good life.
Derivative Meaning of education
It is derivative sense the term Education may be understood as Educare and Educere .Educare is a Latin word and it means to nourish to bring up or to raise. This means, educating a child and nourishing or bringing up the child according to certain ends or aims.
Thinker of the past
According to Aristotle , Education is the creation of a sound mind in a sound body…….It develops a humans’ faculty especially the mind so that it may be able to enjoy the contemplation of supreme truth , goodness and beauty of which prefect happiness essentially consists.
Modern thinkers
According to John Dewey education is a process of development of all those capacities in the individual which enables to control his environment and fulfill his possibilities.
Nature of Education
a) Education is a process
b) Education is an integrating process
c) Helps to discover lasting values
d) Life long process
e) Modification of behavior
f) Education is life
Formal Education:
It is planned with a particular end in view, limited to a specific period, with a well defined and systematic curriculum. It is given by specially qualities teachers and includes activities outside the classroom. It observes strict discipline.
Informal Education
Features: Incident and spontaneous, not preplanned, not imparted by any specialized agency, no prescribed time table or curriculum and may be negative also.
Philosophy is the earliest and the most original discipline. Philosophy is a systematic and thorough attempt to relate the universe and human life to each other in a meaningful way. Derivative meaning of philosophy: the term philosophy has been derived from the two Greek words ‘philos’ which means love of and Sophia which means wisdom.
Aristotle’s view: Aristotle defines philosophy as ‘a science which investigates the nature of being, as it is in itself.
Plato’s view: according to Plato, ‘philosophy aims at knowledge of the eternal nature of things’.
In short philosophy is an attempt to answer all the questions of life. This is so because human mind is moved by ‘intellectual curiosity and by the desire for order’
Relationship between Philosophy and Education.
Philosophy and education are closely inter-related. Education is the application of philosophy or philosophy of education is applied philosophy. It is the application of philosophy to the study of the problems of education that is known as philosophy of education. Further, “a sound philosophy of education is based on an adequate philosophy of life”. Philosophy and education are reconstructive; they give to and take from each other in ebb and flow of thought and action; they are means to one another, and ends; they are process and product.
Great philosophers have also been great educators: According to many, philosophy and education are like the sides of a coin, presenting different views of the same thing, and that the one is implied on the other.
Education is the dynamic side of philosophy. If one is contemplative the other is active side. Philosophy is an attempt to answer the ultimate question of education. Philosophy of education undertakes the systematic discussion of educational problems on a philosophical level.
John Dewey: “Education is a laboratory, in which philosophical distinctions become concrete are tested.”
Philosophy prescribes the goals and essentials of good life and education is the best means to achieve these goals. It is been rightly said that without philosophy, education would be a blind effort and without education, philosophy would be a cripple.

Impact of Philosophy on Education
Since philosophy and education are intimately related, it seems necessary to discuss their relationship in different fields for example
1.) Aims
2.) Curriculum
3.) Teaching techniques
4.) Concept of discipline
5.) Teacher
Philosophy and aims of education: education being a planned and purposeful activity has manifold aims. These aims or objectives are formulated by the philosophy of life.
Aims of education are co-related to the ideals of life
Philosophy is the determining force for laying down the aims of educations. Unless we have some guiding philosophy in the determination of objectives, we get nowhere at all. Different philosophies have prescribed different aims of education.
Philosophy and curriculum: there are two sides of philosophy, one is theory and one is practice. Curriculum being the contents of education may be deemed as the practical side of philosophy. Curriculum is constructed in accordance with the aims of education that are ultimately guided by the objectives of life over which philosophy has great bearing. In the light of different philosophies, different types of curriculum have been described.
Curriculum in the light of various philosophies
Idealists, naturalists and pragmatists differ on the question of the contents of education. Idealists emphasize higher values of life and prescribe the studies of ethics, religion, logic, literature and humanities.
Naturalists prescribe those subjects and experiences which give due consideration to the present experiences, interests and activities of the child. Their main concern is physical sciences and direct experiences. Pragmatists lay more stress on the study of functional subjects such as language, social studies, general science and various subjects. Whatever the case may, philosophy is the back ground of every type of curriculum.
Philosophy and methods of teaching: the next main problem is the impact of philosophy on the science of teaching. The choice of methods of teachings depends on a philosophy of education. Teaching methods and philosophy are closely related. Method is a means by which a contact is developed between the students and the subject- matter. In the absence of an adequate philosophy of life, the method of teaching employed by the teacher may repel the student from the subject. This may lead to even disliking of the teacher by the students. Different educationists and philosophers have prescribed different techniques of teaching according to their scheme of education. The naturalists lay emphasis on motivation, direct experiences on maintaining interest of the child. The idealists believe in lecture method and discussion. Their sole concern is to create suitable environment in order to influence the development of an individual. Pragmatists recommend socialized techniques, projects and problem-solving methods and other activities as the teacher techniques. In the end it may be said that teachers who think that they can do without a philosophy of life render their methods of teaching ineffective.
Philosophy and the Concept of Discipline: The nature of concept of discipline is again governed by the philosophy of life. In other words, discipline reflects the philosophy of life. It reflects the philosophical pre-possessions or particular ideologies. Naturalists believe in the concept of discipline by natural consequences. Idealists favor inner discipline-discipline of mind or intellect. Pragmatists stress free discipline and self-discipline, inner and outer discipline. Militant or self-imposed discipline has been propagated by different schools of thought and political ideologies. Modern concept of discipline gives maximum freedom to child and provides opportunities to have self-control, co-existence and the inner discipline. This is a clear impact of democratic ideology and social philosophy.
Philosophy and the teacher: in the process of education, teacher plays the pivotal role, the heart of the matter. Education takes place through the interaction between the teacher and the thought. The teacher influences the personality of the child and instills in him a thoughtful awakening, a new life and beliefs. To be a successful teacher it is for him to know the philosophy of education and its related ingredients. His philosophy of life finds an experience the philosophy of education. Therefore, some knowledge of philosophy is fundamental not only to an understanding of education as a whole but also to have a clear grasp of the actual techniques of teaching and their effective uses.
Idealism assigns a very important role to the teacher who has to inspire and influence his pupils and mould them into spiritual beings. He is a co-worker with god in perfecting man naturalism regards teacher as the stage manager who has to provide educational environment. According to pragmatism, teacher is a friend, a guide and a philosopher. He encourages self education on the part of his pupils.
Philosophy and the Textbook: A text book is an important means for the realization of educational aims. Philosophical implications are given special attention in the preparation of a text book and in the selection of the content. We have to keep in mind some standard and judgment. These are formulated by philosophy. Text books need special care and attention. These must be written in accordance with the philosophy of time, cultural, social and political background of a society or nation.
Education is the dynamic side of philosophy. If one is contemplative the other is active side. Philosophy is an attempt to answer the ultimate question of education. Philosophy of education undertakes the systematic discussion of educational problems on a philosophical level.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Madrassah Education
By Khalid Jamil Rawat
Traditional concept of education demands from the learners that they should learn by heart the ideas that are not a part of their experience and which they do not understand. Knowledge, according to the philosophy followed by traditional education, develops in three phases. First of all, a learner, who does not understand the meaning of an ideal, is expected to have faith in it. He has to believe that such an ideal truly exists. A learner is expected to have faith in an idea before he can understand or experience it. Thus, the first step involved in the development of knowledge in traditional education is to have a blind faith in what the teacher says.

The second stage is the rational understanding of that idea. This second stage does not appear in the lives of the majority of learners. It means that what one initially believed as truth became the object of understanding, of rational knowledge and is finally comprehended with the help of reason. However, for the majority of students, owing to the fact that they were trained to have a blind faith in what they are now supposed to understand, rational understanding scarcely occurs. Thus, the second stage, which involves a rational understanding of the faith, does not appear in the lives of many learners and they remain fixated at the stage of belief. This absence of understanding causes serious troubles in the society when a mere believer applies knowledge without understanding it.

The third stage of knowledge appears when the one who has seen the idea through the eye of reason becomes able to change the reality accordingly through action. Thus, the third stage is the stage of activity and application, of experiencing ones ideal, and of applying ones knowledge to produce an effect. And, since majority of the learners do not actually understand what they have learned, therefore, their application of knowledge brings undesirable results. This situation is considered as a failure of traditional education that it produces people who have faith but no understanding of their faith.

