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What is Philosophy?

(By Roger Hiemstra, January, 2012)

Philosophy has been called many things and it can have many meanings Those single words or statements on the right side are only some of them What words would you add?

Wisdom Reality Theories Meaning of Life Nature of being human Life perspectives

Here is One Definition:

Putting the nature of the universe, including meaning, people, and relationships, into an understandable or explainable perspective
What is your definition???

The purpose of this presentation is to acquaint you with various philosophical systems or models. Each system or model can be interpreted in terms of the education or training of adults. Once you examine a particular system or model, ask yourself such questions as (a) With what parts do I agree and with what parts do I disagree? (b) How might they impact on or affect the way I train or educate adults? (c) What does the model have to say for my role as an adult educator or trainer? Examine the visual representation of these notions in the next slide.

Various Philosophical Systems or Models

Idealism Other Models Other Models Humanism

Can be Interpreted in Terms of Educating/Training Adults

With Implications for Training/Educating Adults

With Implications for Adult Educator Roles

(See, Figure 12.1)

Meaning is in the ideals of life itself Reality is made up of absolute truths However, a truth sometimes is only in the eye of the beholder Educationally this means the use of inductive reasoning, lecturing Plato was an early key proponent of this model

Meaning comes through empirically proven facts Reality is made up of natural laws, facts However, empirical facts are always subject to change Educationally this involves scientific reasoning Chisholm and Whitehead proponents

Meaning comes through concrete facts Theory based on truth makes up reality Problem solving and experimenting are instructional techniques But does this diminish the teachers role? John Dewey a leading proponent (had a huge impact on American education)

Freedom comes through a liberated mind Humans endowed with reasoning ability Thus, educationally you teach learners the classics and develop their minds But, the past may not relate to modern problems and situations Aristotle was an early proponent

Human behavior tied to prior conditioning External forces control all human behavior Could learning be too complex for the control of certain behaviors? Teaching methods include behavioral conditioning, feedback, drill and practice B. F. Skinner well known proponent (he also impacted heavily on U.S. education)

(Read for background)

Intellect distinguishes humans from animals Humans have potential/innate goodness Thus, educationally you facilitate and encourage self-direction Some educational needs may be missed? Abraham Maslow early proponent

People themselves create meaning Knowledge leads to an understanding of reality and, ultimately, necessary change This approach can be idealistic in nature and often leads to confrontation Teach by dialogue and problem solving Paulo Freire prominent proponent

Fortunately, there is a way of dealing with all the various models Eclecticism is not a philosophical system or model, but rather is the synthesizing and personal interpretation of various models to draw out the best components for yourself Thus, you pull the best from various models in any effort to build your own statement of personal philosophy

Visit for Rogers personal statement of philosophy to see how he drew from various philosophical models to create his own statement. Go here for other peoples statements. You can do the same thing and you may want to use the worksheets shown as Figure 12.2 in, as well as taking the Lorraine Zinn PAEI instrument, and then scoring it (see Rog Hiemstra for information on the instrument and scoring it), as a way of thinking through the basics of your own statement The overall point of this exercise is to help you see that an ability to write a personal statement of philosophy becomes foundational to an under-standing of ethics and how you will apply such understanding to what you do professionally.

Selected References Archambault, R. D. (1964). John Dewey on education. New York: Modern Library, Random House. Bambrough, R. (Ed.). (1963). The philosophy of Aristotle (A. E. Wardman & J. L. Creed, Trans.). New York: New American Library of World Literature. Bergevin, P. (1967). A philosophy for adult education. New York: Seabury. Brubacher, J. S. (1969). Modern philosophies of education. New York: McGraw-Hill. Chisholm, R. M. (1961). Realism and the background of phenomenology. Glencoe, IL: Free Press. Cushman, R. E. (1958). Therapeia: Plato's conception of philosophy. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education. New York: Macmillan. Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. New York: Macmillan. Elias, J. L., & Merriam, S. (1980). Philosophical foundations of adult education . Malabar, FL: Krieger. Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Herder and Herder. Lindeman, E. C. (1928). The meaning of adult education. New York: New Republic. Maslow, A. (1976). Education and peak experience. In C. D. Schlosser (Ed.), The person in education: A humanistic approach. New York: Macmillan. Rogers, C. R. (1969). Freedom to learn. Columbus, OH: Merrill. Skinner, B. F. (1971). Beyond freedom and dignity. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Taylor, A. (1926). Plato: The man and his work. London: Methuen & Co., Ltd. Whitehead, A. N. (1933). Adventure of ideas. New York: Macmillan. Zinn, L. M. (1990). Identifying your philosophical orientation. In M. W. Galbraith (Ed.), Adult learning methods: A guide for effective instruction . Malabar, FL: Krieger.