Topic 3 Reconstructionism, Behaviorism and Existentialism in Education
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Describe the major world views of philosophies: reconstructionism, behaviorism, and existentialism; and
2. Identify the contributions of the major world views of philosophies (such as reconstructionism, behaviorism, and existentialism) to the field of education.
When it comes to teaching our students, what aspects will you bring into the classroom? What are some of the qualities that will help shape the way you teach your students? As a teacher, it is beneficial for you to have a firm knowledge of philosophy in education. Your views on such a topic will greatly affect the way you teach your students.
This topic discusses different types of educational philosophies that can used in the classroom, where they originated, how best to use them in your classroom, and which philosophies are best used in different types of learning scenarios. From each type of philosophy learned (reconstructionism, behaviorism, and existentialism), one can begin to organize his or her own personal educational philosophy. Educating yourself in the different types of educational philosophy is one step towards assuring that your teaching becomes more effective.
At some point, teachers, schools and administrators develop their own philosophies for education. Philosophy in the learning process gives learners and educators a basis on which to build knowledge. Which philosophy should your society adhere to? Explain and give examples.
Reconstructionism is a philosophical
theory holding that societies should continually reform themselves in order to
establish more perfect governments or social networks, thus social questions
will emerge as there are quests to create a
In other words, reconstructionism is a
philosophy that centers on the idea of
• Society is in need of constant reconstruction or change; and
change involves a reconstruction of education and the use of
Reconstructionists encourage others to
make necessary changes that will be beneficial to their future. These are
positive changes that will help make life
ideas in one form or another have existed throughout history. In his book, The
Republic, Plato forms a plan for a just state in which education is the
building material for a new and better society. Equally, Augustine, a Christian
philosopher, preached reconstructionist reforms to
make possible an ideal Christian state. Robert Owen and Edward Bellamy were a
part of the Industrial Revolution and appreciated the use of technology to
improve humanity throughout the world other than as a means of producing
wealth. Karl Marx received a doctorate in philosophy yet wrote extensively on
economics and history. According to Marx, education has long been used to
manipulate people into accepting the attitudes of the ruling class. However,
the hidden curriculum in school life can be used to overthrow the interests of
the ruling class. Hidden curriculum is defined as all activities that go
on as students learn subject matter, and the lessons that those other
activities convey about the value and the meaning of what the students are
learning. John Dewey saw education as a tool for immediate and continuous
change of individuals and societies. During the 1920s and 1930s, his philosophy
became identified with
8.1.1 Theodore Brameld
philosopher and visionary educator who developed the reconstructionist
in 1950 with the publication of Patterns of
Educational Philosophy: A Democratic Interpretation,
Brameld developed his cultural interpretation of four
philosophies of education: (1) essentialism, (2) perennialism,
(3) progressivism, and (4) reconstructionism. He viewed essentialism as an
educational philosophy concerned mainly with the conservation of culture; perennialism as centering on the classical thought of
ancient Greece and medieval Europe; progressivism as the philosophy of liberal,
experimental education; and reconstructionism as a
continued to refine his philosophy in his many publications. In 1965, a small
but influential book, Education as Power,
clearly and concisely outlines many of the major tenets of reconstructionism.
Education has two major roles: (1) to transmit culture and (2) to modify
culture. For instance, when American culture is in a state of crisis, the
second of these roles - that of modifying and innovating - becomes more
important. Reconstructionism, as Brameld affirmed,
all, reconstructionism is a philosophy of values, ends, and purposes, with a
democratically empowered world civilization as the central goal of education.
Social self-realization (the realization of the capacity of the self to measure
up to its fullest, most satisfying powers in cooperative relationship with
other selves) is the capstone of reconstructionist
theory and practice. Brameld also pays attention to
politics, human relations, religion, and the arts in his philosophy. A
commitment to existential humanism remains constant. Defensible partiality, a
Brameld's abiding interest in the concept of culture led him to write a scholarly volume, Cultural Foundations of Education: An Interdisciplinary Exploration (1957), that demonstrated his debt to influential anthropologists. One of BrameldÊs final books, The Teacher as World Citizen: A Scenario of the 21st Century (1976), provides a visionary outline and culmination of many of his lifelong hopes and beliefs. He wrote as if he was looking back from the eve of the year 2001, the teacher-narrator recalling global transformations of the preceding quarter century. Radical changes have occurred, especially the establishment of a World Community of Nations based on a global Declaration of Interdependence.
