Minds, Brains and Education

Journal of Philosophy of Education 42 (3-4):415-432 (2008)
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It is often argued that neuroscience can be expected to provide insights of significance for education. Advocates of this view are sometimes committed to ‘brainism’, the view (a) that an individual’s mental life is constituted by states, events and processes in her brain, and (b) that psychological attributes may legitimately be ascribed to the brain. This paper considers the case for rejecting brainism in favour of ‘personalism’, the view that psychological attributes are appropriately ascribed only to persons and that mental phenomena do not occur ‘inside’ the person but are aspects of her mode of engagement with the world. The paper explores arguments for personalism from Russian philosopher Evald Ilyenkov and a number of contemporary Western thinkers, including Peter Hacker and John McDowell. It is argued that, since plausible forms of personalism do not deny that brain functioning is a causal precondition of our mental lives, personalism is consistent with the claim that neuroscience is relevant to education, and not just to the explanation of learning disorders. Nevertheless, it is important that fascination with scientific innovation and technological possibility should not distort our conception of what education is or ought to be, leading us to portray education not as a communicative endeavour, but as an exercise in engineering.



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David Bakhurst
Queen's University

Citations of this work

Education and Autonomy.Sebastian Rödl - 2016 - Journal of Philosophy of Education 50 (1):84-97.
Neurophilia: Guiding Educational Research and the Educational Field?Paul Smeyers - 2016 - Journal of Philosophy of Education 50 (1):62-75.
Deneurologizing Education? From Psychologisation to Neurologisation and Back.Jan De Vos - 2014 - Studies in Philosophy and Education 34 (3):279-295.

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Mind and World.Huw Price & John McDowell - 1994 - Philosophical Books 38 (3):169-181.
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Authority and Estrangement: An Essay on Self-Knowledge.Richard Moran - 2004 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 69 (2):448-454.

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