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The Essay as a Pedagogical Form: Teacher Education and Stanley Cavell’s Ordinary Language Philosophy


by Duck-Joo Kwak — 2011

Background/Context: The view of philosophy of education as “practical philosophy” initiated by Wilfred Carr has been a focus of recent educational discourses. What “practical” means here is closely associated with the educative aspect of “philosophical practice” itself. This article attempts to explore another educative aspect of philosophical practice, as manifested in Stanley Cavell’s ordinary language philosophy. This will enable us to refine the humanistic approach to teacher education proposed by David Hansen as a fruitful way of equipping would-be teachers with a humanistic sensibility. Such an approach is needed if teachers are to respond to the highly complex and unpredictable circumstances that they face in the rapidly changing educational environments of today’s globalizing world.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: How can Stanley Cavell’s practice of ordinary language philosophy, its underlying method and aspiration, be an exemplary case of “the essay form” of thinking and writing? “The essay form” here refers to a form of writing that Michael de Montaigne, the 16th-century Renaissance humanist, invented as a pedagogical practice for “trying oneself out” or “putting oneself to the test.”

Research Design: This article is an analytic essay that develops an argument based on textual evidence from relevant philosophical literature.

Conclusion: Cavell’s practice of ordinary language philosophy can be described as a nonauthoritative pedagogical practice that pursues the transformation of one’s sensibility by cultivating the first-person voice of self-knowledge. Thus, this can be a good source for our formulation of a humanistic approach to teacher education. But a more specific articulation of the constitutive structure of the essay form of writing needs to be made in order to have “philosophical reflection as the essay form” more adoptable by our educational program in teacher education and education in general.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 113 Number 8, 2011, p. 1733-1754
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16164, Date Accessed: 12/13/2017 11:23:44 PM

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About the Author
  • Duck-Joo Kwak
    Seoul National University
    E-mail Author
    DUCK-JOO KWAK is associate professor at Seoul National University in Seoul, Korea. Her research interests are, broadly speaking, ethics, philosophy of education, and teacher education. She has written numerous articles on civic and moral education from a postliberal perspective, especially in relation to democratic citizenship in liberal Confucian culture. Recent publications include: “Challenges for Values Education Today: In Search of a Humanistic Approach for the Cultivation of Private Citizenship,” 2007, in Values Education and Lifelong Learning, edited by D. N. Aspin, Springer; and “Teaching to Unlearn Community to Make a Claim to Community,” Spring 2010, Educational Theory. Her current work also focuses on the exploration of a humanistic approach to teacher education.
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