Brameld's conception of the utopian spirit as a realizable vision of what could and should be achieved was influenced greatly by many scholars. However, some critics found that Brameld's educational philosophy was too goal-centered and utopian while others were disturbed by his advocacy of teachers as social change activists. As others criticized his early interest in Marx, as well as his ongoing critique of the capitalist value system, Brameld's unpopular commitment in intercultural education and education for a world community in the 1950s was more widely embraced as multicultural and global education a half century later. (Text has been adapted from: http://education.stateuniversity.com)
8.1.2 George S. Counts
Counts (1889-1974), another prominent thinker of the reconstructionist
philosophy, recognized that education was the means of preparing people for
creating this new social order (please refer to Figure 8.2). He is a leading
spokesman for the social reconstructionist point of
view in American education and also an authority on the
from his concentration on Russian education, much of Counts' teaching and
research was devoted to understanding the school as a social institution, its
relations to other social institutions, and its potential for fostering social
All of this enhanced Counts' stature among the reconstructionists or the frontier group, as they were alternatively labeled, but also made him a prime target for the criticism of conservatives who viewed him as something of a communist sympathizer, bent on undermining the American way of life.
S. Counts adhered to reconstructionism as a philosophy of education. He
advocated the present and the future, not the classics of the past, in
developing the curriculum. There are numerous serious problems in society
presently which need identifying. Solutions need to be sought for these
problematic situations. It is necessary to achieve these solutions quickly,
since time can run out in solving the identified problems: unemployment, housing,
food for needy people, racial discrimination, and educational opportunities for
all. In addition, the school must reflect problems in society and take the lead
in working towards solutions. Classroom teachers have the capacity and
leadership to aid schools in taking the lead to improve society. The school
curriculum must emphasize problem-solving involving problems inherent in
society. Dividing the
• Teachers solely selecting objectives, learning activities, and appraisal procedures for students.
• Teachers sequencing experiences and activities for students.
• The use of precise measurable ends in teaching-learning situations.
• A classical curriculum emphasizing great ideas of the past.
• A conservative course of study which stresses a stable and static curriculum.
(Text has been adapted from: http://www.encyclopedia.com)
Summarise the main ideas of the following reconstructionists:
• Theodore Brameld
• George S. Counts
What role does reconstructionism play in society and school? Identify and discuss with regards to your society and school setting.
is not considered a philosophy in the same vein as idealism, realism, or
pragmatism. It is most often considered a psychological theory, a more
specialized and less comprehensive theory than a systematic philosophy.
Nevertheless, behaviourism has been given increasing
attention and acceptance in the field of education, so much so that in many
instances behaviourism has extended into areas
ordinarily considered the domain of philosophy. These
asserts that the only reality is the physical world that we discern through
careful and scientific observation. People and other animals are seen as
complex combinations of matter that act only in response to internally or
externally generated physical stimuli. We learn, for instance, to avoid
overexposure to heat through the impulses of pain through our nerves that is
Furthermore, behaviourist theorists believe that behaviour is shaped deliberately by forces in the environment and that the type of person and actions desired can be the product of design. In other words, behaviour is determined by others, rather than by the individual’s own free will. By carefully shaping desirable behaviour, morality and information is learned. Learners will acquire and remember responses that lead to satisfying after-effects. Repetition of a meaningful connection results in learning. If the student is ready for the connection, learning is enhanced; if not, learning is inhibited. Motivation to learn is the satisfying after-effect, or reinforcement.
Behaviourism is linked with empiricism, which stresses scientific information and observation, rather than subjective or metaphysical realities. Behaviourists search for laws that govern human behaviour, like scientists who look for patterns in empirical events. Change in behaviour must be observable; internal thought processes are not considered.
Behaviourism has its roots in the early 1900s in the work of the Russian experimental psychologist Ivan Pavlov (1848-1936) and the American psychologist , John Watson (1878-1958).
