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


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