AMA Philosophy Blogger Michael R D James will answer questions about the Philosophy of Education and Aesthetics

Michael R D James
Aug 15, 2018

See Philosophy of Education posts at

Philosophy of Education is important to a number of different schools of Philosophy. I am mostly at home with Ancient Greek Philosophy(especially Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle), Enlightenment Philosophy(especially Kant) and Modern Analytical Philosophy(especially the later work of Wittgenstein and many of the Philosophers of Education influenced by Wittgenstein)

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What would you have been if not a philosopher?
Aug 17, 4:12AM EDT0

I taught philosophy . So I regard myself more as a teacher than anything else. If I had not taught philosophy I probably would have taught Physical Education or English

Aug 18, 9:47AM EDT0
What aspects of Plato's theory of education have succeeded or failed in our modern day world?
Aug 17, 3:32AM EDT0

The education for the warriors consisting of pacifying music to ensure they are not too fierce with the citizens of the Republic plus presumably some kind of experiential training in the aesthetic form of the beautiful has not survived unless military band music is supposed to be pacifying which it is clearly not . The education in the form of the Good immediately post Plato did not have the institutions(schools universities)  to implement. The task was then taken over by religion until the wave of secularisation began sweeping the world in the form of the reformation. The schools of character forming in England in the 50's and 60's attempted an implementation but succumbed to the GERM(Global Educational Reform Movement) which has a rather relativistic view of the good.

Aug 18, 9:44AM EDT0
Do you think that aesthetic standards simply express individual or cultural tastes?
Aug 16, 7:37PM EDT0

Aesthetic standards are according to Kant, subjectively universal, and posses a form of necessity which he calls exemplary. This means that that they transcend individual judgments --one speak as Kant puts it with a universal voice--and they transcend cultural perspectives for the same reason.

Aug 17, 10:03AM EDT0
What are your top five tips for academic philosophers who are interested in writing for general audiences?
Aug 16, 5:56AM EDT0

T S Eliot





Aug 17, 10:00AM EDT0
How do the arts relate to economic power and class structure?
Aug 16, 1:53AM EDT0

The arts are  aesthetically powerful and very often that power challenges other powers. The Pope for example was said not to be pleased with his work on the roof of the Sistine Chapel. The Pope had considerable economic power but it did not affect Michelangleo's fame in the long run. Economic power such as that possessed by the De Medici's of Florence has bought them immortality --standing at the front of their tomb is the world famous sculptures "Times of the Day" by Michelangelo. The Pope and the the De Medici's were at least one class above Michelangelo but Michelangelo is the person we talk about and admire the most all these centuries later. Perhaps this indicates that the arts are aiming at a "classless society"--a Cosmopolitan society.

Aug 17, 9:58AM EDT0
Why is important to think about art? Why not just experience it?
Aug 15, 11:49PM EDT0

It is important to experience art but  a reflective appreciation of that experience allows one to both experience and explain why the experience is as it is. Aristotle claims that we always seek the why behind the what of our experiences.

Aug 17, 9:50AM EDT0
How has writing about philosophy changed your opinions?
Aug 15, 9:02PM EDT0

I dont know whether my opinions about everyday things have changed that much. My global beliefs about the point of life and the value of others continues to shift in positive directions. I appreciate more of the world.

Aug 17, 9:49AM EDT0
Why do people enjoy painful experiences in art?
Aug 15, 8:22PM EDT0

According to Aristotle because we enjoy the way in which the medium-design portrays the painful episode. We admire in other words the way in which the event is being represented. Also we learn from painful experiences even if they are merely represented: :we can learn, for example that  an error in judgment can cost us our life in dangerous circumstances.

Aug 17, 9:46AM EDT0
You address a wide range of questions with arguments that challenge people’s deeply held beliefs. In your experience, do people change their beliefs based on others’ arguments?
Aug 15, 5:07PM EDT0

Everything depends upon how coherent peoples belief systems are and how much desire there is to be open minded. Open mindedness and a desire for a coherent belief system usually results in a change in belief if there is good reason for a change.

