Waking (To) Thinking Being: A Study of Education, Metaphysics, Mind, and Language
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This dissertation articulates the basic aims and achievements of education. It recognizes language as central to thinking, and philosophy and education as belonging profoundly to one another. The first step is to show that although philosophy can no longer claim to dictate the foundations of knowledge or of disciplines of inquiry, it still offers an exceptionally general level of self-understanding. Education is equally general and faces a similar crisis of self-identity, of coming to terms with reality. Language is the medium of thought and the repository of historical mind; so a child’s acquisition of language is her acquisition of rational freedom. This marks a metaphysical change: no longer merely an animal, she comes to exercise her powers of rationality, transcending her environment by seeking and expressing reasons for thinking and doing. She can think about herself in relation to the universe, hence philosophize and educate others in turn. The discussion then turns to the historical nature of language. The thinking already embedded in language always anticipates further questioning. Etymology serves as a model for philosophical understanding, and demonstrates how philosophy can continue to yield insights that are fundamental, but not foundational, to human life. The etymologies of some basic educational concepts disclose education as a leading out and into the midst of Being. The philosophical approach developed in previous chapters applies to the very idea of an educational aim. Discussion concerning the substantiality of educational ideals results in an impasse: one side recommends an open-ended understanding of education’s aims; the other insists on a definitive account. However, educational ideals exhibit a conceptual duality: the fundamental achievements of education, such as rational freedom, are real; but how we should understand them remains an open question. The penultimate chapter investigates philosophical thinking as the fulfillment of rational freedom, whose creative insights can profoundly transform our everyday activities. That this transformative self-understanding is without end suggests the basic aims of education are unheimlich. The dissertation concludes with speculative reflection on the shape and nature of language, and with the suggestion that through education reality awakens to itself.