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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versión On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versión impresa ISSN 0041-4751


KLENSTRA, Natascha. Reconnecting moral education and philosophy. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2021, vol.61, n.4-2, pp.1311-1326. ISSN 2224-7912.

Tilburg University in The Netherlands is distinct from other Dutch universities because it is intent on character formation as an educational goal and offers general philosophy classes to support such character formation. However, these courses focus more on theoretical knowledge than on actual practical competencies and actions. Both these components can be seen as "moral education". My core argument is that moral education should be taught in philosophy classes and my aim is to offer tools as to how to teach both components. In section 2, building on Martha Nussbaum, I will place moral education in a context of different ways of learning ethics. There is more than one way of learning ethics, in which an ordering can be seen from theory to practice. Learning ethics ranges from cognitive learning, through reflection and through judgments, to moral action and moral education: - learning ethics as knowledge-oriented - learning ethics as reflection-oriented - learning ethics as moral judgement-oriented - learning ethics as competence/action-oriented. The latter ways of learning ethics receive less attention in education and these are precisely the ways Nussbaum focuses on. I will argue that moral education has two components: a cognitive and skills component, and an attitude component. For the cognitive and skills component, we discuss the task of the philosophy teacher as well as characteristics of effective philosophy lessons derived from empirical research. Thus, I reconnect moral education and philosophy. Reconnect, in the sense that here I make a (new) connection via empiricism. In section 3, I will outline the teacher'spedagogical task. Teaching scaffolds are important in guiding students through the learning process. Feedback involves the direct evaluation of students' behaviour, whereas hints entail providing clues regarding a given topic (and the deliberate withholding of a complete solution); instructing encompasses requesting a specific action or supplying information so that students understand what to do and how. Likewise, explaining involves providing information concerning how and why. Modelling encompasses demonstrating a behaviour for the purpose of imitation; questioning entails prompting students to think, or to request a specific reaction. In research on the above guiding skills, it has been found within religious and worldview lessons (where moral education also takes place) that in addition to the aforementioned scaffolds, the specific contribution of an effective teacher is to show understanding, give space, and listen. In doing so, it is ensured that learners can form their own opinions. To do this, students will need to be encouraged to think. Of course, moral education does not aim to realise, let alone impose, a unitary view in students, because moral action is always partly dependent on the individual situation and the social context. In section 4, building on John Dewey and Hannah Arendt, I will provide characteristics of effective philosophy lessons derived from empirical research. In How we think, Dewey explains what he means by the thinking that he believes should be trained in education. He defines reflective thought as "active, persistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it, and the further conclusions to which it tends". This kind of thinking corresponds to the notion of producing criticism and reflecting in my own research on doing philosophy effectively. There I argue that doing philosophy occurs in phases during a lesson. To qualify such a moment, we propose the Pearl Model. Pearls have different layers and these layers of pearls represent five philosophical activities: rationalising, analysing, testing, producing criticism, and reflecting. These activities are ordered hierarchically and conditionally. This indicates, for example, that while rationalising exists at a lower level than reflecting, reaching the level of reflection assumes that rationalising also has taken place. Therefore, the higher the level that a pearl reaches and the more layers have been achieved, the more thorough the philosophical understanding, and the more effectiveness of doing philosophy are acknowledged. Metaphorically, a pearl "shines" if the level of reflection has been reached while doing philosophy. A quantitative correspondence analysis yielded a scale that contrasts more from less effective lessons. In particular, we have found students to produce a higher level of doing philosophy with teachers who chose to organize a philosophical discussion with shared guidance, i.e. guidance by the teacher and the students. Here we find the answer to Arendt's initial question whether the activity of thinking could be the condition that makes men abstain from evil-doing: from this thinking, and dialogue, conscience and the ability to judge are effected. Earlier in this paper I indicated that learning ethics ranges from learning ethics as knowledge-oriented, through learning ethics as reflection-oriented and through learning ethics as moral judgment-oriented, to learning ethics as competence/action-oriented. I arrive at the following position here: doing philosophy effectively can be classified as learning ethics as moral judgement-oriented. This is the first component of moral education, focusing on cognition and skills. In section 5, building on Pierre Hadot, I will propose the good as exercise that shapes character: doing good can be classified as learning ethics as competence/action-oriented. This is the second component of moral education, focusing on attitudes. This brings us to another dimension of philosophy, which has to do with the question whether philosophy is something theoretical or rather an attitude. Hadot shows that while Aristotle makes a distinction between theoretical and practical wisdom, this certainly does not imply a separation between the two. That is to say, theoretical wisdom is not completely separated from human life; similarly, practical wisdom is not merely and solely an application of theoretical insights to practice. Moral action and philosophy thus require action in addition to thought: an amalgamation of knowledge, insight, skills, and attitudes. In conclusion, I offer some tools that enable learning ethics in different ways. Supported by research from faculties where character formation is core business, philosophy and theology, we can work on the moral education of students. Not only will students and their teachers benefit, but also the community around the students (e.g., peers and family) and their professional practices (pastoral care, justice, defense, spiritual care, and education) will share in such achievement.

Palabras clave : debate; dialogue; discussion; effective philosophy lessons; empirical research; ethics; learning ethics; ethics education; doing philosophy; philosophy; philosophy teacher; character building; character formation; moral action; moral education; exercise; education; judging; practical wisdom; reflecting; theology.

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