Philosophy of Education for the 21st Century The_Projects_of _Heidegger_and_Wittgenstein

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Michael DWYER, Yasushy MARUYAMA & Haroldo FONTAINE
BAJO PALABRA . Revista de Filosofía II Época, Nº 6 (2011 ):83-96


Philosophy of Education for the
21st Century: The Projects of
Heidegger and Wittgenstein

Filosofía de la educación para el siglo XX:
los proyectos de Heidegger y Wittgenstein

Michael DW YER 1, Yasushy MARUY AMA 2 and Haroldo FONTAINE 3

Recibido: 30/11 /20 10 Aprobado: 04/03/2011


Basándose en una redefinición de la filosofía que relega las preocupaciones
epistemológicas a un asunto menor que es mejor abandonar, este ensayo examina las
principales funciones y proyectos que los filósofos de la educación encontraron en Ludwig
Wittgenstein y en Martin Heidegger. Sus proyectos –como el método de Übersicht de
Wittgenstein y la solicitud y la deconstrucción de la historia de la ontología de Heidegger -
son de especial importancia para la filosofía de la educación. Su promesa consiste en la
apertura de canales de comunicación y en la creación de la posibilidad para dialogar.

Pala bras clave: Übersicht , Ser y Tiempo , filosofía de la educación , solicitud ,
deconstrucción , historia de la ontología .

1 Florida State University, United States of America. † 2 Hiroshima University, Japan. 3 The University of the South - Sewanee, United States of America.

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Based on a redefinition of philosophy that relegates epistemological concerns to those
of a minor issue best left alone, this essay examines the major roles and projects for
philosophers of education found in Ludwig Wittgenstein and Martin Heidegger. Their
projects — viz., Wittgenstein‘s method of Übersicht and Heidegger‘s solicitude and
deconstruction of the history of ontology — are of particular importance to philosophy of
education. Their promise lies in opening channels of communication and creating the
possibility for dialogue.

Keywords: Übersicht, Sein und Zeit , philosophy of education , solicitude , deconstruction ,
history of ontology.

1. Introductio n

In the 20 th century, there was a decided change in the direction of philosophy — indeed, a
revolution: epistemology, understood as the search for ultimate Truth, and which had
largely ruled the day for the last 2,500 years, was abandoned. By the search for ‗ultimate
Truth‘ we mean the quest to find an absolutely certain and immovable foundation upon
which to base any and all claims ‗to know‘ anything whatsoever. Kurt Gödel, Ludwig
Wittgenstein, and Martin Heidegger were the three principal architects of this revolution,
i.e., they abandoned said search because they considered it impossible to complete. Their
work is significant for educational practice because it enables teachers and students to
engage in a form of critical thinking, which we discuss below, that creates the possibility
for elevating one‘s consciousness above Tradition. 4
Gödel‘s incompleteness theorems put the final nails in the coffin of the search for
ultimate Truth and buried it. His work belongs to the branch of mathematics known as set
theory , which ― studies the properties of sets, [which are] fundamental objects used to define
all other concepts in mathematics.‖ 5 In short, set theory is foundational for mathematics.
His work was a response to Bertrand Russell‘s and Alfred North Whitehead‘s Principia
Mathematica , which was
―[T]he most nearly (but, as Gödel showed, by no means entirely) successful attempt to establish
axioms that would provide a rigorous basis for all mathematics…. [Gödel showed] that within any
rigidly logical mathematical system there are propositions (or questions) that cannot be proved or
disproved on the basis of the axioms within that system, and that, therefore, it is uncertain that the
basic axioms of arithmetic will not give rise to contradictions‖. 6

4 ―Tradition‖ is ―a morality, a mode of living tried and proved by long experience and testing, at length enters consciousness as a law, as dominating — And therewith the entire group of related values and states enters into it: it becomes venerable, unassailable, holy, true; it is part of its development that its origin should be forgotten — That is a sign it has become master — Exactly the same thing could have happened with the [Arist otelian] categories of reason‖ Nietzsche, F. , The Will to Power , trans. W. Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale, New York, Vintage Books, 1968, pp. 277 -278 . On page 43 of Being and Time , in the first paragraph, it is clear that Heidegger inherited this problematic for his fu ndamental ontology —indeed, for Being and Time —from the just -quoted fragment, viz., p. 514. 5 Wright , J., ed., The New York Times Guide to Essential Knowledge , New York , St. Martin‘s Press, 2004 , p. 393. 6 Gödel, K., Encyclopædia Britannica , Ultimate Refere nce Suite , Chicago, Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011.