The reason for a comparative failure of traditional education lies in its method of teaching that is based on stern discipline. In fact, the disciplinary practices used at the traditional school stop the growth of reason in the students. The teachers at the traditional schools think that they cannot teach anything to their students without executing them. They give them punishments, physical punishments, to force them to learn what they are teaching them. Traditional school, in many of its instances does not allow the children to grow to their intellectual potential, in fact, it does not allow to grow them at all in this respect. In order to have traditional education at its best, its teachers should be trained for good pedagogical practices.

How it is possible to make a child remember things that it does not actually understand? In what way a child, who tends to forget things, who does not want to concentrate on a specific object for long, can be asked to listen to a teacher and remember by heart what he has said? The way this question has been answered in the traditional education is like this; compel them to learn and remember their lessons through coercion, through imposing stern discipline on them, through giving them physical punishments. Thus, it is through imposing discipline that a memory is built in the individual. And, it is hoped that through more discipline and coercion an individual can be compelled to see through his reason’s eye, through reflection, what he was initially asked to retain in his memory against his natural tendencies to forget. Thus the futility of this effort is self-evident.

It is through discipline that traditional education inculcates values in the learners and stops the possibilities of growth in their thinking. Scarcely a few people actually reach the level of understanding and the remaining stop at the stage of belief, for, they are stopped from showing any differences of thought through the disciplinary measures taken at the school. Students usually are not allowed to ask questions to inquire into the nature of belief itself. Traditional school opposes doubt and bases itself on a firm belief and does not allow open discussions.

Traditional education asks an individual to remove his or her attention from the particular things and to fix his or her gaze at the ideas that are not given in the immediate experience, environment and surroundings. Plato’s cave allegory furnishes a good example to understand the situation of those who are willing to obey their teachers and those who are not willing to obey and want to persist with their engagements in the routine life. Those who are not obedient are like the cave dwellers, who actually are not willing to break their shackles and bondage. In other words, one who does not try to see the ideal through denying his existence, through denying his engagements in the world, through denying his routine, is to be transformed into a person who is willing to see the truth through compulsion and punishments.

Thus, education becomes a battle of life and death. The ignorant, those who are not willing to obey the dictates of their teachers are to be educated and disciplined. Those who are involved in the activities of life, those who are following their impulses, those who do not understand the seriousness of the matter and do not want to turn away from what they are doing, are the ones who are wrong and following the evil direction. Thus, it is in their interest that their teachers are trying to silence them through discipline.

Traditional education maintains discipline, for, without a coercive discipline no one can sit still and focus on what the teacher is saying. With out being disciplined nobody can detach oneself from ones preoccupations in the world and can learn far-removed ideas. Traditional education, in order to compel students to learn, stops the activities of the learners, of the children whose both mental and physical growth depends upon the activities they perform.

Learning can take place through motivation. In fact, true learning takes place through motivation alone. People seldom learn any thing if they are compelled to learn it. Thus, externally imposed discipline, which is different from the self-imposed discipline that a person adopts to pursue a self-directed goal, is quite harmful for the growth of children.

A child’s natural growth is hampered when it is not allowed to perform activities. A child’s power to learn and know develops when a child is left free to do what it wants to. Thus, a school that tries to discipline a child through stopping a child from doing activities actually tries to stop the growth of a child.

Thus, discipline of this sort aims at a suppression of the actual person to imprint on him a desired prototype. For instance, students in a classroom are asked to sit quietly and listen to what their teacher is saying for hours, even if they want to move from their seats, even if they want to talk to their friends. They are denied the possibilities to relate themselves with their environment and are compelled to pay attention to the teacher’s talk. They are denied to exist as they are and are compelled to become what they are not.

The task of philosophy is to give value. Philosophy evaluates ideas and notions. Thus, the philosophic question that can be raised here is; what is the value of denying this-worldly affiliations, routine existence and normal experience, on a continuous basis for the sake of ideals? The answer is; it is worthless to deny ones existence for an ideal. However, to say that it is worthless to deny ones existence for the knowledge of ideas is not equivalent of saying that ideas are worthless and to know them is of no value. Rather, the method for the teaching of these ideas should be changed.

Ideas are important because we human beings know things as ideas. Our knowledge of the things is the knowledge of the ideas we have of these things. And, it is also true that the knowledge of ideas requires reflection. However, it is not true that one should negate ones normal existence in order to have knowledge. In fact, reflection is a natural attitude and it occurs naturally for human beings. Reflection has its foundations in the natural behavior, and it is not the aim of human existence to become reflective and to deny the world of senses and experience.

Discipline is not essential for teaching how to think and reflect. To think and reflect is a normal activity and it should be taught in a good manner and not in a manner that people may develop an aversion for thinking itself or may become idle passive thinkers who think for denial, transgression and violence. The second thing can happen to the people who become victims of the stern discipline, in whom activities are suppressed to a greater extent. Thus, in this way traditional school at times prepares militants; people who do not relate themselves with the existence and identify themselves with a fanatic ideal.

Although Dewey criticized the Western version of traditional schooling, yet his views are quite in place in the case of Madrasa as well. The meaning of discipline says Dewey, changes with the nature of aims to be pursued at the school. Dewey established a project school to practice his educational philosophy. In a project school, students were expected to be actively involved in their individual and teamwork, therefore, there was no need of their being silent and passive. They moved freely and were expected to discipline themselves according to the task they had to achieve.

Dewey considers a child as a concrete existing reality likely to elude any sort of generalizations. A child can not be considered as a generalized entity. A child cannot be treated En Masse. A child becomes an individual the moment it performs an activity. Thus, for Dewey, children can not be treated in a generalized manner. On the other hand, traditional school, says Dewey, commits the mistake of treating all children in a similar fashion- as mere listeners.

Thus, for Dewey, a child should not be considered as a passive listener. A child should be given the opportunity to perform things actively while living in a group or community. Dewey considers school as a community in which children learn how to work in a cooperative manner, to help each other, to share their resources and experiences with each other and to live with a communal feeling. Thus, the individual child performs meaningful task with its own interest while remaining a part of a healthy community. A child discovers things and knows about them in a habitual environment in a way that is quite natural to it.

Thus, education for Dewey, is a retreat from the traditional notion of education that imposes remote ideals on a child towards a conception that places child itself at the center of educational process. Dewey introduced his project school to achieve these goals. A project school provides the children with the opportunities of joining various occupations in a school organized in the likeness of a healthy community. In such a school grading and examinations are not permitted. Evaluation is based upon the quality of the work produced and members value a piece of work on the basis of the quality it displays.

In his, “My Pedagogical Creed”, Dewey condemns the efforts to regulate a society merely through legislating and formulating laws. He says that such efforts are futile and the only way to assure a balanced community is to provide good education to its members. Thus, Dewey does not approve external discipline and control. Instead of controlling a child’s behavior from without through a coercive discipline, he uses the model of sports in which discipline emerges from within and every body knows the importance of following the rules of the game.

John Dewey suggested problem-solving method for the teaching purpose. Problem solving method involves engaging a learner comprehensively in a task and then to give a break in that experience. The break is usually produced through making the learner face a certain problem in carrying out smoothly the activity he or she was involved in. After facing the problem that almost halts the activity, the learner tries to find out a solution for the problem and to have things as they were before the arrival of the problem. The learner imagines various possible solutions and then chooses the best from among them. And this completes the learning activity.

Thus the subject object relationship, the detached mood of reflection, occurs when a person finds himself in a problem. Thinking teaches him how to find out a way to solve the problem. The ability to reflect in a positive manner is important for human survival. However, this ability is not being taught in the traditional schools in a proper manner. Instead of teaching the art of thinking, the way to think artfully, traditional school, through its bad manner of teaching, denies this most important learning to its students. It teaches so badly that the students turn against thinking and feel that it is bad to think.

Traditional education, in its method, does not follow the spirit of religion either. The true spirit of Islam, says Dr. Iqbal, the famous poet philosopher of the Muslim world, lies in the empirical attitude that asks for the utilization of senses in order to know the world and the creation of the God. Islam actually asks a Muslim to use his senses to know what the reality is. A mere follower of the ideas is of no consequence. This suggests that Islamic teachings ask for a method of teaching that sharpens the senses and the ability to reflect on ones own experience of the world. Thus, an education that does not provide ample chance to expand the horizon of experience is perhaps not in accordance with the dictates of religion itself.

