The influence of Hegel on the philosophy of education of William Torrey Harris
Lyons, Richard Gerald
MetadataShow full item record
The problem of this dissertation is to ascertain to what extent the philosophy of Georg W. F. Hegel is influential in the formulation of the philosophy of education of William Torrey Harris. The term 'influence' is used in three different ways: First, in the straightforward sense in which Harris makes specific mention that an idea which he accepts was the direct result of his exposure to Hegel. Second, when an idea of Hegel's is accepted in toto by Harris and there is no evidence that Harris obtained the idea from any other source. Third, when an idea of Hegel's leads Harris to modify or expand it to such an extent that the idea can no longer be strictly called Hegelian. The most frequent use of the term is in the two former senses rather than in the latter problematic sense. On the basis of an examination of Harris' own intellectual and philosophical development, this work suggests that the primary area of Hegel's influence on Harris is axiological. Harris utilizes the Hegelian notion of freedom as the central notion in his philosophy of education. Underlying this notion of freedom is the category of causality, which, when viewed under the category of the understanding implies mechanistic determinism but, when viewed from the level of reason implies self-determination which is non-mechanistic. However, Harris' analysis of freedom is not exhausted by an "abstract justification," to use Hegel's term. Both Hegel and Harris insist that abstract or metaphysical freedom must be made concrete in the institutional life of the state. At this point, Harris' discussion of the major institutions of society, i.e., the family, civil society, and the state, are almost totally Hegelian. The relation of education to the state then becomes clear: Harris defines education as the process by which the individual becomes ethical--a definition which Harris takes to be originally Hegel's. The school is conceived of as that institution which enables the individual to become self-estranged or self-alienated, a necessary characteristic in the development of the ethical life. For Harris as well as Hegel the self is initially characterized as selfish. However, this quality must be overcome in order that the individual may become ethical i.e., an effective member of the state. For Harris, the central notion of an educational philosophy must be grounded in philosophy itself. However, educational philosophy also has the responsibility to formulate the means by which the philosophical objective may be implemented. For example, using Hegelian terms, Harris insists that the elementary school operates at the level of representation, the secondary school at the level of understanding, and the college at the level of reason. These three levels of education correspond generally to Hegel's categories of being, essence, and notion. However, the main function of the school is to see that the will and the intellect are trained so that they will enhance the freedom of the person. Thus, the elementary school may emphasize the training of the will, but not to the point where it would ignore the training of the intellect. On the other hand, various traditional subjects, especially the humanities, afford the student the opportunity to study the history of the intellect and the will: for example, a history of man's actions is a study of the will, while the history of philosophy is an examination of man's intellectual attempt to come to understand reality. If the school were successful in enabling the student to find truth and to act in accordance with truth, then the goal of education would be realized; that is, the student would have turned his formal or abstract freedom into substantial or concrete freedom. Harris' philosophical and educational views are critically examined on five counts: His notion of freedom, his ideas on the various levels of knowing and their relationship to education, his notion of the relationship of the self to institutional arrangements, his theory of the relationship between the school and other institutions, and finally his views on the relationship between philosophy and philosophy of education. In conclusion, it is suggested that Harris' contribution to educational philosophy lies not in the construction of a new perspective, but in the application of the Hegelian philosophy to the problem of education.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston UniversityPLEASE NOTE: Boston University Libraries did not receive an Authorization To Manage form for this thesis or dissertation. It is therefore not openly accessible, though it may be available by request. If you are the author or principal advisor of this work and would like to request open access for it, please contact us at email@example.com. Thank you.