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As we have said, set theory is foundational for mathematics. The foundations of
mathematics is ―[T]he study of the logical and philosophical basis of mathematics, including whether the axioms
of a given system ensure its completeness and its consistency. Because mathematics has served as
a model for rational inquiry in the West [including the quest for ultimate Truth, as we have called
it] and is used extensively in the sciences, foundational studies have far -reaching consequences
for the reliability and extensibility of rati onal thought itself‖. 7

Because Gödel showed that the axioms of any given mathematical system cannot ensure
its completeness and its consistency, and thus that the foundations of mathematics are
unreliable and of limited extensibility — i.e., when considered against the criterion of
providing absolute certainty — and because such foundations, and hence mathematics in
general, has served as a model for rational inquiry, which includes inquiry into the
possibility of attaining ultimate Truth, then it follows that inquiry into the possibility of
attaining ultimate Truth is also unreliable and of limited extensibility, or as we stated above,
impossible to complete. Gödel‘s work in the foundations of mathematical logic beyond this
point, though interesting, is irrele vant for our present concerns.
Wittgenstein and Heidegger also insisted that the traditional epistemological concerns
were misguided because they cannot be answered. In the analytic tradition, Wittgenstein
insisted that we have been bewitched by the logic of our language and have been led down
the wrong path, which has led us to ask the wrong questions. In the phenomenological
tradition, Heidegger pointed to the impossibility of accomplishing the task set up by
Husserl‘s phenomenological method because bra cketing off one‘s subjectivity presupposes
that one understands the extent to which Tradition has comprised it. In the process of
explaining why and how this is impossible, Heidegger made it clear that the
epistemological questions that drove Husserl fade into the background, and other questions
rise to the forefront. In Heidegger‘s words, such questions fade for the following reasons: ―When Dasein directs itself towards something and grasps it, it does not somehow first get out of
an inner sphere in which it has been proximally encapsulated, but its primary kind of Being is
such that it is always ‗outside‘ alongside the entity to be known, and determines its character; but
even in this ‗Being -outside‘ alongside the object, Dasein is still ‗inside‘, if we u nderstand this in
the correct sense; that is to say, it is itself ‗inside‘ as a Being -in-the -world which knows. And
furthermore, the perceiving of what is known is not a process of returning with one‘s booty to the
‗cabinet‘ of consciousness after one has gone out and grasped it; even in perceiving, retaining, and
preserving, the Dasein which knows remains outside , and it does so as Dasein. If I ‗merely‘ know
… about some way in which the Being of entities is interconnected, if I ‗only‘ represent them, if I
‗do no more‘ than ‗think‘ about them, I am no less alongside the entities outside in the world than
when I originally grasp them‖. 8

7 Foundations of Mathematics, Encyclopædia Britannica , Ultimate Reference Suite , Chicago , Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011. 8 Heidegger, M., Being and Time , trans. J. Macquarrie and E. Robinson, New York , Harper and Row, 1962, pp. 89-90.

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In another context in which Heidegger discusses the extent to which Reality — and thus
the Real — is independent of consciousness, he says the following: ―The possibility of an adequate ontological analysis of Reality depends upon how far that of
which the Real is to be thus independent —how far that which is to be transcended —has itself
been clarified with regard to its Being . Only thus can even the kind of Being which belongs to
transcendence be ontologically grasped…. These inves tigations … take precedence over any
possible ontological question about Reality…. The ‗scandal of philosophy‘ is not that [the proof
confirming the connection between the ‗in me‘ and the ‗outside of me‘] has yet to be given, but
that such proofs are expec ted and attempted again and again . Such expectations, aims, and
demands arise from an ontologically inadequate way of starting with something of such a
character that independently of it and ‗outside‘ of it a ‗world‘ is to be proved as present -at-hand. It
is not that the proofs are inadequate, but that the kind of Being of the entity which does the
proving and makes requests for proofs has not been made definite enough . This is why a
demonstration that two things which are present -at-hand are necessarily pr esent -at-hand together,
can give rise to the illusion that something has been proved, or even can be proved, about Dasein
as Being -in-the -world. If Dasein is understood correctly, it defies such proofs, because, in its
Being, it already is what subsequent proofs deem necessary to demonstrate for it…. The pursuit of
such proofs presupposes an inappropriate formulation of the question …. Our task is not to prove
that an ‗external world‘ is present -at-hand or to show how it is present -at-hand, but to point out
why Dasein, as Being -in-the -world, has the tendency to bury the ‗external world‘ in nullity
‗epistemologically‘ before going on to prove it…. Our discussion of the unexpressed
presuppositions of attempts to solve the problem of Reality in ways which are ju st
‗epistemological‘, shows that this problem must be taken back, as an ontological one, into the
existential analytic of Dasein‖. 9