By refining and expanding their studies, Harvard professor B. F. Skinner (1904-1989) has emerged as the driving force behind the spread of behaviourism within modern American culture. Skinner developed the now-famous Skinner box which he used to train small animals through behavioural techniques (please refer to Figure 8.3). (Text has been adapted from: http://www.slc.sevier.org and http://ksuweb.kennesaw.edu)
8.2.1 Ivan Pavlov
Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (1849 - 1936) is widely known for first describing the phenomenon of classical conditioning (please refer to Figure 8.4). Ivan Pavlov’s research on using the reinforcement of a bell sound when food was presented to a dog, and finding that the sound alone would make a dog salivate after several presentations of the conditioned stimulus, was the beginning of behaviourist approaches.
occurs as a result of responses to stimuli in the environment that are
reinforced by adults and others, as well as from feedback from actions on
objects. Using Pavlov’s experiment, a teacher can help students learn by
conditioning them through identifying the desired behaviours
in measurable, observable terms, recording these behaviours
appropriate reinforcers for each desired behaviour, and providing the reinforcer as soon as the student displays the behaviour. For example, if children are supposed to raise hands to get called on, we might reinforce a child who raises his hand by using praise, such as, Thank you for raising your hand.
Pavlov’s work became recognized in the West, particularly through the writings
of John B. Watson, the idea of „conditioning‰ as an automatic form of learning
became a key concept in the developing specialism of
comparative psychology, and the general approach to psychology that underlie
it, behaviourism. Bertrand Russell was an enthusiastic
advocate of the importance
research on conditional reflexes greatly influenced not only science, but also
popular culture. The phrase Pavlov’s dog is often used to describe someone who
merely reacts to a situation rather than use critical thinking. According to a
pure behaviourist, human beings are shaped entirely
by their external environment. By changing a person’s environment, you will
change his or her thoughts, feelings, and behaviour.
Providing positive reinforcement whenever students perform a desired behaviour will help them learn to perform the behaviour on their own.
8.2.2 John B. Watson
Broadus Watson (1878 - 1958), an American psychologist, established the
psychological school of behaviourism after doing
research on animal behaviour (please refer to Figure
8.5). He also conducted the controversial Little Albert
Watson hunted for a different advisor and settled on functionalist
psychologist, James Rowland Angell and a
physiologist, Henry Donaldson. Watson had also worked on the physiology of the
dog’s brain with Jacques Loeb, one of the most famous biologists in the United
States at that time and a major proponent of the view that life and the behaviour of living organisms could be explained
entirely through chemistry and physics
without recourse to a
Through the combined influence of Dewey, Angell, Donaldson and Loeb, Watson developed a highly descriptive, objective approach to the analysis of behaviour that he would later call behaviourism. In 1924, Watson defined behaviourism as:
Before that, in 1913, Watson published an article called Psychology as the Behaviourist Views It (occasionally called The Behaviourist Manifesto) describing the major features of his new philosophy of psychology termed behaviourism. The first paragraph of the article concisely explains Watson’s behaviourist position:
as the behaviourist views it is a purely objective
experimental branch of natural science. Its theoretical goal is the prediction
and control of behaviour. Introspection forms no
essential part of its methods, nor is the scientific value of its data
dependent upon the readiness with which they lend themselves to interpretation
in terms of consciousness. The behaviourist, in his
efforts to get a unitary scheme of animal response, recognizes no dividing
The article became well-known to psychologists generally after it started to be widely cited in introductory psychology textbooks in the 1950s. The article is also notable for its strong defense of the objective scientific status of applied psychology, which at the time was considered to be much inferior to the established structuralist experimental psychology.
his behaviourism, Watson put the emphasis on external
behaviour of people and their reactions on given
situations, rather than the internal, mental state of those people. In his
opinion, the analysis of behaviours and reactions was
the only objective method to get insight about human actions. This point of
view, combined with the complementary ideas of determinism, evolutionary continuism, and empiricism, has contributed to what is now
conducted the Little Albert experiment in 1920, reputed to be one of the most
controversial experiments ever
He had no fear of the white rat and was even comfortable picking the rat up while playing with it. The next time the rat was given to Albert, he did exactly the same thing. However, this time, a loud noise using a metal pipe and a hammer was made. The noise was so sudden and loud that it made little Albert cry. They did the same thing many times. Finally, when they gave Albert the rat without the noise, the child would cry at the mere sight of the animal. Next, they introduced a white rabbit and as soon as Albert saw the animal, he began to cry. They gave him a Santa Claus mask which also made him cry. Little Albert was conditioned to cry at the sight of the white rat, but in the process, he made the connection that anything white and furry would lead to a loud noise. This experiment gives us much insight into the parameters of the human mind.