There are people who think that a change in the content of the curriculum can bring about the change. They think if the students are asked to learn Science, Mathematics, English, Social Studies and Computers they will automatically become enlightened. It is true that these subjects are necessary for an individual to learn, yet, nobody thinks that the inclusion of new subjects in the curriculum would become a thrice-multiplied trouble for the child. If not properly understood, the act of increasing the content that a child is expected to learn at the traditional school, cannot bring the desired results.It is not the content of the curriculum that is solely responsible for the plight of traditional schools. Rather, it is the method of teaching and disciplinary measures that are to be challenged. A traditional school, in order to produce healthy and empowered individuals, who can think and act freely, should change its teaching methods and consequently should abandon disciplinary measures that disallow the learner to participate actively in the construction of knowledge. It should not objectify the learner through giving physical punishments to them and all sort of thrashing should be stopped.

Let us consider the case of language learning at the traditional schools. A child is expected to learn five languages. A child is expected to learn its native dialect along with Urdu, English, Arabic and Persian. Is it humanistic to teach so many languages to a child? Especially when it is clearly known that the children cannot possibly learn any of these languages properly with the exception of its mother tongue? Why to engage a person in a futile activity? Is it not a coercion to increase the burden of learning on a child?

Thus, any effort to increase the burden of content to be learned should be well thought out, for, if it results in increasing the tensions and burdens on a child, then, it would not be of any great use. Modern subjects are important, but any further inclusion in the content should be made after a lot of thinking is done on the matter of course burden on the child. Traditional education is not an affair between governments alone, in fact, it is the question of the lives and existence of the millions of children who are being affected by the decisions.

A phenomenological interpretation of John Dewey’s views on Education

A phenomenological interpretation of John Dewey’s views on Education
Dr. Khalid, Dr. Shams, Dr. Wasim


[Education in our times is promoting nihilism. The reason for this conclusion is that modern education is largely knowledge based and asks the learner to learn ideas that have nothing in common with the reality of the learner. Knowledge, on the other hand, does not enjoy absolute value, and, to say that a person who has more knowledge is more valuable is wrong. John Dewey’s criticism on traditional education is equally valid for modern education, for modern education is not performing its functions properly. The function of education is to establish a strong relationship between learner and Being. However, modern education through its emphasis on remote ideas and values, is working to weaken this relationship. Dewey’s ideas about education can prove a palliative in this ailing situation. Following article tries to investigate the meaning of nihilism in education and its possible remedy through Dewey’s experience based education.]

There are two important questions regarding the title of this article that are to be addressed at the outset. The first question that the title of this article raises is about its own possibility. The question is whether such a title is possible or not. Heidegger himself has used such a title for one of his famous works. The title of that work was: A Phenomenological Interpretation of Kant’s critique of Pure Reason. Thus, this title suggests that the title itself is legitimate.

The second question is about the task that an article or study bearing the title, A Phenomenological Interpretation of John Dewey’s Views on Education, should or possibly can undertake. This question can again be answered through the analogy that the present work bears with that of Heidegger. In his work on Kant’s critique of pure reason Heidegger set himself the question; in what way Kant’s critique of Pure Reason helps us in arriving at an understanding of Being? 1 Thus, in a similar fashion a phenomenological interpretation of John Dewey’s views on education should give us some idea of how Dewey’s views on education help us in establishing a strengthened relationship between the learner and Being. The question that this study undertakes is that, in what way Dewey’s views on education can enable a learner to understand Being?

Heidegger has shown his discontent with Western philosophic tradition on the account that it severed the relationship between man and Being. Heidegger says that Western philosophic tradition learned to view Being under the yoke of ideas and thus undermined Being itself . Thus, in this way, Western philosophical tradition resulted in a complete neglect of Being. This absence of the question of Being in the Western philosophic tradition culminated in the philosophy of nihilism, which signifies a complete negation of Being.2

Nihilism means that the ideas and values preached conventionally have nothing in common with the existing reality. The very experience of an individual contradicts the ideas and values that a person has received or learned through education. Thus, human experience in our times is resulting in the negation of the extant values and ideas. This, in return results in the feeling that nothing is valuable in this world. Moreover, this contradiction of the ideas through one’s experience, or through the ground realities that one faces, suggests that there is no meaning in the existing world, for, the experienced reality does not correspond to any established notion or ideal.

For instance the notion of justice, the ideal meaning of justice, seldom enters one’s perception during one’s experience with the existing institutions of justice. Kafka’s Trial furnishes the best example for this case scenario, when he showed the real content of a person’s encounter with the institution of justice. The experience portrayed in Kafka’s Trial suggests that the experienced reality did not correspond with the ideal; the notion of justice does not match the reality.

History of literature and philosophic endeavors of the existentialists are pervaded with such examples when the existing reality completely defies the ideal. For instance Foucault’s interpretation of prison and medical and psychiatric practices tells us that there is a huge gap between the notion we have of these things in our minds and the realities corresponding to these notions.

Thus, correspondence theory of truth that asks for the conformity of the reality with the idea, actually results in the conclusion that there is nothing in the world that corresponds to its ideal and thus, there is nothing true and valuable in this world. This is what nihilism suggests; a complete absence of values and Being.

In Western philosophic tradition that begins from Plato, knowledge primarily is the knowledge of essences or ideas. This knowledge requires a certain epistemology that asks a learner to defy his experiences and to have faith in the pre-existing ideals. Things that appear in the real world are differentiated on the basis of ideas or essences that a person knows through reason. For, knowledge is the knowledge of ideas which are arrived at through rational activity.

Things in the real world are nothing but imperfect copies of the ideas that a person already knows. Thus, truth becomes a matter of correspondence between the idea that a person has of some thing and the real existence of that thing in the world.

Thus, existing reality, if it differs from the established ideal, can no longer be considered as truth. In such cases the entity that displays differences from the ideal or the conventional notion is to be criticized and corrected. Such a criticism usually results either in the denial of the reality or in the conclusion that all meanings and values have disappeared. Thus, Platonic idealism does not accept differences .Since, Plato remained a vital influence in the history of Western thought; therefore, Western thought has a tendency of not accepting the differences between ideal and the real and displays an attitude that undermines existence. This sort of idealism resulted in a denial of existence. Platonic thought, according to Nietzsche, is a philosophy of denial.3

This philosophy of denial has also influenced modern educational practices. Modern education largely relies on Platonic idealism as a philosophy. Plato has described the meaning of educational process in his famous Allegory of the Cave. According to Plato education prepares the learner for the knowledge of metaphysical truth, the idea.4 Since this knowledge results from pure reflection alone, therefore, a learner is required to defy his immediate experience with the reality along with the knowledge that results from this immediate experience. In doing so Plato imposes a morality on the learner that allows a learner to believe, or at least accept, that his reality is inferior to the ideal. The ideal person on the other hand is a spiritual, passive reflective being that does not take any interest in the existing things (particulars) and always remains preoccupied with the universals (ideas).

Thus, modern education sets an ideal for the learner to achieve. This ideal, since it is a pure ideal, can never exist in the reality and, voluntarily or involuntarily, involves an individual in a vain effort. The correspondence theory of truth asks a learner to meet the ideal requirements that are neither achievable nor are worthy of any achievement. Those who have the authority to judge people, in most of the cases, have unsurpassable standards in their minds, which no human being can possibly excel.

Thus, existence always remains less valuable as compared to the ideas. This stern idealism gives birth to a conservative mind in the sense that a person who looks at the existing reality through the spectacle of pre-conceived ideas can never affirm the emergence of a new aspect of reality. The one who thinks that he or she already knows everything and reality cannot escape the set of ideas with which one is already familiar, can hardly experience a new phenomenon. Thus, such a mind can not contribute in the progress and development of humanity.

Let us consider again what Plato has said about education. According to Plato education prepares a learner for the knowledge of truth. And knowledge for Plato is the knowledge of essences or ideas. For Plato ideas are the true objects of knowledge and can be known through rational activity independent of any experience. This epistemology is considered as erroneous by Dewey, Nietzsche and Heidegger. For Dewey and Nietzsche Plato actually inverted the reality and considered cause as effect and vice versa. Ideas for these thinkers are products of a process of experience.

If ideas are products of experience, their creation needs intelligence and skill that can allow a person to extract valuable knowledge from ones experience with the reality. This skill of forming ideas from one’s experience requires three abilities. First, the person should affirm his or her experience. Second, a person should acquire skill to construct valid and logical conclusions from one’s experience and to give value to the things he encounters. Third, one should acquire the skill to communicate the knowledge thus constructed to other members of the society.

