Paideia And The Matter Of Mind

3442 words - 14 pages

Paideia and the "Matter of Mind"

ABSTRACT: Paideia refers to a particular sort of education which has historically been concerned with learning for the sake of learning, i.e., for the development of mind. As such, paideia is distinguished from specialized learning, training and learning for extrinsic purposes. Paideia is embodied in the traditional notion of Liberal Education which holds that such an education is the development of mind through the achievement of worthwhile knowledge and understanding. A contemporary trend in the literature of philosophy of mind and epistemology is a concern with cognitive functions of the human mind and the role of these functions in the acquisition of knowledge. The functional conception of the mind emphasizes learning (cognitive development) through cognitive training to monitor and control one's own mental processes. The uncritical incorporation of cognitive theories of mind and knowledge acquisition into current educational theory and practice suggests that paideia can be combined with, if not enhanced by, cognitive training. This paper takes the position that such an assumption is misguided and that the 'matter' of mind is an issue which requires clarification for advocates of paideia. The paper contrasts the cognitive approach to a 'conventionalist' conception of mind which, arguably, is the concept of mind assumed by advocates of paideia.

Paideia refers to a particular sort of education which historically has been concerned with learning for the sake of learning, i.e., for the development of mind. As such, paideia is distinguished from specialized learning, training, and learning for extrinsic purposes. Paideia is embodied in the traditional notion of Liberal Education which holds that such an education is the development of mind through the achievement of worthwhile knowledge and understanding.

No modern philosopher of mind or epistemologist explicitly denies that there is a relationship between knowledge, mind and education. Nevertheless, a contemporary "trend" in the literature of epistemology and philosophy of mind is a concern with the cognitive functions of the human mind, e.g., the conception of mind as an information-processing system, and with the function of these information-bearing processes in the acquisition of knowledge. (1) The emphasis in this literature is on either: i) theories of knowledge acquisition which do not refer to the development of mind through education or conversely; ii) theories of mind which ignore the consequences of such conceptions for the achievement of worthwhile knowledge. Both sorts of theories are supported by current research in cognitive science and psychology. (2)

The uncritical incorporation of such "theories" of mind and knowledge acquisition in contemporary educational theory and practice suggests that the concept of paideia can be combined with (if not enhanced) by cognitive research on learning and cognitive training to proficiently monitor...

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