Philosophy Epistemology Of Education
by
J. Adam Carter, Ben Kotzee
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 October 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 October 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0292

Introduction

During the late 20th and early 21st centuries, increasing overlap has emerged between projects in mainstream epistemology and corresponding projects in the philosophy of education. This is no doubt in part because epistemology’s focus has broadened far beyond the post-Gettier project of analyzing propositional knowledge; front and center on the contemporary epistemological agenda are philosophical problems associated with, for instance, epistemic value, understanding, knowledge-how, testimony, and intellectual virtue. Unsurprisingly, many of the epistemological problems associated with these notions have counterparts in educational theory. For example, just as epistemologists ask about our epistemic aims (aims we have from a purely epistemic point of view) so philosophers of education ask what kinds of cognitive goods and traits an education should aim at inculcating. Thus, the matter of what makes knowledge valuable to possess—just to take one example of many—is a matter that falls squarely within the purview of both epistemological and educational disciplines. This article aims to categorize and briefly summarize a range of such overlapping projects under the description of the epistemology of education. While textbooks and anthologies on the specific matter of intersections between education and epistemology are relatively scarce (though we have noted some examples), the literature in mainstream philosophy, epistemology, and education journals on the epistemological dimensions of education is flourishing.

General Overviews

Although there are to date no monograph overviews of the epistemology of education, there are several accessible papers that outline and engage with core issues at the intersection of epistemology and the philosophy of education. Robertson 2009 and Schmitt 2005, for instance, offer accessible perspectives on the epistemic aims of education, and Elgin 1999 argues that (contrary to one widely assumed picture) the epistemic aims of education should be framed in terms of the epistemic state of understanding as opposed to knowledge. Siegel 2004 outlines, in particular, some of the central epistemically relevant issues in the epistemology of education and connects these problems to recent work in social epistemology.

  • Elgin, C. Z. “Epistemology’s Ends, Pedagogy’s Prospects.” Facta Philosophica 1 (1999): 39–54.

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    Outlines and challenges as implausibly demanding the received picture of teaching and learning captured by Plato’s Teaching Assumption, the thesis that since teaching consists in conveying knowledge, you cannot teach what you do not know.

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    • Robertson, E. “The Epistemic Aims of Education.” In The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Education. Edited by H. Siegel, 11–34. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

      DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195312881.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Argues that an understanding of the social conditions of knowledge production is crucial to facilitating the educational aim of fostering independent thinking.

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      • Schmitt, F. “What are the Aims of Education?” Episteme 1.3 (2005): 223–233.

        DOI: 10.3366/epi.2004.1.3.223Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        Argues that the aim of a liberal arts education is best understood as justified belief.

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        • Siegel, H. “Epistemology and Education: An Incomplete Guide to the Social-Epistemological Issues.” Episteme 1 (2004): 129–137.

          DOI: 10.3366/epi.2004.1.2.129Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Attempts to connect social epistemology and the philosophy of education by arguing that many or most of the epistemological issues concerning education are or should be of great interest to social epistemologists.

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          Textbooks

          No textbooks on epistemology of education exist as such. However, the textbooks on philosophy of education listed here (Bailey, et al. 2010; Blake, et al. 2003; Curren 2003; Hirst and White 1998; Siegel 2009; and Wilson 1979) contain ample reference to epistemological issues in the philosophy of education.

          • Bailey, R., R. Barrow, D. Carr, and C. McCarthy, eds. The SAGE Handbook of Philosophy of Education. London: SAGE, 2010.

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            Accessible wide-ranging guide to the philosophy of education. The first part features different styles of approach to the philosophy of education, while the second and third parts focus on historical and contemporary work, respectively.

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            • Blake, N., P. Smeyers, R. Smith, and P. Standish. The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Education. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003.

              DOI: 10.1002/9780470996294Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              Contains introductions to core areas of philosophy of education. Includes twenty articles by distinguished contemporary scholars commissioned for the volume.

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              • Curren, R., ed. A Companion to the Philosophy of Education. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003.

                DOI: 10.1002/9780470996454Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                A comprehensive guide to philosophical thinking about education, including a section with epistemologically oriented pieces on teaching and learning.

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                • Hirst, P. H., and P. White. Philosophy of Education: Major Themes in the Analytic Tradition. London: Routledge, 1998.

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                  A 1700+ page collection of classic and contemporary readings on major themes in the philosophy of education, as approached within an analytic tradition.

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                  • Siegel, H., ed. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Education. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

                    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195312881.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                    Includes twenty-eight commissioned articles on a range of topics in the philosophy of education; two sections are devoted to epistemologically oriented themes, including eight articles on the subtheme “Thinking, Reasoning, Teaching and Learning” and four articles on the subtheme “Knowledge, Curriculum, and Educational Research.”

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                    • Wilson, J. Preface to the Philosophy of Education. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979.

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                      Seminal text outlining the nature of philosophy of education and defines some of its major problems, including the value of education and normative dimensions of learning.