Prior to this revolution, the epistemological questions, ―What do we know?‖ and ―How
do we know it?‖ ruled the day. These questions demanded answers that were absolutel y
certain. Looking back to the 20 th century, we can see that many philosophers abandoned the
search for absolute certainty, and turned toward pragmatism. Their turn notwithstanding,
their questions generally re mained the same, i.e., they did not stop asking epistemological
questions. What changed were the standards of acceptable answers, as illustrated by
Dewey‘s warranted assertability .10 Because they did not stop asking epistemological
questions, we see their t urn toward pragmatism as a mistake. What happens as a result of
this revolution and where philosophy can go after it is something we do not think has been
fully appreciated by the philosophic community specifically, nor by the rest of the
intellectual comm unity generally.
Wittgenstein and Heidegger insisted that we cease to ask epistemological questions.
What they advocated is not a turn toward pragmatism, but rather that we simply ask
different questions. The questions that replace epistemological ones are, ‗How does human
consciousness develop, and how does it apprehend its environment?‘ These are questions
about education, as we discuss below , and philosophers of education are in many ways
uniquely suited to answer them. While some readers may object that developmental
psychology and/or cognitive science is/are better suited than philosophy of education to
answer these questions, we would remind them that philosophy is the history of
developmental psychology and cognitive science, which is to say that philosophy is the
9 Ibid, pp. 246, 249, 250, 251, 252. 10 For an overview of Dewey‘s work, and to learn about the place of warranted assertability within it, readers may visit: John Dewey (1859 —1952), Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy , accessed January 23, 2011,

Michael DWYER, Yasushy MARUYAMA & Haroldo FONTAINE
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source of the problems Gödel, Wittgenstein, and Heidegger tried to dissolve. Hence, it is
likely that philosophers of education, by virtue of having been trained in philosophy, are
more familiar with it than developmental psychologists an d cognitive scientists, and thus it
is likely that they are better suited to inquire into the source of the problems that
contemporary educational theory and practice has inherited from philosophy. In short, it is
likely that philosophers of education are better suited than developmental psychologists and
cognitive scientists to undertake the deconstruction of the history of ontology — an issue
that we discuss below. Now, we will proceed to illustrate some of the programs, projects,
and problems which are of specific interest to philosophy of education as laid out in the
works of Wittgenstein and Heidegger.

2. Wittgenstein ’s Philosophy as Therapeutic Practice

Ludwig Wittgenstein is one of the most influential philosophers in the twentieth
century. His two ma in books, Tractatus Logico -Philosophicus (1921) and Philosophical
Investigations (1953), are counted as classics of modern philosophy. Despite the popularity
of his writings, Wittgenstein has been misunderstood, or at least interpreted in quite
different w ays. Many labels are used to describe him: e.g., behaviorist, positivist, skeptic,
naturalist, and anti -realist. Whether or not interpreters agree about Wittgenstein‘s
philosophy, they tend to interpret him according to their perspectives.
What allows th is multiplicity of interpretations? First, he did not publish any
philosophical books after the Tractatus. Positivists ignored the mystical part of the
Tractatus , which led to their line of interpretation. His later philosophy, on the other hand,
spread ou t only through those who attended his lectures in Cambridge University . Although
many of Wittgenstein‘s writings were published after his death and are now available, most
of them were written as notes and remarks that, in his opinion, did not yet deserve to be
published as a book. Secondly, his approaches to language are so different between the
early and later philosophies that scholars hardly find any continuity between them. Thirdly,
his writing style leaves his work vague. Most of his work consists of aphorisms and
segments, a n important part of the Tractatus is not written on purpose, and the
Investigations is filled with examples and questions , which readers are expected to answer .
His writing style, and therefore the multiplicity of interpretations, is carefully chosen to
serve the aim of his philosophy. We shall discuss the aim of his philosophy in order to
understand this .
Wittgenstein had difficulty publishing the Tractatus . After three publishers turned down
his request, Wittgenstein wrote to Ludwig von Ficker, the editor of Der Brenner , and asked
about the possibility of publishing it. In the letter, Wittgenstein explained to von Ficker,
who did not know much about philoso phy and logic, the point of the work: ―The point of the book is ethical. I once wanted to give a few words in the foreword which now
actually are not in it, which, however, I‘ll write to you now because they might be a key for you: I
wanted to write that m y work consists of two parts: of the one which is here, and of everything
which I have not written. And precisely this second part is the important one. For the Ethical is
delimited from within, as it were, by my book; and I‘m convinced that, strictly spea king, it can
ONLY be delimited in this way‖. 11

11 Wittgenstein, L., Letters to Ludwig von Ficker, Wittgenstein: Sources and Perspectives , ed. C. G. Luckhardt, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1979, pp. 94 -5.

