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The Emotional and Moral Basis of Rationality


by Robert R. Boostrom — 2013

This chapter explores the basis of rationality, arguing that critical thinking tends to be taught in schools as a set of skills because of the failure to recognize that choosing to think critically depends on the prior development of stable sentiments or moral habits that nourish a rational self. Primary among these stable sentiments are the delight of recognition and the surprise of uncertainty. The creative act of imagination that sparks the delight of recognition is an invitation to begin rational enquiry. A flash of insight provides a motive for valuing the principle of truthfulness, which in turn provides a basis for a community of enquiry. While acknowledging that in the current climate of accountability-through-assessment there are good reasons for teachers to believe that the aim of nourishing the stable sentiments that support rationality is out of their reach, the chapter argues that students become independent rational reasoners only because they have lived in a community or classroom in which the surprise of uncertainty is valued more than a right answer, and the delight of recognition is more celebrated than a test score.


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This article originally appeared as NSSE Yearbook Vol 112. No. 1.


Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 115 Number 13, 2013, p. 136-153
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 18322, Date Accessed: 5/25/2017 2:18:30 PM

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About the Author
  • Robert Boostrom
    University of Southern Indiana
    ROBERT BOOSTROM is a Professor at the University of Southern Indiana where he teaches courses in the philosophy and history of education. He is the author of Thinking: The Foundation of Critical and Creative Learning in the Classroom (Teachers College Press). Recent work appears in Teaching with Reverence: Reviving an Ancient Virtue for Today’s Schools (Palgrave Macmillan). Since 1997, he has been an associate editor of the Journal of Curriculum Studies.
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