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                      Anthologies

                      Next to Kotzee 2013 few anthologies of epistemology and education exist. However, the anthologies by Carr 2005 and Curren 2006 contain many relevant readings.

                      • Carr, W. The Routledge Falmer Reader in Philosophy of Education. London: Routledge, 2005.

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                        Contemporary reader on enduring issues concerning the philosophy of education. Includes a section with readings on the aims of education.

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                        • Curren, R., ed. Philosophy of Education: An Anthology. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006.

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                          Comprehensive anthology that includes, along with contemporary readings, classical readings by such noted figures as Plato, Aristotle, Isocrates, Locke, Rousseau, Mill, and Dewey.

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                          • Kotzee, B., ed. Special Issue: Education and the Growth of Knowledge. Journal of Philosophy of Education 47.2 (2013).

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                            First-ever collection of papers dedicated to issues at the intersection of the philosophy of education and contemporary epistemology. Includes readings by prominent philosophers of education as well as leading epistemologists.

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                            Epistemic Concepts in Education

                            A number of concepts of educational import are epistemic concepts. These are the concepts of learning, which has to do with an individual’s moving from a state of less to greater knowledge, the concept of teaching, which has to do with someone instructing another in order to bring about learning, and education, which is roughly the concept of a process of bringing about learning in another intentionally by teaching or other means. These epistemic concepts in particular play a structuring role in the philosophy of education and, in its earliest conceptual analysis phase (associated with the work of, for instance, Peters, Hirst and I. Scheffler), philosophy of education focused mainly on the analysis of these three concepts. In this article learning, teaching, and education are presented as epistemic concepts, and an important question is whether learning, teaching, and education are firstly (or only) epistemic concepts. Some point out that, in addition to learning, teaching, and educating (for) knowledge, much educational effort is also directed at learning, teaching, and educating (for), for instance, moral or political values, aesthetic appreciation, and so forth. The dispute may be over whether the concepts learning, teaching, and education belong firstly to epistemology or to ethics, political philosophy, aesthetics, etc. One may allow that the concepts in question can be usefully studied by multiple areas of philosophy. This is the approach of those who distinguish education’s cognitive from its moral, aesthetic, economic aims, among others. Alternatively, one may insist that the concepts in question are at root epistemic concepts in that, even when pertaining to morals, aesthetics, or economics, they still have to do with the increase of moral, aesthetic, or economic knowledge or understanding on the part of the learner.

                            Learning

                            Probably the most general concept in the area is that of learning. A number of sources (e.g., Scheffler 1965 and Hamlyn 1967) point out that one ordinary sense of the word “learning” is coming to know truths. One fertile area of discussion concerns whether learning, properly speaking, requires more than knowing truth; Hamlyn, for instance, is opposed to calling rote learning of facts “learning.” Important distinctions in the area are between (1) learning that comes about as the consequence of teaching and learning that occurs independently and (2) learning that something is the case and learning how to do something. Winch 1998 and Cigman and Davis 2009 provide book-length treatments of contemporary approaches to the concept of learning. Hager 2005, Luntley 2005, and Luntley 2008 provide critical accounts, holding that learning is not primarily about knowledge of propositions (Hager 2005) or theory-formation (Luntley 2005 and Luntley 2008). Davis 2010 focuses on classroom applications.

                            • Cigman, R., and A. Davis. New Philosophies of Learning. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.

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                              Significant volume exploring 21st-century philosophical approaches to learning. Notable especially for an exploration of what the neuroscience of learning may contribute to the field.

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                              • Davis, A. “Learning.” In The Sage Handbook of Philosophy of Education. Edited by R. Bailey, R. Barrow, D. Carr, and C. McCarthy, 323–336. London: SAGE, 2010.

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                                A handy summary of approaches to the concept “learning” and to the theory of learning in general. Divides current conceptions of learning into “transfer” and “construction” conceptions.

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                                • Hager, P. “Philosophical Accounts of Learning.” Educational Philosophy and Theory 37.5 (2005): 649–666.

                                  DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-5812.2005.00149.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                  Provides an overview of the contrasts between some main philosophical theories of learning. Seeks to challenge what it calls “dominant understanding” of learning, in particular that learning is an individual activity and results in knowledge of propositions.

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                                  • Hamlyn, D. “The Logical and Psychological Aspects of Learning.” In The Concept of Education. Edited by R. S. Peters, 24–43. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1967.

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                                    Considers the relationship between the psychological analysis of processes of learning and the logical analysis of concepts. Sets requirement for learning, properly speaking, to go beyond rote learning and to encompass understanding and application of principles.

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                                    • Luntley, M. “The Character of Learning.” Educational Philosophy and Theory 37.5 (2005): 689–704.

                                      DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-5812.2005.00151.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                      Contrast learning as the acquisition of theoretical knowledge and learning as the development of “insight.” Rejects learning as a process of general theory formation (and criticizes, in passing, popular theory-formation views of child development). Gives an account of insight as the focusing of attention on a particular case.