The above approach, based on Dewey’s theory of inquiry, holds good for both individual and cooperative efforts to construct knowledge and values. However, for Dewey, knowledge and values when they are produced through coordinated efforts of a community and shared by all, are more relevant as compared to the values and meanings imposed from a group of people or an individual, who does not belong to the knowledge producing class. Thus, Dewey thinks that knowledge should have a democratic character and should not be imposed from without. Knowledge and values, for Dewey are inseparable from the process of their construction, from the raw experience that is sifted to construct knowledge.

Dewey criticized Plato for giving a non-democratic concept of knowledge. Dewey clearly sees that Platonic philosophy represents the consciousness of a class of people who disregard the process of production. Thus, the class of free Greek people, instead of considering the fact that ideas are the outcomes of experience, considered experience as an outcome of ideas. Plato committed the fallacy of giving ideas an unjustified precedence over existence.

This Platonic fallacy that pervaded the Western philosophic history had following three implications:

1- It gave birth to nihilism
2- It weakened the individual through severing his relationship with Being
3- It gave knowledge an anti-democratic character

It is quite evident that modern education is based on Platonic philosophy. It teaches knowledge as a finished product and does not allow learners to pass through the process of experience. Modern education is not oriented towards product making; where as the product of educational process is knowledge. Rather, it asks the learner to retain and memorize knowledge and restricts the ability to create knowledge in the learners. Since it does not accept or bring under consideration the experience of a learner, therefore, it always tends to create a gap between one’s experience of the existing reality and the ideas learned.

Since, modern education denies the importance of learner’s experience therefore, it works to sever ones relationship with Being . It does not allow a learner to affirm Being other than as ideas. Ironically, the ideas learned seldom have their corresponding instances of existences in the real world. This allows the learner to think, and quite erroneously, that there is no meaning and value left in the world. Thus, modern education entails nihilism.

Dewey’s educational philosophy provides us with a remedy to these problems. Dewey’s education, based on project method, enables the learners to participate in the production process and allows them to become skillful in the creation of knowledge. Dewey’s main emphasis is on the fact that a learner should be empowered through the provision of skills that are necessary for the construction and sharing of knowledge.

Dewey’s education actually serves to strengthen the relationship between the individual and Being. For, it does not deny existence and accepts it in all its shades. It asks people to follow their impulses in a socially acceptable manner. Thus, it does not restrict a person from admitting an unusual passion or drive that one finds oneself preoccupied with. Dewey does not deny anything, neither the modern nor the traditional dimensions of reality. Rather he asks to consider every aspect of existence on a pragmatic ground. On the other hand pragmatism accepts differences and it admits differences.

Since Dewey believes that formation of ideas is a result of experience therefore, it is difficult to lose touch with the reality. The knowledge thus formed always strengthens the relationship between man and Being. Dewey criticized Modern education or any education that does not relate a person with his reality.

What Dewy has said in his Child and Curriculum about the traditional curriculum appears true for modern curriculum as well. He says that traditional curriculum presents experiences of highly matured people and it does not relate to the experiences of children. Similarly, Modern curriculum is also knowledge based and it asks the learner to memorize knowledge. This knowledge has very little in common with the experience of a child. It contains ideas that have no correspondence with reality, or at least with the reality of the learner. Thus, those who learn such ideas lose contact with the reality. For, their knowledge contradicts what they experience and their experience contradicts what they know. And to make things even worse, children are also infected with the search for truth and doubt. This leads them to conclude that there is nothing valuable in this world.

The very believe in the authority of reason and the prevalence of doubt works against the knowledge itself. Knowledge cannot be retained with out faith and the removal of doubt. Reason does not accept faith and promotes doubt. Thus, for a learner, who learns through a curriculum that promotes reason and doubts at the expense of every thing else, the chances of affirming existence remain minimized.

A person who believes in the authority of science alone and is trained to defy his experiences for which no rational and scientific explanation can be given negates his own existence. For, there are many way to get in touch with the reality and reason is one among them. To say that only reasonable knowledge is true knowledge actually amounts to saying that reality is partial and it does not fully exists. For most part of the reality is approached through non-rational means.


1- Martin Weatherstone, Categories and Temporality: Heidegger’s Interpretation of Kant, PhD Thesis Submitted at the University of Toronto( available online)
2- Paulo F.M Gonzalves, Heidegger’s Understanding of Metaphysics and Onto-theology, (available online)'sUnderstandingofMetaphysicsandOntotheology.htm
3- Nietzsche Friedrich, Ecce Homo, Section: Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Translated by Hollingdale, Peguin Classics

4- Heidegger, Martin, Plato’s Doctrine of Truth, translated by Thomas Sheehan, Stanford University,(available online)

Freedom, Truth and Education

Freedom, Truth and Education
By Dr. Khalid Jamil Rawat , Dr. Wsim Qazi, Dr. Shams Hamid
Iqra University Karachi, Pakistan

John Dewey has emphasized growth as the meaning and purpose of education. For him education should result in individual’s growth and empowerment. On the other hand, for Dewey, traditional educational practices based on the philosophy of idealism are not conducive to individual’s growth. Dewey has criticized idealism for its negative role in education and for its counterproductivity towards the individual growth.

Similiarly, there is an important contribution made by Nietzsche and Heidegger towards the cause of individual empowerment. Freedom is essential for the empowerment of individual, and freedom is expressed through choices. It comes when one finds himself or herself free from all externally imposed ideals. Freedom is a both a negative and a positive idea. It is negative in as much as it is a will to move away from a state of affair, a negation of a set of existing conditions. Freedom is positive for it is not merely a movement away from a certain position, but it also involves a will towards another position.

Thus, negatively speaking, freedom  implies a rejection of dead values and redundant meanings, and positively speaking, it is an attempt to create new values and meaning. Similiarly, the change in educational thinking also shows the two tendencies, the tendency to reject the traditional ideas and the will to create a new educational philosophy.

Although Nietzsche and Heidegger haven’t said much on the topic of education in a direct manner, their implied and expressed philosophy of education is in line with Dewey’s efforts to strengthen individual through education.

This paper brings to light the way in which the views of Nietzsche, Dewey and Heidegger emphasized the empowerment of individual through education.

What Dewey has said in the chapter titled ‘Science in the Course of Study’ in his ‘Democracy and Education’, suggests that ideas should not be given priority over the actual course of experience in education. Children should not be first taught and then asked to verify concepts and theories through their experiences. Rather, they should be expected to formulate their ideas with the aid of their experience through following the process of inquiry. Dewey establishes a priority of experience over theory and fixed concepts.1

Above statement is a strong critique on idealism, the elan vital behind traditional education.Idealism, the traditionally dominant epistemological stance in Western philosophy, denies the importance of experience in the formation of knowledge and maintains that knowledge is attainable through reflection alone. It restricts the possibilities of affirming existence through experiential modes other than reflection and reason. Since the empowerment of individual results from the affirmation of various possibilities of existence, therefore, its denial results in the weakening of individual. Thus, Western philosophic tradition, whenever it denied existence, actually worked to weaken the individual and an educational philosophy based on this tradition does not allow an individual to grow to its full potential.

Western philosophic tradition, according to Heidegger, owes its origins to Plato. Platonic philosophy, on the other hand, is a denial of Being in many respects. Nietzsche2 and Dewey point towards these facts as well. Both of them criticized Plato in particular and Western philosophic tradition in general for presenting a philosophy that denies other ways of accessing Being through emphasizing only the privileged one.

Plato believes that ideas are the proper objects of knowledge. Ideas are eternal and never undergo change. Thus, the real aim of education is to impose those ideals on the learner and to enhance the reflective ability and the use of reason in the learner so that he may become able to go beyond his experience of the things to comprehend the ideas, the truth. The aim of education is to prepare the learner for the knowledge of the metaphysical truth, the ideas. This preparation for the knowledge of truth or education involves a freedom from allegedly false modes of relating oneself with this world. It asks to liberate oneself from one’s own possibility to relate oneself with this world. It does not allow an individual to affirm his own existence in full.

Apparently, it seems that there is nothing wrong with Plato’s concept of education. However, in fact, there are many wrongs involved in it. Although Plato is right in saying that ideas are the goal of knowledge, he undermines the primary role of human experience in the formation of ideas. Ideas actually are the products of human experience, where as, for Plato, ideas are the causes behind the reality. For Plato, what we perceive in the world of senses is an effect caused by the ideas. Platonic epistemological belief that knowledge has nothing to do with the experience, denies the significance of one’s concrete existence and its relationship with the world in the formation of knowledge. It inverts the nature of human relationship with the world.