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The Tractatus is relatively short, having only seventy -four pages. It mostly talks about
the logical structure of the world and language. But, according to Wittgenstein, the main
part is not written. It is important that the Ethical is delimited by not being written. W hy did
he, then, not write the main part? How could he delimit the Ethical by not writing it?
Wittgenstein also recommended that the editor should read its foreword and conclusion. He
wrote in the foreword: ―The book deals with the problems of philosophy, and shows, I believe, that the reason why these
problems are posed is that the logic of our language is misunderstood. The whole sense of the
book might be summed up in the following words: what can be said at all can be said clearly, and
what we cannot t alk about we must pass over in silence‖. 12

Wittgenstein writes a similar expression in the conclusion: ―What we cannot speak
about we must pass over in silence.‖ 13 The reason why the main part was not written is that
it is not to be said but to be shown . He thought that by talking about only what one can talk
about, he could delimit and at the same time show what cannot be talked about. ―Thus the
aim of the book,‖ he continued in the foreword, ―is to draw a limit to . . . the expression of
thoughts.‖ The aim of the Tractatus is to show the limit of language clearly, and to
distinguish what may be said from what may not.
Here, Wittgenstein gives philosophy a new role. As we quoted above, he found the
origin of philosophical problems in our misunderstanding s of the logic of our ordinary
language. For example, the word ‗is‘ can be used as a copula, a sign for identity, or an
expression for existence. 14 When we misconceive the use of our language because of such
superficial similarities, misunderstandings occur . He assigns philosophy a specific task of
clarifying propositions and removing confusions by logical analysis. He characterized
philosophy in contrast to the natural sciences:
4.11 The totality of true propositions is the whole of natural science.
4.111 Philosophy is not one of the natural sciences.
4.112 Philosophy aims at the logical clarification of thoughts.
Philosophy is not a body of doctrine but an activity.
A philosophical work consists essentially of elucidations.
Philosophy do es not result in ‗philosophical propositions,‘ but rather in
the clarification of propositions.
Without philosophy, thoughts are, as it were, cloudy and indistinct: its
task is to make them clear and to give them sharp boundaries.

While the propositions of the natural sciences are either true or false and talk about the
world, philosophy does not say anything about the world, but rather serves to clarify
propositions. To do so, philosophy may produce pseudo -propositions, which cannot be
eithe r true or false, but rather nonsensical 15 (he calls such propositions elucidations). Such
results, as doctrines, cannot be philosophy in the Tractarian sense because the elucidating
12 Wittgenstein, L. , Tractatus Logico -Philosophicus , trans. D. Pears and B. F. McGuinness, London, Routledge, 1961, p. 3 (abbreviation: TLP. A number after a comma indicates page number; a number after abbreviation indicates section number). 13 Wittgenstein, TLP 7. 14 Wittgenstein, TLP 3.324. 15 Wittgenstein, TLP 6.54.

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action is essential. Explaining clearly what can be said, philosophy draws the limits of
expressions of thoughts and shows what cannot be said. For the earlier Wittgenstein, this is
the only correct method of philosophy.
6.53 The correct method in philosophy would really be the following: to say nothing
except what can be said , i.e., propositions of natural science —i.e., something that
has nothing to do with philosophy —and then, whenever someone else wanted to
say something metaphysical, to demonstrate to him that he had failed to give a
meaning to certain signs in his proposit ions. Although it would not be satisfying
to the other person —he would not have the feeling that we were teaching him
philosophy —this method would be the only strictly correct one.

Although Wittgenstein once believed that there is only one correct method of
philosophy, he questioned the idea in his later period. In Philosophical Investigations, he
―To say ‗This combination of words makes no sense‘ excludes it from the sphere of language and
thereby bounds the domain of language. But when one draws a boundary it may be for various
kinds of reasons [. . .] So if I draw a boundary line that is not yet to say what I am drawing it
for‖. 16

Removing nonsensical propositions and deli miting expressions of thoughts was the only
philosophical method that Wittgenstein took to be right in the Tractatus . The later
Wittgenstein admits, however, that the Tractatus has not yet achieved its task with that
method. There is nothing wrong with the method itself. But drawing a boundary line can be
used for various purposes. ―If I surround an area with a fence or a line or otherwise,‖ for
example, ―the purpose may be to prevent someone from getting in or out; but it may also be
part of a game and the players be supposed, say, to jump over the boundary; or it may shew
where the property of one man ends and that of another begins; and so on.‖ 17 Merely
drawing a line between what can and cannot be said, one may not yet have accomplished
what one wants to do. Wittgenstein recognized that he was wrong to believe that this one
method resolved all philosophical confusions essentially. Did the later Wittgenstein, then,
change his philosophy entirely? The answer is ‗no.‘ He still thought that philosophy differs
from the sciences. It is not a body of doctrine, but an activity . Philosophy‘s task is still
clarification, and philosophy does not tell but shows a right way. 18 What he changed is his
idea of what a philosophical method should be and how it works.
Removi ng nonsensical propositions is no longer philosophy‘s only correct method, but
is rather one of them. ―There is not a philosophical method, though there are indeed
methods, like different therapies.‖ 19 It is important that he characterizes philosophical
met hods as therapeutic. Philosophy is seen as an activity of curing philosophical disease. 20
The therapeutic treatment of philosophical problems is carried out through grammatical
clarification. This clarification removes philosophical confusions, which occur when one is
held captive by a certain philosophical picture. Thus, the task of philosophy — in the later
16 Wittgenstein, L. , Philosophical Investigations , 2d ed., trans. G. E. M. Anscombe, Oxford, Blackwell, 1958, sections 309 and 499 (abbreviation: PI). 17 Wittgenstein, PI 499. 18 Wittgenstein, PI 89 -133; especially 90, 109 and 133. 19 Wittgenstein, PI 133. 20 Wittgenstein, PI 593.