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                                      • Luntley, M. “Conceptual Development and the Paradox of Learning.” Journal of Philosophy of Education 42.1 (2008): 1–14.

                                        DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9752.2008.00606.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                        Discusses Fodor’s “paradox of learning” (to the effect that the most plausible account of learning new concepts presupposes that the learner already understands the concepts supposed to be learned). Provides a solution to the paradox to the effect that there can be a form of discrimination of particulars before proper conceptual discrimination. Gives special importance to the affective dimension of learning.

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                                        • Winch, C. The Philosophy of Human Learning. London: Routledge, 1998.

                                          DOI: 10.4324/9780203318607Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                          Significant book-length treatment of the philosophy of learning. The book opposes seeing learning as primarily or solely a psychological concept. In explaining the philosophical concept of learning, it rejects cognitivist and developmentalist accounts and seeks to build a social and normative account of learning (based on Wittgenstein).

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                                          Teaching

                                          Learning can come about in a number of different ways. Anyone can constantly learn by experience and self-discovery. A person may learn many things by accident even. However, a subset of all learning is achieved by teaching: by one person actively instructing another to bring about learning. One may teach knowledge by telling someone something: in this mode, teaching is analogous to testifying. However, one may also teach another know how or practical skill: in this mode, teaching is showing (a matter to which comparatively little attention is given in the epistemology of know how.) Some of the most important questions about the concept of teaching are whether teaching must be intentional and what distinguishes teaching, properly speaking, from other (legitimate) modes of instruction such as drill or practice or illegitimate modes such as indoctrination. Scheffler 1965 and Dearden 1967 provided some of the first conceptual analyses. The account of teaching in Hirst 1973, that teaching involves intentionally bringing about learning in students, is arguably the most influential. Passmore 1980 is critical of the intention element identified by these authors as important. Phillips 2003 relates the concept of teaching to the concept of learning (see discussion above).

                                          • Dearden, R. F. “Instruction and learning by discovery.” In The Concept of Education. Edited by R. S. Peters, 135–155. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1967.

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                                            Sets out the contrast between learning achieved independently and learning achieved via teaching.

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                                            • Hirst, P. “What is Teaching?” In The Philosophy of Education. Edited by R. S. Peters, 163–177. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973.

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                                              Sets out Hirst’s view that teaching is a polymorphous activity and that teaching is the activity of a teacher who intentionally aims to bring about learning in a student. Arguably the classic account of teaching.

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                                              • Passmore, J. “The Concept of Teaching.” In The Philosophy of Teaching. By J. Passmore, 19–33. London: Duckworth, 1980.

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                                                Critical of the view that teaching primarily involves subject content and must always be intentional. Sets out a view of teaching as a “covert triadic relationship” in which (1) a teacher teaches a student something (the triadic relationship) (2) and in a manner that need not be completely transparent to both parties (covert).

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                                                • Phillips, D. C. “Theories of Teaching and Learning.” In A Companion to the Philosophy of Education. Edited by R. Curren, 232–245. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003.

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                                                  Explores the link between the concept of learning and the concept of teaching.

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                                                  • Scheffler, I. “Knowledge and Teaching.” Conditions of Knowledge. By I. Scheffler, 7–21. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman, 1965.

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                                                    Sets out the view that teaching is the activity of attempting to bring about belief in the student through rational means. The paper is influential for what is implied by this: that indoctrination, as non-rational instruction, is not education.

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                                                    Education

                                                    The concept of education may indicate a social system organized to deliver teaching: in this sense, education is most often associated with schooling. Alternatively, it can refer to a process—in which the concept is not that far away from teaching. Regarding both, however, education denotes something more than simply teaching or a system of teaching. According to Peters 1967, education is a normative concept: if a process or experience is worthy of being called “an education” it is something that is desirable or worthwhile. Moreover, for Peters 1967, education is a process that is morally permissible, while morally impermissible processes, such as indoctrination, cannot count as education. Next to attempts to analyze the concept of education directly, attempts have also been made to analyze the concept of an “educated person.” The concept “educated” has likewise received considerable scrutiny.

                                                    • Barrow, R., and R. Woods. “The Concept of Education.” In An Introduction to Philosophy of Education. By R. Barrow and R. Woods, 8–20. London: Routledge, 1988.

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                                                      Investigates whether education conceptually and explores the links between the concepts “education” and “educated.”

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                                                      • Cuypers, S. E., and C. Martin. Reading R.S. Peters Today. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

                                                        DOI: 10.1002/9781444346497Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                        Volume focused on the work of R. S. Peters. Given the importance of Peters’s work in analyzing concepts in education generally, this volume is of interest not only for an understanding of Peters’s work but also for its contemporary contributions to the central themes in studying the concept of education.

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                                                        • Hirst, P. H., and R. S. Peters. The Logic of Education. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1970.

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                                                          Outlines a concept of education as involving a desirable process and the promotion of knowledge or understanding. Defends these two elements against objections.

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                                                          • Peters, R. S., ed. The Concept of Education. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1967.