Little Albert experiment made Watson announce that as far as behaviourists are concerned, there was nothing within the
organism to develop. If one started with a healthy body at birth, he continued,
it would be possible through proper behavioural
conditioning to make a person „a genius, a cultured gentleman, a rowdy, or a
thug. This is encapsulated in Watson’s twelve
Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors. I am going beyond my facts and I admit it, but so have the advocates of the contrary and they have been doing it for many thousands of years. (Behaviourism, 1930, p. 82).
Watson was even more materialistic than previous behaviourists. He thought that the major function of the nervous system is simply to coordinate senses with motor responses. Hence, the brain is only a part of the nervous system and not the seat of mind or consciousness or a self-active entity. He considered that the senses not only gain knowledge of the world but also are instruments in guiding activity. In denying mentalistic ideas of mind and consciousness, Watson also declined such concepts as purpose, feeling, satisfaction, and free will because they are not observable and as a result not capable of scientific treatment or measurement.
8.2.3 Behaviourism and Positivism
desire for giving credibility only to direct observable things set a pattern
for those who came after him in the field of behaviourism.
E. L. Thorndike was inclined towards Watson’s viewpoint when Watson announced
that anything that exists, exists in some quantity
capable of being measured. Dazzlingly, this kind of thinking in psychology
corresponds somewhat with
All knowledge comes from positive information of observable experience. Scientific methods are the best way of achieving this. All else is metaphysics.
Positivism originated out of the French Enlightenment. It was established by a French philosopher named Auguste Comte who sought to replace the brainpower approach of rationalism by leveraging the principles of the natural sciences such as physics, chemistry and biology. At the time of Comte, science was having a huge impact and was steadily replacing religion as the key authority for knowledge about what was true or false. Even today, when something is pronounced scientific, it is generally held to be irrefutable.
roots of positivism lie particularly with empiricism, which works only with
observable facts, seeing that beyond this is the realm of logic and
mathematics. The basic principle of positivism is that all factual knowledge is
based on the positive information gained from observable experience; therefore,
any ideas beyond this realm of demonstrable fact are metaphysical. Only analytic
statements are allowed to be known as true through reason alone. For example,
Comte and positivism had influenced thinkers to use science in devising social policy, and behaviourists followed this tradition. Contemporary behaviourists are heavily influenced by Watson's belief that through the use of scientific conditioning, virtually any kind of person can be produced from a reasonably healthy child.
school of thought named logical positivism emerged when modern positivism began
to show more interest in the logic and language of scientific concepts. Logical
positivism attempted to make philosophy more rigorous by creating criteria for
evaluating the truth or falsity of certain philosophical statements. Its main
criteria for any statement is verifiability, which comes from
Craver (2008) assert that the connection of positivism and behaviourism
is where the behaviourist seeks a language framework
that more accurately reflects the facts of behaviour.
Rather than using the concept of self to signify personal identity or the
characteristics of an individual, behaviourists speak
of the conditioned or reinforced behaviours. The
Together with their concern for more linguistic accuracy, logical positivists have coined the principle of verification; that no statement should be taken as truthful unless it can be verified empirically or at least until it is capable of being verified. The behaviourist, mindful of careless linguistic and logical statements, also seeks to avoid such mistakes. Behaviourists maintain that observable, factual behaviour and environmental conditions do exist, and they must be explained in objective, logical, and accurate terms. (Text has been adapted from: http://changingminds.org)
8.2.4 B. F. Skinner
Frederic Skinner (1904 - 1990) was an American psychologist and advocate for
social reform (please refer to Figure 8.7).
behaviourism is a philosophy developed by Skinner
that underlies the experimental analysis of behaviour
approach to psychology. Radical behaviourism proposes
behaviourism inherits from behaviourism
the position that the science of behaviour is natural
science, a belief that animal behaviour can be
studied profitably and compared with human behaviour,
a strong emphasis on the environment as cause of behaviour,
and a desire for operationalizing. Its principal
differences are an emphasis on operant conditioning, use of
Radical behaviourism embraces the genetic and biological endowment and ultimately evolved nature of the organism, while simply asserting that behaviour is a distinct field of study with its own value. From this two neglected points emerge radical behaviourism. Radical behaviourism does not involve the claim that organisms are tabula rasa without genetic or physiological endowment.
