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The relation of education for autonomy and education for morality : implications for debates over educational aims Bigari, James


In this dissertation I analyze the relationship between education for autonomy and education for morality, and assess the implications of this analysis for debates between liberal, communitarian, and fundamentalist philosophies of education. A conceptual analysis of education based on R. S. Peters’ later work posits education as the expansion and deepening of awareness of those aspects of the human condition that are of particular relevance for a given socio-historical situation. In this sense, education can be conceptualized as the development of excellent perceivers of the human condition. I then posit nine fundamental awareness-promoting capacities whose development will be a necessary part of education: the five senses, critical thinking, empathy, imagination, memory, self-awareness, concentration, intuition, and language. Drawing upon an expanded account of Eamonn Callan’s conception of autonomy, I propose an integrative account of education for autonomy that includes social conditions, and educational and caregiving practices that facilitate autonomy. Drawing upon work in moral psychology, I conduct an analysis of the degree to which these elements of education for autonomy contribute to or hinder moral development. I conclude that education for autonomy and education for morality are mutually interdependent, and any overemphasis of one to the detriment of the other will be self-defeating. Finally, I argue that this analysis reveals the feasibility of liberal and communitarian philosophies of education that are balanced in their advocating of both morality and autonomy as educational aims, but reveals fundamentalist philosophies of education to be problematic insofar their stated educational aims are incompatible, and their methods partially self-defeating. Conceptual limitations of this study and areas in need of further research are discussed.

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