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                                                            Contains many influential papers on the concept of education. Also contains important papers on teaching, learning, and indoctrination.

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                                                            • Peters, R. S. “Education and the Educated Man.” Journal of Philosophy of Education 4.1 (1970): 5–20.

                                                              DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9752.1970.tb00424.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                              In a departure from his earlier conceptual analyses of education, Peters holds in this paper that our contemporary conception of what counts as an educated person is historically informed.

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                                                              • Siegel, H. “Is Education a Thick Epistemic Concept?” Philosophical Papers 37.3 (2008): 455–469.

                                                                DOI: 10.1080/05568640809485231Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                Sketches an account of education as a normative epistemic concept.

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                                                                • White, J. “The Educated Person.” The Aims of Education Restated. By J. White, 121–139. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1982.

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                                                                  Argues that the educated person is one who can determine their own ends in life and, thereby, flourish.

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                                                                  • Wilson, J. “Education: The Words and the Enterprise.” In Philosophy of Education. By J. Wilson, 15–43. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979.

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                                                                    Defends the importance of conceptual analysis of educational terms. Distinguishes institutional activity from subject senses of the concept “education.”

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                                                                    Epistemic Aims of Education

                                                                    The aims of education are often characterized in terms of certain kinds of epistemic goods. But what particular goods an education should aim to foster remains an important area of debate in the epistemology of education and one that has attracted the interest of epistemologists working on the closely connected issue of what epistemic states (and cognitive abilities or virtues) are the most epistemically valuable ones to achieve and why. Perhaps the most famous discussion of the epistemic aim of education features in Plato’s classic discussion in the Republic of the Allegory of the Cave, an aim—pursued by metaphor—that might be best understood as an epistemic process. By contrast, Goldman 1999 characterizes the aim of education in terms of (and by comparison with) a traditional line of thinking in the philosophy of science: the production of knowledge. It follows, on Goldman’s approach, that the educational value of the cultivation of certain dispositions or traits is always only of instrumental educational value, relative to the goal of knowledge production. While Adler 2003 attempts to develop and defend Goldman’s knowledge account further, Siegel 2003, Siegel 2005, and Baehr 2013 represent two importantly different strategies of departure from Goldman’s knowledge account. On Siegel’s view, critical thinking—and, more generally, reasoning—is an ability an education should aim to foster independently of any connection between critical thinking and truth or knowledge. On Siegel’s view, critical thinking can be viewed as supplanting knowledge as what is fundamental or basic via the aim of an education. Baehr 2013 departs from the knowledge account by focusing on the value of cultivating disposition as opposed to states. For Baehr 2013, however, the aim of education ought to be articulated, specifically, in terms of intellectual character virtues, virtues that are individuated in part in terms of their characteristic motivations (e.g., open-mindedness, intellectual courage).

                                                                    • Adler, J. “Knowledge, Truth and Learning.” In A Companion to the Philosophy of Education. Edited by Randall Curren, 285–304. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003.

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                                                                      Holds that the aims of education are mainly epistemic in that education should transmit knowledge. Defends such epistemic accounts against rival accounts that the aims of education are mainly moral aims and against skeptical accounts suspicious of knowledge and truth.

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                                                                      • Baehr, J. “Educating for Intellectual Virtues: From Theory to Practice.” Journal of Philosophy of Education 47.2 (2013): 248–262.

                                                                        DOI: 10.1111/1467-9752.12023Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                        Offers three arguments for the claim that education should aim at fostering “intellectual character virtues” such as curiosity, open-mindedness, intellectual courage, and intellectual honesty. Discusses several pedagogical and related strategies for achieving this aim.

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                                                                        • Goldman, A. Knowledge in a Social World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

                                                                          DOI: 10.1093/0198238207.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                          Argues that the fundamental aim of education, like that of science, is the promotion of knowledge.

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                                                                          • Plato. “Turning the Psyche.” In Philosophy of Education: An Anthology. Edited by Randall R. Curren, 16–25. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2012.

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                                                                            Famous extract from Plato’s Republic in which the goal of education is characterized by appeal to the Allegory of the Cave.

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                                                                            • Siegel, Harvey. “Cultivating Reason.” In A Companion to the Philosophy of Education. Edited by Randall Curren, 305–319. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003.

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                                                                              Defends the cultivation of reason and rationality as the overriding educational ideal. Holds that the educational aim of rationality trumps other accounts (such as the aims of knowledge, happiness, citizenship, etc.)

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                                                                              • Siegel, H. “Truth, Thinking, Testimony and Trust: Alvin Goldman on Philosophy and Education.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 71.2 (2005): 345–366.

                                                                                DOI: 10.1111/j.1933-1592.2005.tb00452.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                Argues, contra Goldman, that critical thinking is a fundamental end of education, independently of its instrumental tie to truth, and, further, that it is critical thinking rather than testimony and trust that is educationally basic.