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Wittgenstein‘s sense — is to set philosophers free from the philosophical pictures that hold
them captive, as if philosophy cures their illness. What is wr ong with the earlier
Wittgenstein is, as he states, 21 that he himself was held captive by a picture concerning the
general form of propositions, and that he could not see any other functions of language. ―A
picture held us captive. And we could not get outside it, for it lay in our language and
language seem ed to repeat it to us inexorably.‖ 22 Thus, for the later Wittgenstein,
―Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of
language.‖ 23
Although Wittgenstein‘s concern is language, we should take it seriously when he states
that l anguage is the main part of forms of life. ―And to imagine a language means to
imagine a form of life.‖ 24 He is very critical about the poverty of imagination used when
considering different cultures. Wittgenstein criticizes Frazer because he interpreted cu stoms
of primitive people within the framework of his own culture and considered them stupid:
―The very idea of wanting to explain a practice —for example, the killing of the priest -king —
seems wrong to me. All that Frazer does is to make them plausible to people who think as he
does. It is very remarkable that in the final analysis all these practices are presented as, so to
speak, pieces of stupidity. But it will never be plausible to say that mankind does all that out of
sheer stupidity‖. 25 ―What a narro w spiritual life on Frazer‘s part! As a result: how impossible it was for him to
conceive of a life different from that of the England of his time!
Frazer cannot imagine a priest who is not basically a present -day English parson with the same
stupidity and dullness‖. 26

Rather than taking a scientific approach, Wittgenstein recommends that we undertake
Übersicht (or overview 27) in order to understand different cultures: ―And so the chorus points to a secret law,‖ one feels like saying to Frazer‘s collection of facts. I
can represent this law, this idea, by means of an evolutionary hypothesis, or also, analogously to
the schema of a plant, by means of the schema of a religious ceremony, but also by means of the
arrangement of its factual content alone, in a ‗ perspicuous ‘ (übersichtliche ) representation. The
concept of perspicuous representation is of fundamental importance for us. It denotes the form of
our representation, the way we see things‖. 28

The key to release us from a captive picture is our ability to see or even invent a link
between something familiar and something strange: ―A main source of our failure to understand is that we do not command a clear view (übersehen )
of the use of our words. Our grammar is lacking in this sort of perspicuity ( Übersichtlichkeit ). A
perspicuous representation produces just that understanding which consists in ‗seeing
connection‘. Hence the importance of finding and inventing intermediate cases‖. 29
21 Wittgenstein, PI 114. 22 Wittgenstein, PI 115. 23 Wittgenstein, PI 109. 24 Wittgenstein, PI 19. 25 Wittgenstein, L., Remarks on Frazer‘s Golden Bough , Philosophical Occasions 1912 -1951 , ed. J. C. Klagge and A. Nordmann, Indianapolis and Cambridge, Hackett, 1993, 133 (abbreviation: PO). 26 Wittgenstein, PO 125. 27 Interpreters of Wittgenstein have had difficulties in translating the cognates of Übersicht into English, which has been translated as ‗survey,‘ ‗surview ,‘ ‗bird‘s eye view,‘ ‗synoptic view,‘ or ‗perspicuity‘ as well. 28 Wittgenstein, PO 133. 29 Wittgenstein, PI 122.

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Again, there is more than one method for curing philosophical illness: describing how we
use words, asking how we teach and learn words, inventing fictional language games, and
so on. These methods help us to get a clear view of the use of our words and understand
what is wrong with them. ―This entanglement in our ru les is what we want to underst and
(i.e., get a clear view of) ‖.30 The clarification as Übersicht is more than removing
nonsensical propositions. It is expected to cause changing attitudes, freeing oneself from
the old view, or seeing the world differently.
Wittgenstein teaches a skill or technique to make oneself free from captive pictures:
―what mattered about his work was not its specific results, but its new way of
philosophizing, a method or skill, which would enable us to fend for ourselves.‖ 31 There is
no longer the single right way of seeing the world. Philosophy never offers the only correct
view of the world. Instead, it teaches the technique with which one releases oneself from a
captive picture. He writes, ―What is your aim in philosophy? To shew the fl y the way out of
the fly -bottle ‖.32
The specific projects resulting from Wittgenstein‘s view of philosophy are many, but of
those the following are of special interest to philosophers of education. We should help to
show those who are captured in a logically closed system a way out by explaining that other
views are also possible. This would also be the case for those with closed minds, or who are
trapped in an outdated view. Such are those who are satisfied with themselves and think
that they do not need to learn anything new. It is they, however, who stand to learn how to
make something familiar strange in order to begin to abandon an outdated view. 33 For
example, An Education (2009), a film directed by Lone Scherfig, depicts several scenes
within a traditional classroom, the like in which many, if not most readers have been
formally educated: e.g., desks in neat rows where students are expected to sit; the teacher‘s
desk situa ted across from them; a blackboard; and other schoolroom paraphernalia. This
film also depicts several scenes without this place — e.g., in a concert hall, a jazz bar, a hotel
room, domestic spaces, etc. — where the main character receives an informal, though
(arguably) no less valuable education. A professor of education could use this film with
pre -service teachers who, like our readers, have likely been formally educated in traditional
classrooms, and thus who are familiar with them, to discuss what may be s trange notions of
what an ‗education‘ entails. Through such an exercise, a teacher may render strange what
students have otherwise presumed is familiar, and thereby expand their notions of
‗education.‘ The point here is not to demonstrate that their views are necessarily incorrect
and that these other views are true, but simply that there may be other perspectives worthy
of consideration.

