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Cultivation of the Intellect in Education: The Role of Cultural Lenses


The intellect is beset with numerous problems and shortcomings some of which have been historically noted by Plato, Bacon, Locke and others. A particularly challenging problem in reasoning, is the problem of (colored) ‘lenses’ whose source is culture, broadly construed. While the vital role of culture in reasoning may have been alluded to by philosophers, it has not been closely analyzed or theorized. Through two empirical case studies drawn from the field of educational anthropology, I demonstrate how cultural lenses block reasoning altogether or severely constrain it. This poses a particular challenge for the cultivation of the intellect in education—a goal universally advocated by historical and contemporary philosophers of education.

Current educational programs aiming towards the cultivation of the intellect, namely, through critical thinking and through an initiation into the disciplines, while they have their merits in helping students think more effectively, are insufficient in helping students to overcome the barrier of lenses (as theorized herein). And they fail because current educational programs focus on argument identification and evaluation. But problems of reason are not limited to problems of argument and reason is not limited to argument evaluation. Hence, what is required is a philosophy of education for the full cultivation of the intellect based on a broader conception of reason; a conception of reason which I demonstrate through empirical case studies.

To achieve the goal of the fuller cultivation of the intellect in education, I indicate a pedagogical direction for a possible educational program. I also recommend a focused research program in (i) the philosophical study of reason in a broader sense than just evaluation of arguments, (ii) a multidisciplinary study of various problems facing reason and (iii) an empirical study of educational methods for overcoming problems of reason. The implications of the present work are not just limited to students’ reasonings but have relevance to teachers’ and policy makers’ reasonings and indeed to the reasonings of philosophers of education as well.

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