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                                                                                Intellectual Virtues And Education

                                                                                One especially fruitful point of connection between contemporary epistemology and the philosophy of education concerns the epistemic dimensions of intellectual virtues and their place in educational theory. Baehr 2011 and Roberts and Woods 2007 offer in-depth discussions of specific intellectual character traits (e.g., intellectual autonomy, honesty, humility, and openmindedness), with special focus on advancing (respective) rationales for why such traits are valuable from an epistemic point of view. Similarly, Hare 1993 and Carter and Gordon 2014 focus specifically on the trait of open-mindedness. Hare 1993 explores the nature and place of openmindedness in educational theory, and Carter and Gordon 2014 defend openmindedness as an intellectual virtue even though, as they argue, its status as an intellectual virtue is not explicable in terms of its connection to the aim of true belief. Along with engaging with intellectual virtues in their own right, a prevailing trend in mainstream epistemology—virtue epistemology—has sought to illuminate knowledge, justification, and other epistemic concepts in terms of their connection to agents’ intellectual virtues or (more broadly) cognitive character. The virtue epistemology program has been, over the past several decades, well developed. Bevan 2009, Kotzee 2011, Macallister 2012, and Pritchard 2014 apply elements of the virtue epistemology (VE) approach to topics in education. Bevan 2009 and Macallister 2012 both develop proposals on which virtue epistemology can be appealed to in the service of developing a philosophical foundation for educational theory. Kotzee 2011 explores connections between “thick” virtue epistemology and education, and Pritchard 2014 motivates the prospects for “extended” virtue epistemology for the philosophy of education.

                                                                                • Baehr, J. The Inquiring Mind: On Intellectual Virtues and Virtue Epistemology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

                                                                                  DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199604074.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                  Defends a novel approach to theorizing about intellectual character virtues and provides an analysis of several specific character virtues relevant to education, such as openmindedness.

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                                                                                  • Bevan, R. “Expanding Rationality: The Relation between Epistemic Virtue and Critical Thinking.” Educational Theory 59.2 (2009): 167–179.

                                                                                    DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-5446.2009.00312.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                    Explores the pedagogical implications of taking virtue epistemology as the philosophical foundation of educational theory. Argues that critical thinking should be expanded beyond rationalist criteria to focus on the process of inquiry.

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                                                                                    • Carter, J. A., and E. C. Gordon. “Openmindedness and Truth.” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 44.2 (2014): 207–224.

                                                                                      DOI: 10.1080/00455091.2014.923247Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                      Argues that embracing openmindedness as an intellectual virtue requires we reject epistemic value truth-monism, which is the thesis that a trait’s status as an epistemic or intellectual virtue is explained in terms of that trait’s connection with the aim of truth. Openmindedness is argued to be a virtue, by contrast, through its connection with the aim of understanding.

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                                                                                      • Hare, W. Open-mindedness and Education. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s Press-MQUP, 1993.

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                                                                                        Detailed study of open-mindedness and its place in education

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                                                                                        • Kotzee, B. “Education and ‘Thick’ Epistemology.” Educational Theory 61.5 (2011): 549–564.

                                                                                          DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-5446.2011.00420.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                          Draws from insights by Siegel and Hare to propose benefits of a “thick” approach to education and epistemology.

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                                                                                          • Macallister, J. “Virtue Epistemology and the Philosophy of Education.” Journal of Philosophy of Education 46.2 (2012): 251–270.

                                                                                            DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9752.2012.00851.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                            Proposes that developments in virtue epistemology may offer the resources to critique aspects of the debates (e.g., between Hirst and Carr) about how the philosophy of education ought to be carried out and by whom.

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                                                                                            • Pritchard, D. “Extended Cognition, Neuromedia and the Epistemology of Education.” In Educating for Intellectual Virtues. Edited by J. Baehr. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

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                                                                                              Motivates the plausibility of extended virtue epistemology, according to which technology which is out with the skin of the subject to nonetheless form a constitutive part of the subject’s cognitive processes. It is then claimed that such an approach has a number of attractive features, and some of its implications for the epistemology of education are explored.

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                                                                                              • Roberts, R., and W. Woods. Intellectual Virtues: An Essay in Regulative Epistemology. Oxford: Clarendon, 2007.

                                                                                                DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199283675.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                Detailed epistemological exploration of specific intellectual character traits such as love of knowledge, intellectual autonomy, intellectual generosity, and intellectual humility.