Skinner’s psychological work focused on operant conditioning, with emphasis on the schedule of reinforcement as independent variable, and the rate of responding as dependent variable. Operant techniques have made extensive use of reinforcement. Roughly speaking, in operant conditioning, an operant is actively emitted and produces changes in the world, that is, produces consequences that alter the likelihood that the behaviour will occur again.
Operant conditioning has two basic purposes: (1) increasing or (2) decreasing the probability that a specific behaviour will occur in the future, which are accomplished by adding or removing one of two basic types of stimuli: (1) positive or pleasant or (2) negative or aversive:
• If the probability of a behaviour is increased as a consequence of the presentation of a stimulus, that stimulus is a positive reinforcer: R+;
• If the probability of a behaviour is increased as a consequence of the withdrawal of a stimulus, that stimulus is a negative reinforcer: R-;
• If the probability of a behaviour is decreased as a consequence of the presentation of a stimulus, that stimulus is a positive punisher: P+; and
• If the probability of a behaviour is decreased as a consequence of the withdrawal of a stimulus, that stimulus is a negative punisher or response cost punishment: P-.
Negative reinforcement and punishment are often confused. It is important to note that a reinforcer is anything that increases the likelihood that a behaviour will happen again. A punisher will always decrease behaviour. Operant conditioning tells something about the future of the organism: that in the future, the reinforced behaviour will be likely to occur more often.
Skinner wrote Beyond Freedom and Dignity in 1971 that argued to facilitate entrenched belief in free will and the moral autonomy of the individual, which Skinner referred to as dignity, hinders the prospect of using scientific methods to modify behaviour for the purpose of building a happier and better organized society. Skinner attempted to promote his philosophy of science, the technology of human behaviour, his conception of determinism, and what he calls as cultural engineering. Skinner argues that a technology of behaviour is possible and that it can be used to help solve currently pressing human issues such as over-population and warfare:
Almost all major problems involve human behaviour, and they cannot be solved by physical and biological technology alone. What is needed is a technology of human behaviour.
also creates for a more precise definition of freedom, one that allows for his
conception of determinism; action that is free from
certain kinds of control, and speaks to the conventional notion of freedom by
disputing against autonomous man. Skinner notes that the forces of freedom and
dignity have led to many positive advances in the human condition, but may now
to Skinner, dignity is the process by which people are given credit for their
actions and note that credit is typically a function of the conspicuousness of
control. We give less or no credit, or blame, to those who are overtly coached,
compelled, prompted or otherwise not appearing to be producing actions
spontaneously. Skinner saw punishment as the logical consequence of an
unscientific analysis of behaviour as well as the
tradition of freedom and
The picture which emerges from a scientific analysis is not of a body with a person inside, but of a body which is a person in the sense that it displays a complex repertoire of behaviour. . . What is being abolished is autonomous man - the inner man, the homunculus: very small human being, the possessing demon, the man defended by the literatures of freedom and dignity. His abolition has long been overdue. . . Science does not dehumanize man, it de-homunculizes him.
asserted that positive reinforcement is more effective at changing and
establishing behaviour than punishment, with obvious
implications for the widespread practice of rote or repetition learning and
punitive or corrective discipline in education. He also propose
that the main thing people learn from being punished is how to avoid
punishment. According to Skinner there are five main obstacles in learning:
people have a fear of failure; the task is not broken
(a) What is behavior? How do behaviorists explain behavior?
(b) What is the difference between a reinforcer and a reward?
(c) Behaviorists use a lot of punishment. Do they actually do this? Explain.
In your opinion, is the Little Albert experiment ethical? Discuss.
often treated like a philosophical school of thought, it would be more accurate
to describe existentialism as a trend or tendency that can be found throughout
the history of philosophy. Basically, existentialists focus primarily on matters
such as choice, individuality, subjectivity, freedom, and the nature of existence
itself. The nature of reality for existentialists is subjective, and lies within
the individual. The physical world has no inherent meaning outside of
should not accept anyone else.s predetermined
philosophical system; rather, we must take responsibility for deciding who we
are. The focus is on freedom, the development of authentic individuals, as we
make meaning of our lives. In brief, existentialism is a twentieth century
philosophy concerned with human existence, finding self, and the meaning of
life through free will, choice, and personal responsibility. The belief that
people are searching to find out who and
Existentialism then stresses that a person’s judgment is the determining factor for what is to be believed rather than by religious or secular world values. Among the major philosophers identified as existentialists are Soren Kierkegaard and Jean-Paul Sartre.