30 Wittgenstein, PI 125. 31 Glock, H. J. , A Wittgenstein Dictionary , Oxford, Blackwell, 1996, p. 292. 32 Wittgenstein, PI 309. 33 We hope that read ers will understand our meaning here by way of an example drawn from the arts — in particular, the film An Education (2009), directed by Lone Scherfig. This film depicts several scenes within a traditional classroom, the like in which most readers (we would venture to say) have been formally educated: e.g., desks in neat rows where students are expected to sit; the teacher ‘s desk situated across from them; a blackboard; and other schoolroom paraphernalia. This film also depicts several scenes without this pl ace —e.g., in a concert hall, a jazz bar, a hotel room, domestic spaces, etc. —where the main character receives an informal, though (arguably) no less valuable education. A teacher could use this film with pre -service teachers who, like our readers, have li kely been formally educated in traditional classrooms, and thus who are familiar with them, to discuss what may be st range notions of what an ― education ‖ entails. Through such an exercise, a teacher may render strange what students have otherwise presumed is familiar, and t hereby expand their notions of ― education ‖.

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3. Heidegger’s PhilosophDV6WULYLQJ toward Authenticity

Heidegger was also concerned about how people become trap ped within a particular
worldview, and he expressed his concern in Being and Time . Its accessibility is enhanced if
readers understand that Heidegger speaks with many different voices throughout the text,
and learn to identify each in their turn. 34 For our purposes, we will limit ourselves to two:
Heidegger‘s analysis of Dasein , and his deconstruction of Western intellectual history.
Dasein is Heidegger‘s term for that which is common to all human existence. His analysis
of it is the primary task of Being an d Time , and has the effect of correcting/replacing
Aristotle‘s analysis of human nature in terms of categories .

3.1. Solicitude

Heidegger‘s analysis of Dasein revolves around the notion of authenticity . The problem
of authenticity — i.e., the central problem of Being and Time — is a problem of education,
but Heidegger did not explore the educational aspects of this issue. It can be understood in
the following way. When one tries to follow a moral rule, one must apply it to unique
situations. Such situations will have similarities and differences with and from previous
ones, and to the extent that the differences are significant, one must interpret the rule in
order to apply it correctly. This is exactly what cannot be done unless one understands the
basis, or the ground for the rule. Only if the ground for the rule has become one‘s own —
i.e., only if one has come to the rule as the conclusion of long thought and experiential
process — is one in a position to int erpret the rule properly. Exactly to the extent that Dasein
exists without a ground of its own it exists inauthentically , and to the extent that it has made
that ground its own, it exists authentically.
As Dasein struggles to make a ground of its own — i.e., as it works to lay down a basis
of understanding upon which its authentic existence will rest — it interacts with the world in
two different ways, which fall under the general heading of care : concern and solicitude .
Dasein exhibits concern when it interact s with entities that are not Dasein. The type of care
that Dasein exhibits towards others of its own kind, other Daseins, is solicitude. We may
think of education as a form of what Heidegger called solicitude . We will discuss the two
extremes of positive s olicitude here, leaping in and leaping ahead , as these apply to
education and teaching.
On the one hand, a teacher may ignore her students‘ concern with particular objects and
ideas and leap in for them, effectively expelling them from the ground they cou ld otherwise
claim as their own. When they return, they find it has been colonized by Tradition. Without
an understanding of its primordial sources (i.e., as a mode of living that emerged in a
particular place at a particular time, and was expressed in a p articular manner), most
students become dependent upon and dominated by Tradition‘s claim that the issues they
raise have been settled once and for all. This approach to education destroys learning, for it
denies students the opportunity to face novel situ ations, to weigh their relative similarities
and dissimilarities with previous situations, and to decide whether Tradition‘s scripted
answers should be accepted, modified, or rejected.
34 One will also occasionally find Heidegger critiquing and correcting Husserl‘s phenomenological method. However, there is one overriding voice that is always present in Being and Time , and that is Heidegger engaging Aristotle in discussion.