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                                                                                                Rationality, Critical Thinking, and Education

                                                                                                An important tradition of thought suggests that education should be concerned with the development of independent thinking on the part of the learner. The philosophy of education has given much attention to the nature of the independent thought that we want to develop through education, and efforts in this area in the 21st century are devoted to improve students’ “critical thinking” skills. Authors such as Glaser, Ennis, and Paul have identified basic critical thinking abilities (such as recognizing arguments, analyzing them, finding and criticizing unstated assumptions, etc.) and proposed methods for measuring and improving students’ critical thinking. Today, the field can be said to be divided between those who hold that critical thinking amounts to facility with (formal and informal) logic and those who identify critical thinking more closely with attitudes in thinking (such as reflexivity, criticality, originality, etc.). Some of the most important debates in the area center on whether critical thinking is culturally neutral and the extent to which philosophical logic can determine how critical thinking should be taught. Which view of critical thinking one holds will determine what one thinks educators should seek to develop in teaching for critical thinking. Facione 1990 provides the most widely accepted definition of critical thinking. Sanders and Moulenbelt 2011 provides an overview of alternative definitions, among them is the view in McPeck 1981 that critical thinking is not just one set of skills. Siegel 1988 is important for its attack on relativism and its championing of critical thinking as a universal aim in education, a theme also explained in Winch 2006. Bailin 1995 and Cuypers 2004 provide contributions to debates about critical thinking’s place in education. Halpern 2014 provides a detailed overview of the development, teaching, and testing of critical thinking.

                                                                                                • Bailin, S. “Is Critical Thinking Biased: Clarifications and Implications.” Educational Theory 45.2 (1995): 191–197.

                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-5446.1995.00191.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                  Discusses one important challenge to the idea of critical thinking: that the model of good thinking proposed by the critical thinking literature is biased in terms of gender and culture.

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                                                                                                  • Cuypers, S. “Critical Thinking, Autonomy and Practical Reason.” Journal of Philosophy of Education 38.1 (2004): 75–90.

                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1111/j.0309-8249.2004.00364.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                    Explores and criticizes Siegel’s approach to critical thinking. Focuses on the Kantian justification of critical thinking in terms of respect for persons that Siegel provides and holds that it clashes with Siegel’s Humean view of motivation to think critically.

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                                                                                                    • Facione, P. Critical Thinking: A Statement of Expert Consensus for Purposes of Educational Assessment and Instruction. Newark: American Philosophical Association, 1990.

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                                                                                                      In this influential report (commonly known as the “Delphi report”) a committee of the American Philosophical Association provides an expert consensus on the definition of critical thinking. Makes recommendations for its teaching and assessment.

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                                                                                                      • Halpern, D. F. Thought and knowledge: An introduction to critical thinking. 5th ed. New York: Psychology, 2014.

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                                                                                                        Influential handbook of critical thinking now in its fifth edition. Particularly notable for discussion of the psychology of critical thinking.

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                                                                                                        • McPeck, J. E. Critical Thinking and Education. New York: John Wiley, 1981.

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                                                                                                          In this book, McPeck voices one of the most important criticisms of the critical thinking tradition: that critical thinking is not a collection of general thinking skills, but rather a collection of subject-specific thinking skills.

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                                                                                                          • Sanders, M., and J. Moulenbelt. “Defining Critical Thinking: How Far Have We Come?” Inquiry 26.1 (2011): 38–46.

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                                                                                                            Gives a good historical account of the development of different models of critical thinking.

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                                                                                                            • Siegel, H. Educating Reason: Rationality, Critical Thinking and Education. London: Routledge, 1988.

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                                                                                                              In this influential book, Siegel argues that the main aim of education is to foster critical thinking in students. Siegel spends much time countering relativist and postmodern criticisms and establishing that critical thinking skills are of universal educational worth.

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                                                                                                              • Winch, C. Education, Autonomy and Critical Thinking. London: Routledge, 2006.

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                                                                                                                Analyzes the relationship between autonomy and critical thinking from an educational viewpoint. Explores the role of critical thinking in morality and politics and examines the role of critical thinking in preparing young people for autonomy.

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                                                                                                                Understanding and Education

                                                                                                                Understanding, construed as an epistemic state (e.g., as when one understands why something occurred, or when one understands particular subject matter) has enjoyed increased attention in mainstream epistemology, especially in the early 21st century. While the thought that understanding is just a kind of (propositional) knowledge—for example, propositional knowledge of causes—has enjoyed some popularity in the philosophy of science, this view is increasingly falling out of fashion in epistemology. And, in fact, one reason for this, highlighted by Pritchard 2013, is that achieving understanding plausibly involves a greater exercise of cognitive agency than does the attainment of knowledge. The author of Pritchard 2013 defends this suggestion by arguing that understanding, though not knowledge, essentially involves cognitive achievement, where cognitive achievement is understood as cognitive success (e.g., true belief) that is primarily creditable to the agent’s exercise of cognitive ability or virtue. With reference to this point, Pritchard argues that it is ultimately cognitive achievement, and thus understanding, which is the epistemic goal of education. Pritchard 2014 has expanded on this rationale and has suggested how extra-agential factors can in fact be exploited in order to facilitate, in pedagogical settings, the attainment of understanding. Like Pritchard, Elgin 1999 and Lynch 2014 have reached the conclusion that understanding is, in comparison with knowledge, an especially worthy aim. Elgin’s insight is that teaching should aim to foster not merely positive epistemic standings to true propositions but should also see that the student’s commitments mesh to form a mutually supportive, independently supported system of thought—an aim that is better understood as one of promoting understanding than promoting knowledge. Lynch 2014 reaches the view that understanding is especially valuable by appealing to a kind of “neuromedia” thought experiment: for example, suppose that the functions of your smartphone are miniaturized to a cellular level and accessible by your neural network. On such a hypothesis, even if it is conceivable that our knowledge can be “extended” through technological means in such a manner, Lynch suggests understanding by contrast would not come so easy. Finally, Smith and Siegel 2004 locate understanding, as an educational aim, in a pedagogical setting by exploring the matter of what teachers ought to do when understanding is achieved in the absence of belief, as when students purport to understand a theory while not believing the theory.