8.3.1 Soren Kierkegaard
Kierkegaard (1813 -
1855) was from a wealthy and prominent merchant family in
However, Kierkegaard chose not to follow the path in life to which he had seemed be directed; he decided that he would not put himself forward for ordination as a Lutheran minister. In his journal wrote in 1935, he said that:
“the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find
the idea for which I can live and die”. Kierkegaard was primarily a philosopher who
asked searching questions as to how best, that precious and rare thing, a human
life, ought to be lived. He himself used the terms existential and
existentialism in relation to his philosophisings,
his heartfelt view was that life, existence, in all its aspects was subjective
and ambiguous. Philosophy was seen as an expression of an intensely
In one of Kierkegaard’s earliest work in 1843, titled Either/Or, suggested that people might effectively choose to live within either of two existence spheres, that he called the aesthetic and the ethical spheres. Aesthetical lives were lives lived in search of such things pleasure, novelty, and romantic individualism.
Kierkegaard thought that such pleasure, novelty, and romantic individualism
would eventually tend to decay or become meaningless and this would inevitably
lead to much boredom and dire frustration. On the other hand, ethical lives mean
as being lived very much in line with a sense of duty to observe societal and
confessional obligations. Such a life would be easy, in some ways, to
live, yet would also involve much compromise of several genuinely human
faculties and potentials. Such compromise would inevitably mean that human
integrity would tend to be eroded although lives seemed to be progressing in a
bourgeois-satisfactory way. Thus, what sort of person a person tended to become
was very dependent on the life choices they made and the
his later works he suggested that there was a third, religious, sphere where people
accepted that they could live in the truth that they were individual before the
eternal to which they belonged. By living in this truth people could achieve a
full unity of purpose with all other people who were also, individually, living
in the same truth. This is the choice that he made for himself in his own
8.3.2 Jean-Paul Sartre
Charles Aymard Sartre (1905 - 1980), commonly known
as Jean-Paul Sartre, was one of the leading figures in French philosophy and
existentialism (please refer to Figure 8.9). He was
a between the principles of existentialism and the more practical concerns of
social and political struggle, Sartre wrote not only philosophical treatises
but also novels, stories, plays, and political pamphlets. Sartre's
philosophical influences clearly include Descartes, Kant, Marx, Husserl, and Heidegger. Employing the methods of
descriptive phenomenology to new
addition, in the lecture Existentialism is a Humanism of
1946, Sartre described the human condition in summary form: freedom entails
total responsibility, in the face of which we experience anguish, forlornness
- lonely and miserable, and
despair; thus genuine human dignity can be achieved only in our active
acceptance of these emotions. Sartre asked the question: Are all humanists also
existentialists? which then he answered that it is not necessarily since there
“I have been reproached for suggesting that existentialism is a form of humanism: people have said to me, “But you have written in your Nausée that the humanists are wrong, you have even ridiculed a certain type of humanism, why do you now go back upon that?”
In reality, the word humanism has two very different meanings:
may understand by humanism a theory which upholds man as the endin- itself and as the supreme value. Humanism in this
sense appears, for instance, in Cocteau’s story Round the World in 80 Hours, in
which one of the characters declares, because he is flying over mountains in an
airplane, “Man is magnificent!” This signifies that although I, personally,
have not built aeroplanes I have the benefit of those
particular inventions and that I, personally, being a man, can consider myself
responsible for, and honored by, achievements that are peculiar to some men. It
is to assume that we can ascribe value to man according to the most
distinguished deeds of certain men. That
kind of humanism is absurd, for only the dog or the horse would be in a
position to pronounce a general judgment upon man and declare that he is magnificent,
which they have never been such fools as to do - at least, not as far as I
know. But neither is it admissible that a man should pronounce judgment upon
Man. Existentialism dispenses with any judgment of this sort: an existentialist
will never take man as the end, since man is still to be determined. And we
have no right to believe that humanity is something to which we could set up a
cult, after the manner of Auguste Comte. The cult of
humanity ends in Comtian humanism, shut-in upon itself, and - this must be
Sartre added by revealing that:
there is another sense of the word, of which the fundamental meaning is this:
Man is all the time outside of himself: it is in projecting and losing himself
beyond himself that he makes man to exist; and, on the other band, it is by
pursuing transcendent aims that he himself is able to exist.