For Plato, whatever one looks at and perceives in this world, is an image of the pre-existing ideas. The objects that we perceive through our senses are nothing but the imperfect images of the ideas that exist in an ideal world. This ideal world is illumined by the idea of the absolute goodness and the objects present in this ideal world are revealed to reason alone. It is the highest idea, the absolute good that shines to illumine and differentiate the silhouettes in an otherwise chaotic reality. It differentiates one form from the other to create beings.

This epistemology requires a morality as well. Since, senses bring to us a knowledge that pertains to an ephemeral and inferior reality, therefore, this knowledge is not authentic. The real knowledge is of the ideas and not of the things. Thus, a real philosopher has to negate the importance of particular things in the world and to drag his attention from the existing world towards an ideal world that is illumined by the idea of moral good. Thus, a person who is in possession of the knowledge of ideas is an ascetic moralist who has no interest in the existing particulars and who always thinks and acts for the universal reality. Those who live for this-worldly pleasure are ignorant and such people cannot enjoy the privilege of becoming philosophers.

An ignorant person, according to Plato, believes that the things he perceives in this world through senses are real. He remains unaware of the truth that realities in the form of ideas exist beyond the immediately present world of senses. An ignorant person thinks that the world of senses, the physical world, is the real world and there is nothing beyond senses, beyond the physical reality to know. In fact, for Plato, an ignorant person is unaware of the metaphysical causes of Being. Thus, the task of education is to take an ignorant person away from the world of senses through denying it and to make that person aware of the metaphysical world of ideas.

For Plato, it is only after liberating oneself from the common sense experience, from the world of senses, that one becomes able to grasp the truth in the form of ideas. Thus, Plato asks for a complete detachment from the world of senses and establishes a dividing line between the world of senses and the ideal world. The world of ideas is considered as the reality, a reality knowable through reflection alone. Plato considers human beings, in their perfect form, as idle reflective beings. Plato denies a person the possibilities to be in the world as a being involved in the activities of this world through senses. Plato’s epistemology is a denial of Being.

Nietzsche, Dewey and Heidegger criticized Plato and idealism .The message that we gather from their respective philosophies is that idealism is a philosophy that results in the weakening of individuals. It compels an individual to follow the ideals that are out of his reach and contradicts individual’s existence and experience. An education that teaches idealism through its curriculum actually teaches how to become weak. Nietzsche, Dewey and Heidegger criticized Western Philosophy for playing a role that is counterproductive to human development. In what follows their criticism is made explicit.

Criticism on Western Philosophic Tradition

Dewey’s Criticism
Dewey has criticized Plato and Descartes for disregarding the importance of experience in the formation of knowledge and for giving sole importance to the ideas and certainties, to be known through reflection alone.3

Dewey criticized Greek philosophers for presenting an epistemologically erroneous view of reality. Since Greeks were freemen and did not have to participate in the production process; therefore, they simply neglected the importance of process and eulogized the outcome. This resulted in Greek idealism, which erroneously considered essences as the cause of existence, as causa sui.

On the other hand Dewey thinks that ideas are the outcomes of the experience of existing things, and contends that Greek philosophy inverted the order of things and considered the idea, the effect, as the cause of the existing things and thus committed a fallacy. It disregarded the actual course of experience in the formation of knowledge and misconceived the nature of knowledge itself. 4

Moreover, for Dewey, platonic idealism is non-democratic, for, it holds that existing individual is not perfect and can be criticized for its choices by some authority with a better understanding of the essences of things. Thus, Plato gave authority to evaluate the work of an individual or a group, to an individual or a group, which possibly can exist outside of the working class and yet has the right of passing judgments on them. Thus, Plato did not give importance to concrete existence and his philosophy resulted in the subordination of individuality .5

For Dewey ideas are not eternally valid. Even democratic ideals that are commonly shared by the community of individuals ought not to be considered as the objects of worship. For him, democratic ideals have pragmatic value and they are not absolute. Thus, a value ought to be cherished in a society in so far as it helps the working of the majority of the people, has good practical consequences for the members and befits the existing conditions of the members of a society. On the other hand, the ideals that do not have above mentioned qualities should be abandoned .6

Dewey says that concepts are necessary for communication because they have objective meanings shared by all. It is through effective communication that an individual shares the common means and ends with the other members of the society. For Dewey, in communication, a private experience is re-adapted and reconsidered to meet the needs of the conversation and is represented with the help of common concepts.7 This suggests that Dewey considers the use of language as metaphoric. For a re-adaptation and reconsideration of a new experience through concepts is metaphoric. Thus, it is only through a metaphoric use of language that an experience can be communicated. An experience, for its intelligibility and communication, requires metaphor. Thus, in this way knowledge progresses and people create a shared knowledge which is tested through experience and then valued. Since, this knowledge is generated in the majority class, which obviously is of workers; therefore it has a democratic character.

Dewey, in his essay titled,” My Pedagogical Creed”, points out the pace of change and its possible impact on education. He says:

“With the advent of democracy and modern industrial conditions, it is impossible to foretell definitely just what civilization will be twenty years from now. Hence, it is impossible to prepare the child for any precise set of conditions.”8

Can it be deduced from the above citation that for Dewey the maximum age of a truth is no more than twenty years? Dewey recognizes the fact that the pace of change is so rapid that no truth can be held as truth for longer than a certain period. In this condition no set of values and truths can be considered as stable. The life span of a truth is usually shorter than the life span of an individual. Thus, it seems quite futile to transmit value-added knowledge to the child. The individual himself is the value giver, for nobody knows what situation the next generation will find itself in. Thus, the task of education is the enhancement of individual’s natural capabilities like judgment, senses, and creativity. Whereas, knowledge can only be presented to the learner as a body of information and it is the individual who is supposed to add values to this body of information after his own judgment.

Dewey says:
… if our schools turn out their pupils in that attitude of mind which is conducive to good judgment in any department of affairs in which the pupils are placed, they have done more than if they sent out their pupils merely possessed of vast stores of information, or high degrees of skill in specialized branches. 9

Knowledge for Dewey is nothing but a plan of action. Knowledge is acquired through experience and it is meant to order and manage ones own experience. Knowledge for him is an instrument, which has its use in the practical situations. Once knowledge loses its value it becomes redundant. Knowledge is neither absolute nor eternal. Thus, Dewey considered knowledge as a this-worldly thing amenable to the laws of decay, finitude and change. Knowledge and thought, for Dewey, are histories.10

Nietzsche’s Criticism

Nietzsche, in his twilight of idols criticized philosophers in general for the same reason for which Dewey criticized them, i.e., for inverting the order in which things occur and for opposing change. The major fallacy of philosophy lies in the fact that philosophers oppose change and consider ideas that are the results of the experiences as the causes . 11

Nietzsche, in his Birth of Tragedy, accused Socrates for poisoning the classical Greek civilization with the spiritual moral values that were counterproductive to the life. Plato, in his republic, denied the importance of senses in learning. He asked for the exile of poets from his republic for the reason that they, through their imagination, gave an aesthetically knowable form to the ideas. On the other hand, for Plato, discursive reason alone can know these ideas. Plato knew about children’s inability to learn abstract ideas. He also knew the fact that learning during childhood required poetry and music as concrete mediums. Plato, however, censored Greek poetry according to his spiritual moral values. And, these moral values actually were the poisonous things. Platonic spiritual morality is a hindrance in the growth and development of the individual.