                                                                                                                • Elgin, C. Z. “Education and the Advancement of Understanding.” Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy 3 (1999): 131–140.

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                                                                                                                  Proposes supplanting the assumption that teaching aims at the advancement of knowledge with the view that teaching aims at the advancement of understanding, where one’s understanding is holistic and a matter of how one’s commitments mesh to form a mutually supportive, independently supported system of thought.

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                                                                                                                  • Lynch, M. “Neuromedia, Extended Knowledge and Understanding.” Philosophical Issues 24.1 (2014): 299–313.

                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1111/phis.12035Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                    Uses a “neuromedia” thought experiment to explore two questions: (1) To what extent does such technology challenge the idea that we might have more than one conception of knowledge? (2) What is the value of states that fit these conceptions (or types) of knowledge?

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                                                                                                                    • Pritchard, D. “Epistemic Virtue and the Epistemology of Education.” Journal of Philosophy of Education 47 (2013): 236–247.

                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1111/1467-9752.12022Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                      A continuum of cognitive agency is described, on which it is ultimately cognitive achievement, and thus understanding, which is the epistemic goal of education. This is contrasted with a view in which knowledge is the epistemic goal.

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                                                                                                                      • Pritchard, D. “Virtue Epistemology, Extended Cognition, and the Epistemology of Education.” Universitas: Monthly Review of Philosophy and Culture 478 (2014): 47–66.

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                                                                                                                        Argues that extra-agential factors can in fact be exploited in order to develop, in pedagogical settings, cognitive ability in a way that facilitates the attainment of understanding.

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                                                                                                                        • Smith, M. U., and H. Siegel. “Knowing, Believing, and Understanding: What Goals for Science Education?” Science and Education 13.6 (2004): 553–582.

                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1023/B:SCED.0000042848.14208.bfSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                          Provides a rationale for answering the question: what is a teacher to do when confronted with a student who says, “I understand that theory (e.g., evolution), but I don’t believe it”?

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                                                                                                                          Knowledge, Epistemic Value, and Education

                                                                                                                          A recent trend in mainstream epistemology, especially in the early 21st century, has been a kind of “revisionism” concerning the value of knowledge. The key strand, put forward most notably in Kvanvig 2003 and pursued further in Pritchard 2009, submits a negative and positive thesis. The negative thesis that knowledge is not as epistemically valuable as ordinarily assumed—that is, that knowledge is not (contrary to pretheoretical intuitions) epistemically valuable in a way that mere true belief (or mere Gettiered true belief that falls short of knowledge) is not; the corresponding positive revisionist insight is that what is distinctly epistemically valuable is understanding rather than knowledge. This revisionist trend—explored and criticized in detail by contributions to Haddock, et al. 2009—has direct implications for normative questions in the philosophy of education, in particular, by challenging the accounts of the aim of education that give primacy to knowledge acquisition. Such an account has been defended in Almond 2010. Hand 2009, by contrast, engages with a broader question about epistemic value—namely the epistemic value of theoretical activities; Hand argues that education is valuable in part because theoretical activity itself (by contrast to the attainment of epistemic states themselves) is valuable.

                                                                                                                          • Almond, B. “The Value of Knowledge.” In The Sage Handbook of Philosophy of Education. Edited by R. Bailey, R. Barrow, D. Carr, and C. McCarthy, 297–306. London: SAGE, 2010.

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                                                                                                                            Considers the value of educating for epistemic goods such as knowledge and wisdom. Asks whether the education system should aim to transmit useful or, instead, worthwhile knowledge and defends the value of knowledge in education against skeptical challenges arising from theories of social context and identity.

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                                                                                                                            • Haddock, A., A. Millar, and D. Pritchard, eds. Epistemic Value. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199231188.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                              Features leading epistemologists on the topic of epistemic value, and in particular, on philosophical problems connected to the value of knowledge.

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                                                                                                                              • Hand, M. “On the Worthwhileness of Theoretical Activities.” Journal of Philosophy of Education 43.S2 (2009): 109–121.

                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9752.2009.00732.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                Defends an instrumentalist argument for the worthwhileness of theoretical activities in the service of justify education, per se.

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                                                                                                                                • Kvanvig, J. The Value of Knowledge and the Pursuit of Understanding. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511498909Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                  This is the locus classicus in contemporary epistemology for the thesis that understanding is of greater epistemic value than knowledge.