Aug 17, 9:43AM EDT0
At what point does philosophy and politics meet? What about philosophy and science?
Aug 15, 3:57PM EDT0

Philosophy meets politics at two points. Techne is the Greek for the instrumental production of objects and laws are objects that  are instrumentally created for the purposes of a flourishing communal life. Secondly Politics also has to meet ethical universally objective standards which are not instrumental(conditional) but categorical(unconditional). Laws are usually only changed for ethical reasons, i.e. when they are not meeting unconditional ethical standards.

Aristotle spike about 4 different kinds of explanation(aitiai). Two of them, material and efficient causes are the stomping ground of modern science. Science(especially biological science) in Aristotles' sense, however, requires all 4  kinds of explanation. When formal and final explanations are rejected by modern science this limits its application to physical objects in motion. When this limited mode of explanation denies the validity of formal and final modes of explanation  and asserts its universality  a whole world of phenomena end up being  without adequate explanation.

Aug 15, 5:00PM EDT0
What are the risks of not considering the arts and humanities in academic philosophy?
Aug 15, 12:30PM EDT0

The risk is that one believes, falsely in my opinion that the scientific method suffices for the analysis of all phenomena as long as  there is a physical aspect to be measured or experimented upon. So much of our existence is conducted in the sphere of understanding where concepts which are items of thought are the building blocks of truth and knowledge. Art, of course, involves a learning procedure which it shares with inductive procedures of science where the solution to a problem is a trial solution for which there is error elimination and a new problem emerges. The humanities are more concerned with concepts and sentences  which require conceptual analysis, logic and interpretation: necessary methods needed to "know thyself". 

Aug 15, 1:08PM EDT0
What kinds of jobs can you get with philosophy?
Aug 15, 11:58AM EDT0

Well, it used to be the case in England that a first degree in Philosophy qualified you for anything, the civil service, business,  etc.I have not lived in England for 40 years so I am not sure whether this is still the case.  I suspect that Philosophy is less of a universal qualification than it used to be for a number of reasons. One can of course do as I have done and teach Philosophy at IB schools that do the option or even teach Philosophy at University. Many  lawyers I know did their first degree in Philosophy before doing their law course.

Aug 15, 12:49PM EDT0
What's the nature of aesthetic intelligence, and how does it relate to other sorts of intelligence?
Aug 15, 4:53AM EDT0

Intelligence according to philosophers does not have a quantitative dimension and therefore cannot according to  philosophers be  measured. It is something which can be used badly or excellently and it is also something that can be cultivated into a disposition which enables man to think excellently, act excellently(in the pursuit of the good life) and produce and appreciate aesthetic objects excellently. The latter is the domain in which aesthetic intelligence operates.

Aug 15, 8:33AM EDT0
What role do you see for yourself or other like-minded philanthropists in improving access to philosophy for people at these institutions?
Aug 15, 1:04AM EDT0

There is clearly a need for more  Philosophical justification in public debate and in all institutions concerned with theoretical and social discourse and debate. University institutions change slowly and many are infected by the wave of relativism that swept the world in the wake of the claim to universalism by the scientific method which cannot be universally applied in areas of humanistic study. Interpretation and understanding of texts and social phenomena have a small scientific component but  many aspects require Philosophical analysis and synthesis. The  institutions infected by this attitude need changing but given the economic priorities for the financing of Universities and the demand for immediate empirical results this change will probably not come from within. It is up to many many figures standing outside these institutions to find ways of affecting the debate. Freud taught us that it could be done by writing books using traditional publishing avenues. He created a world wide psychoanalytical movement without being a part of any institution or university.That avenue today is to some extent closed but there is today the internet and social media. Whether these avenues can do the work required remains to be seen

Aug 15, 3:05AM EDT0
What books do you recommend to help readers become more involved in the philosophical world?
Aug 14, 10:53PM EDT0

Manuel Velasquez's Philosophy text book is a good introductory text. It has a few defects in its accounts of Aristotle, Kant and Wittgensteins Philosophy but otherwise it is very pedagogical in its approach. Russell's Problems of Philosophy is a  short very readable introduction also. 