Nietzsche considers truth as some thing individualistic and objectivity in truth as a pragmatic necessity. For Nietzsche absolute truth does not exist. Nietzsche, in his essay titled,” On Truths and Lies in an Extra Moral Sense”, described the nature of human experience and truth. He described truth as a metaphor, which merely is an interpretation of the facts and has no necessary relationship with them. This suggests that there can be as many truths related to a fact as there are the numbers of interpretations of that fact. 12

For him concepts are pragmatic necessities. In his Beyond Good and Evil Nietzsche criticized Descartes by saying that the ‘I’ of the Cartesian cogito is nothing but a pragmatic construction that orders our experience and gives a sense of unity and continuity to it. On the other hand, Descartes based his notion of certainty in knowledge on the certainty of the existence of this ‘I’, which itself exists merely as a pragmatic construction. Thus, even the most certain fact, the so-called innate concept “I”, is a pragmatic construction.13

For Nietzsche all concepts are metaphors created to falsify the reality. Conceptualization neglects all the differences while considering things coming under concepts as similar. Conceptualization, despite the fact that it actually falsifies the experienced reality, has a pragmatic value for us. However, says Nietzsche, there is no way that one can know or communicate the- thing -in -itself and it always remains a mystery. What a person can do best is that he can interpret reality while using a new metaphor for it.14

Nietzsche reiterated the notion of knowledge as a falsification of reality on many occasions. He cites many instances when one surely knows that such and such is not the case but believes it to be the case. In his Beyond Good and Evil, he responded to Kantian denial of the possibility of synthetic a-priori propositions. He says that we are compelled to hold a firm belief in their existence and possibility not because of a logical necessity, but for the reason that these judgments are required for our survival.15 Thus, Nietzsche considers even lies as the necessary condition for human existence. Tradition for him is a conventional way of telling lies. Everybody speaks lies but social norm does not allow lying in a non-conventional manner and this he terms as the consensus on truth. For Nietzsche truth is a coin that has lost its embossment.16

Heidegger’s Criticism

Heidegger, in his Being and Time, criticized Descartes for considering universal reason that operates through establishing subject object dichotomy as the only way to know the truth. This reflective mood is completely detached from what Heidegger terms as average everyday existence. For Heidegger, Descartes did not consider the average every day existence and the ways in which it is related to its world and denied the possibilities of Being. On the other hand, average everyday existence is the mode of existence that makes possible any specialized understanding of beings, including the purely reflective one.17

Heidegger criticized Western metaphysical tradition, which he termed as onto-theology for emphasizing on a particular way of looking at Being and denying any further possibilities of human relationship with it .In this way through the concealment of other possible ways of accessing Being, Western metaphysical tradition gradually sent Being itself into oblivion.

The forgetting of Being in Western philosophy owes its origin to Platonic notion of truth that gives essence a precedence over existence. Plato considered truth as a correspondence between idea and being. For Plato the world ought to be the image of an ideal. Plato’s emphasis on perfection is clearly wrong. For the world does not follow ideals all the time and experience tells us that reality denies established ideas and values. Being cannot always be comprehended through conventional notions; at times it eludes all the ideals and schemas available for its comprehension.

The changing reality eludes all the available ideals and thus entails the conclusion that the world has no value and meaning. Quest for perfection results in a complete negation of Being .

Nietzsche vocalized this absence of meaning that ushered from the Christian love of truth, which was actually based on Platonic notion of truth, in his notion of nihilism. Western metaphysics that gradually sent Being into oblivion resulted in the complete denial of Being. Nihilism is nothing but a denial of Being itself.

Nietzsche pointed out the fact that the most severe problem that the world is going to face is of nihilism or the absence of values. All values, in the context of West, originated from religion in the form of Christianity. Thus, a decline of Christianity means a decline of values. This decline is observed and attested by the actual experience that we have of this world, in which ideals have lost their existence. Since Christianity has lost its authority, therefore, the world has become meaningless. There is no value left in this world. However, for Nietzsche, the solution to this problem of nihilism lies in empowering the individual as a value giver, as a measure of all things. Things do not have intrinsic values; it is the individual who gives values to the things.

Heidegger affirms Nietzsche’s thesis of empowering the individual. Individual through his will to power creates values. Individual through his will to power creates Being from the becoming. Individual through his will to power creates permanence in the ever changing flux. However, there is no eternal standard according to which an individual should create values. Individual will is the only standard.

Individual Freedom and Culture
From what Dewey, Nietzsche and Heidegger have said on the subject of truth, it can be derived that it is the individual who can properly understand and know his situation and give value to the reality. This freedom has direct consequences for culture. For, apparently it seems that it can harm culture and mutual existence, which, we will see is not the case and reality is quite contrary to the apprehension.

In one of his dialogues, Plato quoted Protagoras saying that Prometheus gave mankind culture to survive and fire to shape and fashion things to support life.18 Thus, Greek wisdom tells us that culture is the way of life, and it is only through traversing this path that we can live. The footsteps left by our forefathers are the footsteps of life. It is a path that is already known to us; a path that we can always tread with ease. Our culture is important for our survival as specie.

But culture does not lie merely in following a set trend of life. It also involves the creation of new ways to live as additions to the various existing paths of life. This end cannot be achieved without abandoning the existing ways and choosing for oneself a new way of viewing things. In the following few paragraphs we will see how this tension between culture and individual freedom or society and individual is viewed by Dewey, Nietzsche and Heidegger and how they have resolved this situation.

Dewey on Culture and Individual Freedom

Dewey acknowledges the importance of community in the life of an individual and vise versa. He emphasizes a shared and cooperative mode of life. Dewey, while emphasizing the importance of education in his Democracy and education says that human species cannot live without transferring their culture which includes the habits of doing, thinking, and feeling from the older to the younger generations. Thus, Dewey agrees with the idea that culture is necessary for the survival of human beings as specie.19

However, the emphasis on socialization of a child according to set norms and traditions, does not contradict the idea that education should prepare a free individual who can judge, evaluate, know, and create with freedom. Dewey values growth, and growth precisely lies in finding new ways to tackle precarious and problematic situations. And, this new knowledge results from the modification of existing social and cultural habits.

Dewey, in his moral philosophy, exhorts individuals to follow their impulses and to find out novel ways to pursue their goals. It is the impulsive action that results in growth and formation of new habits. Human moral reasoning works to harmonize the contradictions involved in a situation to find a new way to deal with it. Thus, if one acts in a new way which is not habitual or customary, and finds good consequences of his actions, then, such a novel attitude helps in growth.20 For Dewey, growth is the greatest achievement for both individual and society. Thus, for Dewey, culture evolves through making novel choices and following the creative course of action.

Nietzsche on Culture and Individual Freedom

Nietzsche, in his Zarathustra, differentiated between the good and the noble person. A good person is the one who follows the tradition and a noble person is the creative individual who creates new values. Thus a good person always stands as an opponent to the noble person. 21For creation requires freedom from existing ideals. For Nietzsche, the real aim of education is to prepare a creative individual. For Nietzsche human development is a result of failure of habits or instincts, or set traditions in dealing with the demanding situations. Development lies in consciously creating new ways to deal with the precarious situations, although, Nietzsche considers consciousness as a recent invention which is still passing through the phase of trial and error.22

Thinking started when man faced danger and uncertainty. As a consequence, strive to reduce the uncertainty caused by the failure of instincts, begun. New knowledge was acquired and tested through experience. It is this knowledge that man encapsulated in culture. Culture is a code of knowledge that is necessary for the existence of a people. Thus, cultural understanding became a necessary aim of learning.

In the second essay of his genealogy of morals Nietzsche says that in the case of man, the real task that nature had, was to create a being capable of making promises. This possibility was actually exploited by the powerful class who developed a memory in their subjects to make their behavior predictable and cultivated their abilities in a direction, which was suitable for the interest of elite class. This memory is developed against a natural but opposite human capability of forgetting things. Since memory is likely to persist in the mind for long if it is of a painful event or incident, therefore, society, according to Nietzsche, tamed man through using heinous punishments like crucifixion, amputation of limbs etc. It is through coercion, says Nietzsche that man was made docile. In this way education and culture were conceived in the light of class antagonism and oppression.23

Thus, for Nietzsche, education, instead of producing creative people, became a tool of creating class differences. Even in modern times, for Nietzsche, education serves the aims of industry and business and prepares individuals to serve these aims. On the other hand, the very goal of education is to enhance culture through finding new ways of being. Nietzsche says that education is not serving this end. Education is not making people cultured in a creative sense. According to Nietzsche, those who are striving for education would leave their strife for education if they come to know the fact that only a few people are really empowered by education. 24

However, the present age is the age of individual freedom. Individual, for Nietzsche, is the latest creation and is the center of all values.25 Individual freedom is the only possible answer to nihilism. Thus, for Nietzsche, growth of a people is directly related to the growth of its individuals and individual growth and development is not counterproductive for culture.

Heidegger on Culture and Individual Freedom

Education is termed as “bildung” in German tradition. Heidegger considers education as bildung, which means the process of development of a learner according to a prototype and this prototype exists as a form that embodies cultural standards. However, this notion of bildung is not restricted to the acquisition of the extant culture alone; rather, it involves emancipation from convention and tradition at a later stage.

