Means-End Reciprocity and the Aims of Education Debate

Authors
Guy Axtell
Radford University
Abstract
In the centennial year of John Dewey’s classic, Democracy and Education (1916), this paper revisits his thesis of the reciprocity of means and ends, arguing that it remains of central importance for debate over the aims of education. The paper provides a Dewey-inspired rebuttal of arguments for an ‘ultimate aim,’ but balances this with a development of the strong overlaps between proponents of pragmatism, intellectual virtues education (Jason Baehr) and critical thinking education (Harvey Siegel). Siegel’s ‘Kantian’ justification of critical thinking as an ultimate aim is critiqued, and contrary to Siegel’s ‘generalist’ focus on logic, the paper concludes with specific suggestions for how the study of ecological rationality and dual-process theories (Gerd Gigerenzer; Keith Stanovich and others) should impact how we teach for critical thinking dispositions.
Keywords aims of education  John Dewey  means and ends  critical thinking  virtue epistemology  pragmatism
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