Since man is thus self-surpassing, and can grasp objects only
in relation to his self surpassing, he is himself the heart and center of his
transcendence.” Besides, he said that: “there
is no other universe except the human universe, the universe of human
subjectivity. This relation of transcendence as constitutive of man - not in
the sense that God is transcendent, but in the sense of self surpassing, with
subjectivity - in such a sense that man is not shut up in himself but forever
present in a human universe - it is this that we call existential humanism.
This is humanism, because we remind man that there is
find that Sartre rejects any connection between humanism and existentialism if
humanism means putting humanity on a pedestal and declaring that, because of
the achievement of a few individuals, all human beings are thereby exalted.
This is not to deny those achievements or even to deny that any individuals
could achieve similar things, on the contrary, this is merely the insistence
that no one is made better by anything other than their own actions. Finally,
the key for existentialists is the ability of people to make the proper choices
in their lives. There is no single human nature which limits us in what we can
do and according to Sartre, we are all radically free and capable of doing
whatever they want. It is the affirmation of humanity’s freedom which, for
Summarise the main ideas of the following existentialists:
• Soren Kierkegaard
• Jean-Paul Sartre
(a) In your own words, define existentialism.
(b) Can we really live an authentic existential life? Analyse and explain.
(c) Jean-Paul Sartre said: Man is nothing else but what he makes for of himself. Discuss and elaborate on its meaning.
8.4 RECONSTRUCTIONISM, BEHAVIOURISM AND EXISTENTIALISM IN PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION
Finally, we will consider in this section how these various philosophies apply in the field of education. This section consists of:
• Reconstructionism in philosophy of education
• Behaviourism in philosophy of education
• Existentialism in philosophy of education
8.4.1 Reconstructionism in Philosophy of Education
Reconstructionism is the changing of society, education, and using educational methods to make a social change. Changes in society need to occur quite often to keep up with the demands of the world. People turn to education to assist them with making a change. Reconstructionists encourage others to make necessary changes that will be beneficial to their future. These are positive changes that will help make life better.
Table 8.1 explains the role of the reconstructionism philosophy with regards to education:
Table 8.1: Reconstructionism in Philosophy of Education
8.4.2 Behaviourism in Philosophy of Education
theorists believe that behaviour is shaped deliberately
by forces in the environment and that the type of person and actions desired
can be the product of design. In other words, behaviour
is determined by others, rather than by our own free will. By carefully shaping
desirable behaviour, morality and information is
learned. Learners will acquire and remember responses that lead to satisfying
aftereffects. Repetition of a meaningful connection results in
Table 8.2 give details on the role of the behaviourism philosophy with regards to education:
Table 8.2: Behaviourism in Philosophy of Education
Source: http://www.mc.edu/campus/users/ATripp/index_files/trippaprilbehaviourismresearchpaper.doc and http://www.wordmp3.com/gs/behaviourism.htm
8.4.3 Existentialism in Philosophy of Education
to education, the subject matter of existentialist classrooms should be a
matter of personal choice. Teachers view the individual as an entity within a
social context in which the learner must confront others views to clarify his
or her own. Character development emphasizes individual responsibility for
decisions. Real answers come from within the individual, not from outside
Table 8.3 give explanation on the role of the behaviourism philosophy with regards to education:
Table 8.3: Existentialism in Philosophy of Education
Source: http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/ed416/PP2.html and http://www.ijot.com/papers/slater_educational_philosophies.pdf
How do the following philosophies apply in philosophy of education:
• Reconstructionism is a philosophical theory holding that societies should continually reform themselves in order to establish more perfect governments or social networks, thus social questions will emerge as there are quests to create a better society and worldwide democracy.
• Brameld urged that schools become a powerful force for social and political change.
• George S. Counts recognized that education was the means of preparing people for creating this new social order.
• Behaviourism asserts that the only reality is the physical world that we discern through careful and scientific observation.
• To a behaviourist, there is no such thing as free will or the autonomously acting person; such ideas are only myths that may make us feel better but do not correspond to scientific observation.
• Pavlov is widely known for first describing the phenomenon of classical conditioning.