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On the other hand, a teacher may leap ahead of her students by unders tanding their own
individual ground and aspirations. Effectively, the teacher prepares the ground for them by
introducing novel situations and gauging her students‘ comprehension of them, and by
getting out of their way so they themselves may choose whethe r, and if so the extent to
which Tradition is useful in facilitating interpretation, and ultimately assimilation. In
leaping ahead , the teacher is intervening in the process of interpretation, not in
guaranteeing its results.
Let‘s take what we consider to be a common dictum of contemporary education as an
example, while citing a historical event to illustrate our point. Students cannot genuinely
accept a rule such as, ―Thou shalt respect cultures different from thine own,‖ unless two
conditions are met. Fi rst, they must have a ground of their own from which to accept,
revise, or reject it; and second, they must understand the ground upon which the rule rests.
If the first condition is not met, then students cannot choose to accept, revise, or reject said
rule. If the first condition is met but the second is not, then they may seek for its ground,
modify it if found, or abandon the search altogether. This is where teaching shades into
persuasion —not persuasion to accept the rule, but persuasion to consider, l earn, and
understand it.
If at the beginning of the lesson it is already the case that the students have a ground of
their own upon which to stand, then the rest of the lesson becomes easier to teach in the
way we desire, but it is not hopeless without t his being the case. If the students lack a
ground of their own, then teaching in the way we desire is the first step towards helping
them to build it. Teaching in the traditional way, the teacher would predetermine that
students‘ accurate reproduction of t he rule in an assignment would constitute a correct
understanding of it. If, as is generally the case, the students are aware that such a pre -
determination has been made and their adherence thereto determines their passing or
failing, then the conditions e xist for the students to acquiesce to Tradition‘s prescriptions,
and thus to exist inauthentically. In such cases, the teacher supposes that students have both
understood the rule and have chosen it for themselves, when in fact they have made no such
choic e. What they have done is little more than to memorize a rule that they have agreed to
try to follow blindly.
As disturbing as it may seem on the surface, we insist on a different course, one that
provides a space in which students may choose to respect ot her cultures on their own, or in
any given case choose not to do so. We believe, and will endeavor to demonstrate below,
that when in the process of building a ground of their own, students come to ask why they
should respect other cultures, and we as teac hers leap ahead of them and provide
opportunities for their choices to emerge. We believe they will themselves choose to
respect other cultures, insofar as they share the same ground as their own. Only by having a
ground of their own, and only by understan ding Tradition‘s primordial sources — viz., self -
preservation — can students choose at all and not fall prey to what Tradition asserts to be
self -evident. In short, what we are advocating is not a goal or a destination, but rather a
process of self -authenticat ion.
Let‘s suppose we are Heideggarian high school teachers who leap ahead of our students.
Our subject is Modern European History, and our topic is the treatment of Jews and
Muslims in Spain under the Inquisition. Shunning the possibility of merely tellin g our
students that disrespecting cultures other than their own is wrong, we would together
consider some of the potential consequences of such treatment. In leaping ahead of them,
we may present the following points to them: the presence of large numbers of
Muslims and Jews made Spain the only multiethnic and multireligious country in

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Western Europe at the dawn of the 15 th century. In effect, what the Inquisition mounted
against them amounted to crown -sanctioned intolerance, spying, torture, theft, expulsi on,
and extermination. Its Jewish victims totaled nearly 200,000, and nearly 300,000 Moors
suffered as well. What the Catholic monarchs apparently failed to consider was their
identity beyond being mere so -called infidels. Importantly, Jews were essential members of
the merchant and financial class. They were also administrators of the state, which included
the affairs of colonial management. In their absence, not only did state administration
suffer, but also much domestic and foreign policy financing was left in the hands of South
German and Genoese creditors, which encumbered their future revenues with alien
interests. Moreover, the expulsion of the Muslims hurt many urban creditors to whom they
were indebted. Combined with the exorbitant price of trying to convert heretics on both
sides of the pond, while also failing to develop domestic investment in infrastructure and
industry, Spain was incapable of maintaining its geopolitical stature.
In light of the foregoing example, what reasonable conclusions may we expect our
students to reach regarding observing respect for cultures unlike their own? If they admit
that the United States, like 15 th century Spain, is a multiethnic and multireligious nation
whose subgroups are critical to its cultural and economic life, we may help them to reach
the conclusion that crippling our nation‘s capacity to profitably conduct internal and
external trade would have deleterious effects on their ability to thrive. In short, we believe
that self -interest (individually and colle ctively) would compel them to infer that
individuals, regardless of their differences, need each other to flourish. More generally, if
students cannot find it in their hearts to love or celebrate others‘ uniqueness, then students
may at least come to respe ct others‘ indispensable contributions to our nation. Anything
short of this ethical approach to instruction would run the risk of crippling our students‘
critical faculties and thereby of preventing them from growing to responsibly exercise their
rights t o life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We would expect our students to arrive at
these conclusions, but other possibilities exist. There are no guarantees here and we will not
try to veil this fact.