Heidegger in the article titled, Plato’s Doctrine of Truth, affirms Platonic notion that education prepares the individuals for the knowledge of truth.
However, Heidegger differs from Plato on the definition of truth. To prepare learners to see the truth as uncovered and unhidden and not as a conformity between fixed ideas and being, is the major aim of education. Since, the meaning of truth as un-hidden or un-covered establishes its relationship with the Being itself, therefore, a person who pursues truth in this manner will have a strengthened relationship with Being. Thus, Heidegger’s account implies that truth is the goal of education and education ought to strengthen one’s relationship with Being.26

Truth has a basic relationship to freedom. It is only through acquiring freedom from tradition that a person can discover what was previously hidden for him. In his interpretation of the cave allegory, in his article on Plato’s doctrine of truth, Heidegger considered the gradual emancipation of the cave dwellers and their acquaintance with the unhidden as a testimony to the intimate relationship between truth and freedom. The chains were the chains of convention and routine existence. Emancipation from these chains led the cave dwellers to the sphere of more unhidden. However the process doesn’t stop at the discovery. The discovery is followed by an action. The perception of truth is followed by the strife to bring other cave dwellers under the light of the real.27

Freedom from tradition is a pre-requisite to experience the truth, for, tradition conceals things. A person who wants to see truth unhidden should not view things as he was accustomed to view them, that is, in the light of conventional theories and ideas, rather, he should try to see things as they show themselves, as they are. In this respect Heidegger appears to be a revolutionary as compared to Dewey and Nietzsche who, owing to the pragmatic value of existing ideas and knowledge, do not ask to forgo them completely and ask to determine the value of the current interpretations of reality on a pragmatic ground. Thus, Heidegger, in the first instance asks to abandon any sort of interpretation of reality and asks for a direct relationship with Being. Heidegger’s doctrine of truth, on the account that Heidegger does not initially allow any violence with Being in the form of interpretation of Being in the light of ideas, appears as passive. This impression, however, is ambiguous, for, Heidegger appraises Nietzsche for his doctrine of will to power. And, will to power, in the first instance, is not a passive comprehension of Being. Will to power is an active involvement with Being and it is a transformation of Being.

Heidegger’s notion of Phenomenology is a going back towards the things themselves. This going back is a going back from theoretical and conventional explanations of the things, towards the things as they show themselves from themselves. This means that instead of interpreting things from a conventional point of view, we have to see them and then interpret them as they show themselves. For Heidegger, unlike Kant, intuitions are not blind without concepts. We can see things in an unorthodox manner. This undermining of concepts and the claim that an un-mediated knowledge of being is possible is a revolutionary idea.

Education for Heidegger should result in emancipation. It has the ability to transform an individual. The cave dwellers in Plato’s cave were viewing every thing in the light of ideas, but they did not actually know that fact. The things, of which the images were shown on the walls of the cave in the glow of fire, were Platonic ideals. Cave dwellers were viewing the shadows of those ideals. However, it was only after emancipating themselves from the chains that they realized what was happening to them. Then, they saw the ideas in the light of the highest idea of good. Then, they tried to liberate their friends, who still were in the cave. This effort completed their journey for the truth. And this also completed the education process.


Nietzsche in his essay titled “Schopenhauer as a Teacher”, says that education has the task of bringing out the best from an individual. Education should result in the emancipation and awakening of individual’s abilities.28 Thus, education is meant to empower the individual, to raise a person to his full potential. All social, individual and cultural growth depends upon the extent to which education is capable of empowering the individual.

For Rousseau and Nietzsche, the major cause of individual’s weakening lies in the fact that individual learns to wish things that are beyond his prowess. For both of them there is an evil necessity involved in willing beyond ones power. Rousseau says:
‘The one whose needs surpass its strength, be it an elephant, a lion, a conqueror, a hero, a God, is a weak being.”29

Rousseau in his Emile suggests that if children are being persistently stopped from doing what they are doing themselves, then, they develop a habit of asking others to do things for them. They will ask their elders to do things for them that are not within their own power to achieve. They will develop a love for things they themselves are not able to get and become dependent on others for the fulfillment of their desires. This will ultimately lead them to weakness and disaster in their later life, for, no one is likely to do for them what their parents did for them in their childhood. This results in a great evil in the form of a deprived and weak individual who desires beyond his powers. Thus, Rousseau suggests that children should not be stopped from what they are doing unless it becomes utterly necessary. Thus, a child should never be made passive and a mere reactionary, a child’s activities are not to be suppressed.30

For Nietzsche reactionary and passive souls are weak. In them the urge to perform activities is suppressed. On the other hand active people are strong individuals. He criticized reactionary attitudes in his Genealogy of Morals. He despised idealism as a creation of weakness. It is the weakness that results in the formation of after-worlds and other-worlds and in the denial of existing reality.

Nietzsche finds that those who despise this world for a reward in the other world are weak people who have lost their hope in existence. Nietzsche thinks that punishment and reward were wrongly introduced into the scheme of things. Acts should not be done for rewards. Rather doing of an act should be its reward. Thus, Nietzsche, in a way thinks that intrinsic motivation to do something is harmed if a reward is offered for it. However, this excludes the appreciation that a child receives from its family or peers for doing something good.

For Nietzsche, education should develop the abilities to see, to think, to read and to write. To see means to suspend judgment and to make a choice before response. Nietzsche criticized the negative use of stimulus and response in education. For him, instead of training children to respond to each and every stimulus, schools should train them to suspend their response and to wait till they select a proper stimulus to respond. Thus his criticism implies a criticism on behaviorism in education. Nietzsche considers individual as a necessity and does not want chance to overcome the individual. An individual can become a necessity only when he learns how to avoid chance through suspending judgment and through making proper choices. Those who respond to each and every stimulus are weak and have a likelihood of becoming a victim of chance.31

Nietzsche and Rousseau advocate that a suppression of self-motivated activities in childhood results in the weakening of individual. Children should always be encouraged by their educators and teachers to perform activities, to remain active. Education should be activity based; it should not be based on the concept of passive learning.

Thus, these thinkers, in a sense, present an anti-Platonic formula of education. Plato asks for the freedom from activity, senses and experience for the acquisition of truth, which, for him, is the true goal of education. On the other hand Nietzsche and Rousseau are asking for the freedom to experience the reality through any mode of experiencing the reality that is available at a person’s disposal. They are asking for the freedom to construct knowledge through one’s experience, on the other hand ,Plato is asking to grasp it from a world that exists beyond one’s own world. For Nietzsche and Rousseau, to pursue knowledge that pertains to an ideal realm, necessarily results in the weakening of those human capabilities that are not involved in the effort. These abilities are senses, creativity and the power to judge and evaluate. Thus, idealism leaves a person less capable.

Dewey created an educational philosophy that answers all the issues that emerged from the educational philosophy of idealism. Dewey’s educational scheme has all the ingredients that are necessary for it to be an individual empowerment plan. Dewey’s school is based on the principle of active learning in which students engage themselves in daily life professions of their own choice and from this concrete background their knowledge of formal disciplines springs. Dewey opposes the suppression of individual. He denies formal external discipline in his school, he stopped boring lectures and based learning on activities and actual experiences, he criticized rote memorization of dead information, he stopped value inculcation and he rejected traditional curriculum as a contradiction of the child’s concrete existence. Thus Dewey affirms the individual in all its possibilities in his school. In his school children have the best chances to become what they wanted to.

Dewey considers School as a social organization where children are provided with experiences that are conducive to their growth. Dewey’s school is a healthy community that evaluates learning outcomes and produced works on realistic standards. A truly democratic value system lurks behind this kind of organization in which the workers themselves are the evaluators.

Traditional school was coercive in which the child’s experience was falsified by the curriculum and child’s concrete existence was falsified by an ideal of perfection. Traditional school was coercive for it was based on the philosophy that existing child should convert itself into a mature person, and it tried to achieve this end through developing reflective abilities in a child through coercion. Child was compelled to follow the repressive discipline that was meant to stop the child from performing any activity and thus to make the child a passive object on which any prototype can be imprinted. Traditional school considered child as an object; it was based on the idea of mere objectification of the child through education. And, an education that considers a child as a mere object, a passive being, can never allow the growth of an individual by any means. Traditional education is a repression of individuality.

