Research Group
in Analytic Philosophy

Philip Kitcher - "The Centrality of Education

Date: 23 October 2023

Time: 15:00

Place: UAB (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona). Sala d'actes, reunions i juntes (B7/1056)


This talk outlines a radical rethinking of education.  Instead of holding that educational systems should be shaped so as to satisfy socio-economic constraints, interpreted narrowly in recent decades to emphasize the preparation of the young to compete in the global economy, it proposes to view education as “the main enterprise of the world” (R.W. Emerson).  I attempt to harmonize three important educational goals: equipping people to maintain themselves; providing the opportunity for fulfilling lives; and creating citizens who can live and work together to sustain democratic societies.  The notion of fulfillment is elaborated by following J.S. Mill in emphasizing individual freedom to “pursue one’s own good in one’s own way”, and requiring the chosen project to contribute to a transhistorical pan-human enterprise.  This requires a serious probing of the concept of autonomy.  I argue that the reworked notion is closely linked to capacities for democratic deliberation, and, like Dewey, I view regular exchanges among citizens as crucial for genuine democracy.  In light of these perspectives, shifts in the labor market, brought about by increasing automation, provide the opportunity for people to undertake rewarding (and properly respected) service work, participating, throughout their lives, in the education of others.  The resulting position has curricular consequences, and these, in turn, require social and economic changes.  I conclude by defending the approach I have sketched against charges of utopianism.