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                                                                                                                                  • Pritchard, D. “Knowledge, Understanding and Epistemic Value.” In Epistemology. Royal Institute of Philosophy Lectures. Edited by A. O’Hear, 19–43. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

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                                                                                                                                    Defends a cognitive-achievement rationale for the distinctive epistemic value of understanding.

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                                                                                                                                    Knowledge-How, Expertise, and Education

                                                                                                                                    In curriculum studies, one important debate concerns whether the school curriculum should be structured around the transmission of educational content or should focus on inculcating skills (the skills/content debate). Due to the importance of this debate in studying the curriculum, one topic in epistemology that receives particular attention in education is the relationship between “knowledge that” and “knowledge how.” Within education, the debate takes two forms. Firstly, on the curricular macro level, the question exists whether the curriculum as a whole should be weighted toward theoretical subjects such as history, mathematics, science, and literature (content), or vocational subjects such as cookery, carpentry, engineering, or accounting (skills). Secondly, on the curricular micro level, it is a question within many subjects of what is more important to teach: disciplinary content (in history, e.g., the causes of the First World War or the consequences of the French Revolution) or disciplinary skills (e.g., analysis of historical documents or historical writing in the subject history). Understanding what sets apart theoretical- and skills-driven approaches to both these questions naturally invites consideration of the knowing that/knowing how distinction and of the related concept of expertise. Winch 2009 and Winch 2014 provide an overview of thinking about knowledge how in education and stresses the importance of Ryle’s work on knowledge how. Next to the influence of Ryle, Dreyfus and Dreyfus 1986 and its novice to expert model has been influential in shaping educators’ views on the development of expertise. Luntley 2009 and Winch 2010 are critical of Dreyfus’s account, with Winch 2010 emphasizing the importance of both tacit skill and explicit theoretical knowledge to knowledge how. Carter and Pritchard 2015 is an exploration of the value of knowledge how and its pertinence to the question of why knowledge how should be “educated for,” and Kotzee 2014a and Kotzee 2014b explore the implications of work on knowledge how and expertise for professional education.

                                                                                                                                    • Carter, J. A., and D. Pritchard. “Knowledge-How and Epistemic Value.” Australasian Journal of Philosophy (2015): 1–18.

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                                                                                                                                      Argues that knowledge-how is more epistemically valuable than knowledge-that, and on this basis, suggests that contrary to reductive intellectualism, knowledge-how is not reducible to knowledge-that.

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                                                                                                                                      • Dreyfus, H. L., and S. E. Dreyfus. Mind Over Machine: the Power of Human Intuition and Expertise in the Age of the Computer. New York: Free Press, 1986.

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                                                                                                                                        Ostensibly about the possibility of Artificial Intelligence, this book became best known in education for Dreyfus and Dreyfus’s stage model of the acquisition of expertise. Influential especially for the view (widely accepted in education) that expertise is tacit and cannot be taught explicitly.

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                                                                                                                                        • Kotzee, B. “Expertise, Fluency and Social Realism about Professional Knowledge.” Journal of Education and Work 27.2 (2014a): 161–178.

                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1080/13639080.2012.738291Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                          Criticizes ability- or process-based accounts of expertise in education. Holds that such theories depart from unwarranted skepticism about the possibility of expert knowledge and advocates, in their stead, a social realist conception of expertise.

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                                                                                                                                          • Kotzee, B. “Differentiating Forms of Professional Expertise.” In Knowledge, Expertise and the Professions. Edited by M. Young and J. Muller, 61–77. London: Routledge, 2014b.

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                                                                                                                                            Contrasts philosophical, psychological, and sociological approaches to expertise. Criticizes the influence of Dreyfus’s stage model in education and develops an account (drawing on work by Harry Collins) to articulate the importance of explicit and tacit knowledge to different forms of expertise.

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                                                                                                                                            • Luntley, M. “Understanding Expertise.” Journal for Applied Philosophy 26.4 (2009): 356–370.

                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-5930.2009.00468.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                              Luntley attacks the view (associated with Dreyfus and others and influential in professional education) that the knowledge of experts is qualitatively different from the knowledge of novices. Holds that what sets experts apart is rather the expert’s greater capacity to learn.

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                                                                                                                                              • Winch, C. “Gilbert Ryle on Knowing How and the Possibility of Vocational Education.” Journal of Applied Philosophy 26.1 (2009): 88–101.

                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-5930.2009.00425.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                Winch applies and defends a Rylean approach to knowing-how in the educational context.

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                                                                                                                                                • Winch, C. Dimensions of Expertise. London: Continuum, 2010.

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                                                                                                                                                  In this book, Winch discusses approaches to expertise in professional and general education.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Winch, C. “‘Know-how’ and Knowledge in the Professional Curriculum.” In Knowledge, Expertise and the Professions. Edited by M. Young and J. Muller, 47–60. London: Routledge, 2014.

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                                                                                                                                                    Considers whether professional education should employ a curriculum that prioritizes theoretical knowledge or learning outcomes. Sketches an account of professional education according to which subject knowledge and practical knowledge (or know-that and know-how) contribute together to “epistemic ascent” from novicehood to expertise.

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