3.2. Deconstruction of the History of Ontology

Deconstructivism is a term which is likely familiar to the reader. It is closely allied with
the writings of Jacques Derrida, wherein it signifies a position of extreme criticism
bordering and sometimes running over into skepticism, and as such the meaning is almost
completely negative. Yet the term‘s contemporary usage originates with Heidegger. When
Heidegger uses the phrase, it points toward two different projects, one narrow and the other
broad, each of which are positive at their core in potential outc ome. The point of each is to
discover or rediscover the basis for Tradition. The narrower of these is something that must
be done by each of us individually. Seen in this way, it is an extension of what we have
discussed above when we spoke of authenticity and the attempt to build a ground of one‘s
The second of these projects, the broader, is the one of interest to us here, for it points to
a role specifically suited to philosophers of education. Heidegger involves himself in this
task in many of his writings (e.g., The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, Kant and the
Problem of Metaphysics , and others), but it is as a philosopher who goes back and examines
the history of philosophy, finds mistakes that have been made, and opportunities
missed, and origin al meanings that have been distorted. As philosophers of

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education, our task would be to undertake similar investigations in the history of
philosophy as they have influenced educational theory and practice. One might also see this
as an attempt to discove r those unspoken and sometimes forgotten assumptions upon which
our current theories rest, with the point being to reexamine these as to their current validity.
One need but look at the three most prominent names in the history of education — Plato,
Locke, a nd Dewey — to realize that all three were philosophers, and thus are subjects of
study uniquely suited to our talents. These are but three examples of where such studies
might go. Many others are possible. It is not necessary that such examinations be limit ed to
studying key figures. Instead, one may look at the basis of educational theories, concepts,
categories, or most anything else.
One such project, in which the authors of this paper are personally involved, is to
reexamine Aristotle‘s picture of how th e human brain works — i.e., of how it learns — and
then to trace the influence of this picture (which is considerable) through the writings of
Aquinas, Locke, Kant, and finally to 20 th century writers such as Dewey, 35 Piaget, the
Behaviorists, and others. What we are doing is trying to understand how our view of
education would change in light of the substantial alterations of Aristotle‘s picture that are
present in Heidegger‘s revision, and then to correlate this with our current knowledge of the
brain that comes from the neurosciences.
As we stated above, Heidegger opens the door to these investigations and points the
way. While he was aware of the application to the educational arena, he left this work to
others to c arry out. It is also important to remember that for Heidegger, as it is for us, the
move to deconstruct is a positive one, which will normally (but not necessarily) yield a
positive result.

4. Conclusion

Discussions of the turn toward pragmatism dominate philosophy in the later part of the
20 th century, and continue to the present day. In light of this, we need to be very clear about
what we are saying here. What we are advocating is that philosophers, as well as
philosophers of education, need to cease a sking the standard epistemological questions,
regardless of whether their answers are claiming to be absolutely true, or just provisionally
so. The questions themselves need to change. Certainly, this does not give us leave to once
again seek for ultimate Truth. Our answers cannot now nor will they ever reach that
We have tried to identify a variety of roles and projects in which a philosopher of
education may be profitably involved. In sum, according to Wittgenstein, a philosopher of
education m ay profitably undertake logical analyses of propositions in order to clarify
them; draw the limits of expression; dissolve, if not eliminate, confusion from
communication; set other philosophers (and students) free from philosophical (or outdated)
pictures that hold them captive; describe how we use words, and ask how we teach and
learn them; strive to change philosophers‘ (and students‘) attitudes; and to see the world
through a variety of language games. According to Heidegger, a philosopher of education
may profitably undertake to help other philosophers (and students) to interpret and apply
35 One of the authors of this paper recently defended a dissertation in which he discusses the influence of Aristotle‘s picture on Kant‘s transcendental philosophy, on Dewey‘s notion of the essence of morality , and on how Heidegger may have corrected them all.

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moral rules correctly to help them decide whether Tradition‘s scripted answers to their
moral questions should be accepted, modified, or rejected; and deconstruct the history of
ontology for two reasons: a) for the sake of helping others to live authentically; and b) for
the sake of discovering how conceptual mistakes in said history have (and do) influence
contemporary educational theory and practice. Indeed, both Wit tgenstein and Heidegger,
though in different ways, suggest how teachers may open their students‘ minds to see the
world through an unfamiliar lens. Both insist that no one position or perspective is
necessarily better than another, thus increasing the poss ibilities for dialogue — the
furtherance thereof being our fundamental concern.