Reflection is necessary for learning. However, to compel a person to reflect through inflicting pain on him is not a good idea. Reflection occurs when a person finds himself in a problem, but to keep a person always in a problem just to teach him how to reflect is the worst way of doing it. Reflection for both Dewey and Heidegger has its basis in the common and natural mode of experience. Reflective attitude grows when a person, in his everyday concerns and engagements, finds that things are not going normally for him. Thus, in order to have things on a normal track a person reflects and tries to fix the problem. Traditional school, instead of manipulating the school environment intelligently to create a problematic situation out of some interesting activity, created and inflicted a persistent problem on the child in the form of a coercive discipline. This discipline denied children any sort of activity; it stopped them from physical movement, communication and from living normally. Thus, in this way it tried to make a child a mere reflective being that has no active participation in the life. It denied individual its essence, and the essence of individual is activity.

In traditional school teacher was portrayed as the sole authority and the learner was asked to sacrifice its individuality in front of the teacher. In fact a child’s concrete existence was contradicted in favor of an ideal of perfection. What a child has to do with externally imposed ideals and values? In his essays on School and Society, Dewey writes that a concrete thing like a child is capable of evading all sorts of generalizations. A child individualizes itself as soon as it performs an activity. Thus, in traditional schools, through maintaining a tough discipline, children were stopped from performing any activity. They were not even allowed to move, to talk, or to say any thing. Traditional education was built around a passive idea of listening. In traditional education children were considered as passive listeners.

In his democracy and education, Dewey criticized the traditional belief that words alone can transmit knowledge. It is only through acting in social interactive situations, that the meaning of a word becomes clear. Thus like Paulo Freire, Dewey also believes that words do not only make a person conscious of a thing but also suggest a possible course of action related to it. Learning involves both consciousness and action. Thus, learning takes place through the active involvement of a learner in an activity.

The main problem that Dewey found with the traditional school was that it tried to enforce pre-conceived notions and ideals on the child. It tried to mould the child into a Platonic ideal, which was, in essence, a real contradiction of child’s concrete existence, rather, of anybody’s existence. Dewey appears to support the priority of existence over essence in this regard. Thus an individual’s concrete situation, the situation he experiences in this world, has superiority over fixed concepts and traditional modes of understanding. Thus he tries to authenticate individual existence.

Dewey supports communication and mutual cooperation. One of his criticisms on traditional education is that it actually renders all forms of cooperation among students as bad and in certain special circumstances as criminal. A child cannot share knowledge and information with its friends just because it is against the discipline of the school to share knowledge, especially when it is badly needed during examinations. Thus traditional school, with its practices, stops people from having a mutual existence. It teaches competition and defies humanism. Traditional school does what is contrary to the aims of education. It indoctrinates and inculcates values that are actually harmful for the individual and social growth.

Education should prepare an individual for the construction of knowledge and truth .It should enhance the role of an individual as a value giver and creator. Dewey suggested changes in education system to make it capable of actualizing and enhancing these possibilities in an individual. He established a project school in which students were taught the real professions and which was based on his philosophy of active learning and freedom. A place where theory was replaced by the practice .A place where individual was liberated from the clutches of dead idealism and universal reason to follow his own course of life based on human love and affection.

The kind of education suggested by Dewey enables an individual to grow. It is the kind of education that can result in the empowerment of individual.

The empowerment of individual is the aim of education, whereas, traditional education, through it emphasis on fixed ideas, is instrumental in the weakening of individuals. Individual cannot be empowered without the freedom to see things as they show themselves in a particular context. Individual should be given the freedom to interpret the situation he lives in according to his own individual conditions.

In modern times, since everything is changing so rapidly, it has become difficult to have a set of fixed values and fixed knowledge. Dewey has pointed out that we even can’t say what it would be like after twenty years, thus, it is not appropriate to give a large body of information to our children as a preparation for life. For information is sure to lose its value in the course of time. Instead of giving them information alone, we can enhance their natural abilities to learn, to construct their own knowledge, to judge and evaluate things properly and to create their own way of dealing with problematic situations.

Traditional curriculum inculcates fixed ideas which are useless in modern day’s precarious world where an individual can exists as a free-decision-maker alone. To be a free-decision-maker we need freedom to know, judge, decide and act.

Individual and society are not either or terms. Thus, this aversion for fixed values cannot destroy the fabric of society. A community is nothing but a group of individuals living together, having common aims and sharing their resources. Mass culture that is meant to repress people and to facilitate ruling elite is being propagated through media and formal education. The undermining of originality and original works or high culture and the suppression of individuality through education shows that education is being utilized to serve the purpose of ruling class.

Thus, school in modern days ought to be a place where students should be kept free from learning and memorizing large bodies of information. Children should not be objectified through discipline. There should be no memory tests and traditional sort of examinations. School should support cooperative learning through practical work. Students should be given opportunity to experience things. They should be trained for giving proper judgments and evaluations. They should be encouraged to enhance their moral reasoning through acting freely, according to their impulses and contrary to their habits, in a community of people, without causing any bad consequences for themselves or for others. The teaching learning strategies should be student centered and oriented towards activity. The spirit of inquiry should be enhanced and pedagogical methods should be based on the method of inquiry. The values cherished at schools ought to be democratic. There should be no unnecessary externally imposed discipline in the school except a timetable based on the division of activities and the timings of the school. Students should be divided according to their age group and learning abilities. The hands-on activities carried out at schools should promote creativity and judgment power in the students.


1-Dewey, John, Democracy and Education, in The Middle Works of John Dewey, vol.9, Edited by Jo Ann Boydston , Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale 1985 (This work will be referred to in future references as MW followed by the volume number)-p227-231
2-Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, in: Complete Works, Russell & Russell, New York, 1964, Vol. 16, p. 24
3- Dewey, John, Experience and Nature, in Vol-1
of The Later Works, ed. by Jo Ann Boydston, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1981-1990 (This work will be referred to as LW in future references, followed by the volume number)p-102
5-MW, Vol-9-p-96
6-LW, Vol-2, p-363-6
7-LW, vol-1-, p-132

8-Dewey, John, My Pedagogical Creed, in, The Early Works of John Dewey, vol-5, edited by Jo Ann Boydston, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1972 (This work will be referred to as EW in future references, followed by volume number) p-86
9-MW, vol-6-259
10-LW, vol-1-p-126
11- Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, in: Complete Works, Russell & Russell, New York, 1964, Vol. 16, p. 21
12-Nietzsche, Friedrich, On Truths and Lies in an Extra Moral Sense, in The Portable Nietzsche, edited and translated by Walter Kaufman, Viking Penguin Inc, 1982,p-42-46
13-Nietzsche Friedrich, Beyond Good and Evil, translated by Walter Kaufman, Barnes and Noble, Vintage Books Edition, 1989, p-24
14-Nietzsche, Friedrich, On Truths and Lies in an Extra Moral Sense,p-42-46
15-Nietzsche, Friedrich Beyond Good and Evil, p-19
16- Nietzsche, Friedrich, On Truths and Lies in an Extra Moral Sense,p-42-46
17-Heidegger, Martin, Being and Time, translated by John Macquarie and Edward Robinson, New York, Harper and Row, 1962,p-129-133
18-Plato,Protagoras,in Plato Complete Works, edited by John M. Cooper translated by Stanley Lombardo and Karen Bell, Hackett publishing Company, Indianapolis? Cambridge, p-757
19-MW, Vol-9, p-6
20-MW, Vol-14- p132-133
21-Nietzsche, Friedrich, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Section:On Old and New Tablets; translated by Clancy Martin, Barnes and Noble , 2005 classics,P-182
22-Nietzsche, Friedrich, Gay Sciences (available online)
23-Nietzsche, Friedrich, On the Genealogy of Morals: translated by Ian Johnston, (available online)
24-Nietzsche, Friedrich, On the future of Our Educational Institution: The First Lecture, Translated by J.M. Kennedy (available online)
25- Nietzsche, Friedrich, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Section: On the thousand and One Goals
26-Heidegger, Martin, Plato’s Doctrine of Truth, translated by Thomas Sheehan, Stanford University,(available online)
28-Nietzsche, Friedrich, Untimely Meditations (excerpts), Schopenhauer as Educator, Nietzsche Channel (available online)
29-Rousseau, Emile: Book 2: translated by Grace Roosevelt, The institute for Learning Technologies,(available online)
31-Nietzsche Friedrich: The Twilight of Idols; Section: What Germans Lack