• According to Pavlov, learning occurs as a result of responses to stimuli in the environment that are reinforced by adults and others, as well as from feedback from actions on objects.
• Watson put the emphasis on external behaviour of people and their reactions on given situations, rather than the internal, mental state of those people. In his opinion, the analysis of behaviours and reactions was the only objective method to get insight in the human actions.
• Watson conducted the Little Albert experiment in 1920, communicated to be one of the most controversial concern in psychology. The goal of the experiment was to show how principles of, at the time recently discovered, classical conditioning could be applied to condition fear of a white rat into Little Albert, an 11-month-old boy.
• Behaviourists preserve that observable, factual behaviour and environmental conditions do exist, and they must be explained in objective, logical, and accurate terms.
• Skinner invented the operant conditioning chamber, innovated his own philosophy of science called radical behaviourism, and founded his own school of experimental research psychology - the experimental analysis of behaviour.
• Skinner asserted that positive reinforcement is more effective at changing and establishing behaviour than punishment, with obvious implications for the widespread practice of rote or repetition learning and punitive or corrective discipline in education.
• Existentialists focus primarily on matters such as choice, individuality, subjectivity, freedom, and the nature of existence itself. The nature of reality for existentialists is subjective, and lies within the individual. The physical world has no inherent meaning outside of human existence. Individual choice and individual standards rather than external standards are central. Existence comes before any definition of what we are. We define ourselves in relationship to that existence by the choices we make.
• Kierkegaard was primarily a philosopher who asked searching questions as to how best, that precious and rare thing, a human life, ought to be lived.
• Sartre devotes particular concern to emotion as a spontaneous activity of consciousness projected onto reality.
• According to Sartre, we are all radically free and capable of doing whatever they want.
• People turn to education to assist them with making a change. Reconstructionists encourage others to make necessary changes that will be beneficial to their future.
• Behaviourist theorists believe that behaviour is shaped deliberately by forces in the environment and that the type of person and actions desired can be the product of design. Learners will acquire and remember responses that lead to satisfying aftereffects. Repetition of a meaningful connection results in learning. If the student is ready for the connection, learning is enhanced.
• Related to education, the subject matter of existentialist classrooms should be a matter of personal choice. Teachers view the individual as an entity within a social context in which the learner must confront others’ views to clarify his or her own.
Articleworld.org(php). Reconstructivism. http://www.articleworld.org/index.php/Reconstructivism. Retrieved 2008-04-26.
123exp-beliefs.org. Reconstructivism. http://www.123exp-beliefs.com/t/00804411470/. Retrieved 2008-04-26.
Brameld, T. (1971). Patterns of educational philosophy: Divergence and convergence
in culturological perspective.
Brameld, T. (1976). The teacher as world citizen: A scenario of the 21st century.
Brameld, T. Archival Papers.
Special Collections of the Bailey/Howe
Blumenfeld, S. L. (1984). NEA: Trojan horse in American education. The Paradigm Company.
George S. Counts. Encyclopedia of World Biography. Thomson Gale. 2004.
Retrieved September 01, 2009 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3404701538.html
postscript. Tr. David F. Swenson and Walter Lowrie.
Fear and trembling.
Tr. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong. Princeton:
Ozmon, H. A. & Craver, S. M. (2008). Philosophical foundations of education (8th
J. P. (1967). Baudelaire. Tr. Martin Turnell.
J. P. (1976). Critique of dialectical reason I: Theory of practical ensembles.
Tr. Alan Sheridan-Smith.
J. P. (2007). Existentialism is a
humanism. Tr. Carol Macomber.
J. P. (1959).
Tr. Lloyd Alexander.
J. P. (1955). No exit, and
three other plays.
J. P. (1988). What is literature?
Watson, J. B. (1913). Psychology as the behaviourist views it. Psychological Review, 20, 158-177.
J. B. (1914).
An introduction to comparative psychology.
Watson, J. B. (1916). Behaviour and the concept of mental disease. Journal of Philosophy, 13, 589-597.
J. B. (1919).
the standpoint of a behaviourist.
Watson, J. B. (1920). Is thinking merely the action of language mechanisms? British Journal of Psychology, 11, 87-104.
J. B. (1924).
Watson, J. B. & Rayner, R. (1920). Conditioned emotional reactions. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 3, 1-14.
Created on Nov 12, 2010 and edited last 13 November, 2010by Pengendali@2006