Aug 15, 2:28AM EDT0
Why is philosophy of education said to be one's window to the world or one's compass in life? How does philosophy fulfill these roles?
Aug 14, 8:06PM EDT0

The metaphor of the window probably refers to our theoretical attitude toward the truth which has traditionally created a picture of a thinker surveying the world as it really is. The metaphor of the compass probably refers to the  practical active attitude  involved in our active search for the good life. The search for the good life if it is to be successful obviously requires knowledge of the truth of the world and the knowledge of the truth is a result of  a search for what is good in the world.

Aug 15, 2:25AM EDT0
Is epistemology important in the philosophy of education? On what do you base your answer?
Aug 14, 5:52PM EDT0

Plato in his work "The Republic" pointed to the importance of the knowledge of the Good, the true and the beautiful if one was to live a flourishing and examined life. The definition of knowledge that many philosophers still work with today comes from this source. Knowledge is justified true belief. Philosophers  of education examine the justifications that workers in different disciplines provide for the truth of their statements but they also examine the justifications that are used for leading various forms of life which claim to be good lives. Aristotle with some minor qualifications would largely agree with the above account but would add that appropriate methods of reasoning, i.e. logic(or in his word "analytics") ought to be used in the processes of  justification and in the processes of examination of these justifications. It is probably this higher  meta-level that is rightly regarded as the critical function of Philosophy  and philosophy of education. This tradition is then continued in the Philosophy of Kant and the later Wittgenstein.

Aug 15, 2:19AM EDT0
Why do you think that philosophy, in general, needs literature, the humanities, and other arts?
Aug 14, 3:00PM EDT1

Insofar as literature includes as a sub category tragic literature we can with Aristotle claim that tragedy  teaches us about ourselves and  even if literature is merely an imitation of reality since we delight in imitations and even engage naturally in the process of learning through imitating others, literature is providing us with that most difficult to understand knowledge, knowledge of our souls. Insofar as other humanistic subjects provide us with  knowledge of our souls and the communities souls need in order to lead flourishing lives they complement Philosophy and indeed many of them have grown out of Philosophy. The other arts use mediums that are non linguistic which have to be designed or organised in order to provide us with the material we need to understand our world. The rules that artists use in these design or organisation processes  are related to the ideas and intentions behind the work created

Aug 14, 4:04PM EDT0
For an average person, what are the basic differences between philosophy and the philosophy of education?
Aug 14, 1:39PM EDT0

Philosophy of education is merely the application of philosophical principles and concepts to the practical and theoretical activities of education. Philosophical analysis in the field of education analyses concepts in accordance with philosophical principles of logic and sufficient reason. Philosophical  explanation seeks to view the entity explained in a holistic perspective, e.g. in education the telos or "end" of educational activity is the educated person that possesses a number of capacities and dispositions that are described and explained by Philosophers . Philosophy uses its method to describe and explain all areas of theoretical and practical activity.

Aug 14, 1:53PM EDT0
Do you think philosophy is intrinsically valuable? If so, why?
Aug 14, 12:03PM EDT0

The word "intrinsically" here probably refers to "essentially" valuable and if that is the case then I certainly agree that philosophy is valuable because it is essential. The reason why  is related to the quality of life we all essentially strive to achieve. The Greek terms areté and eudaimonia related directly to the form of life we strive to achieve. The standard of excellence in all things set by Greek thinking leads essentially and natural to the flourishing life and thus human happiness. There are aspects of the world and our activity in it which cannot be fully controlled and in those cases the  act of philosophically understanding why this is the case is that which allows us to accept our inaction.

Aug 14, 1:22PM EDT0
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