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Genderized Cognitive Perspectives and the Redefinition of Philosophy of Education

by Harvey Siegel - 1983

Jane Roland Martin's charge that a male cognitive perspective dominates educational philosophy is assessed. Martin's views on the ideal educated person (in writings of R. S. Peters and others), gender bias in the intellectual disciplines, the rationality learning theory, and self-alienation of educated women are analyzed. (Source: ERIC)

Jane Roland Martin, in a series of forceful, impressive, and important recent papers,’ has leveled a blistering attack on philosophy of education, especially contemporary analytic philosophy of education (henceforth

CAPE ). Martin’s critique covers a wide range of topics, including philosophy of education’s neglect of the curriculum, its faulty historiography, its conception of a liberal education, its conception of the educated person, and, perhaps most centrally, its inadequate treatment of women. More specifically, Martin argues that the conception of education offered by CAPE excludes women from the educational realm; that its ideal of the educated person is “self-alienating” to women; that it is wedded to a “male cognitive perspective” or male bias; that its generally accepted views on curriculum are deficient, due mainly to what Martin calls the “epistemological fallacy”; that these views tend to support the development of “ivory tower people”; that the standard account of teaching, which Martin calls the “rationality theory” of teaching, is inadequate: and that all of these failings are so basic that the very discipline of philosophy of education needs to be restructured or reconstituted.2

It would be difficult to overestimate the seriousness of these charges. If Martin is right, the entire enterprise of philosophy of education is off track, and stands in need of radical revision. In what follows my aim is to assess Martin’s critique of

CAPE . I shall argue that, while there is much of value in Martin’s analysis, frequently her criticisms are overstated, and that CAPE need not go about the business of redefining itself in the way that Martin suggests. I shall argue that her discussion of cognitive perspective is flawed, and that her conclusion that CAPE is in the grip of a male cognitive perspective is unwarranted; that her claim that R. S. Peters’s ideal of the educated person is self-alienating to women is mistaken; and that the rationality theory of teaching survives her criticisms. Finally, I will suggest that while CAPE does indeed suffer from serious weaknesses and is intellectually suspect, its weaknesses stem not from sex bias, but from an inadequate conception of analysis, an erroneous conception of the relationship between philosophy of education and “pure” philosophy, and an undue unwillingness to consider questions of educational aims. Even so, it is not the case, as Martin alleges, that the very “structure of the discipline” is in need of redefinition.3

A final preliminary note is in order. Martin seems to be trying to do for philosophy of education what many others have tried to do for other disciplines, such as art, history, philosophy, psychology, and so on-namely, she is trying to demonstrate that philosophy of education, like those other disciplines, suffers from a male bias and is slanted against women and women’s experience. I applaud this effort, and want at the outset to grant the feminist point: If there is such bias, it is to be deplored and ought to be eliminated. We ought, I agree with Martin, to see to it that philosophy of education is not sexist. I am in full support of the social and political goals of feminism. It is precisely because these goals are so important, however, that arguments made in support of them be as strong and compelling as possible. Unfortunately, as I shall argue, Martin’s arguments do not yield the conclusions regarding disciplinary sexism that she draws. It is Martin’s arguments, not her feminism, that I want to challenge here, and it is in a spirit supportive of feminism that I offer the following criticism.


In her recent presidential address to the Philosophy of Education Society,4 Martin argues that the ideal of the educated person put forward by R. S. Peters is seriously deficient. In particular, Martin claims that Peters’s ideal is harmful to women in that a woman educated in accordance with the ideal is, to the extent that she achieves the ideal, likely to become “self-alienated” (since her own traits and dispositions are not sanctioned by the ideal, and the traits and dispositions promulgated by the ideal are not achieved by women without a great deal of internal stress).

Peters’s educated person is one who possesses knowledge and a conceptual scheme that serves to organize both that knowledge and that person’s “way of looking at things.“5 Knowledge is here taken to be knowledge in depth and breadth, and includes moral knowledge (“knowledge of good”6). Knowledge here is also to be knowledge of the sort one would get from a Hirstian liberal education: that is, knowledge of mathematics, science, literature, history, and so forth. In fact, Martin detects an isomorphism between Peters’s educated person and Hirst’s liberally educated person: “If Peters’s educated person is not in fact Hirst’s liberally educated person, he or she is certainly its identical twin.“7 It is knowledge of the traditional disciplines and “their subject matter, their conceptual apparatus, their standards of proof and adequate evidence, their way of looking at things that must be acquired if [Hirst’s and Peters’s] ideal is to be realized.“8

Martin argues against Peters’s ideal that the cognitive perspective engendered by the disciplines and achieved by Peters’s educated person is an unhappy one for women, for the disciplines embody a “male cognitive perspective,” and, Martin argues, “ignore or misrepresent the experience and lives of women.“9 Consequently, an educated person, by the lights of Peters’s ideal, looks at things “through male eyes.“10 After briefly describing the findings of several feminist scholars regarding the “male bias” of the disciplines, Martin summarizes them in claiming that “the intellectual disciplines into which a person must be initiated to become an educated person exclude women and their works, construct the female to the male image of her and deny the truly feminine qualities she does possess.“11 Since Peters’s ideal has educated persons initiated into existing forms of knowledge, and since those existing forms in fact embody a male perspective, Peters’s ideal recommends for all educated persons the adoption of that male perspective.12

Moreover, Martin argues that Peters’s conception of the educated person

coincides with our cultural stereotype of a male human being. According to that stereotype men are objective, analytic, rational; they are interested in ideas and things; they have no interpersonal orientation; they are neither nurturant nor supportive, neither empathetic nor sensitive. According to the stereotype nurturance and supportiveness, empathy and sensitivity are female attributes. Intuition is a female attribute too.13

Martin is quick to point out that “females can acquire the traits and dispositions which constitute Peters’s conception of the educated person; he espouses an ideal which, if it can be attained at all, can be by both sexes.”14 Nevertheless, this fact “does not affect the point at issue which is that Peters has set forth an ideal for education which embodies just those traits and dispositions our culture attributes to the male sex and excludes the traits our culture attributes to the female sex.”15

In due course I will consider whether Martin’s portrayal of Peters’s ideal is fair to Peters. Can it be said that Peters’s ideal corresponds with our cultural stereotype of a male as Martin describes it when Peters explicitly demands, for example, that moral education include the development of empathy and compassion? When his most central criticism of Kohlberg is that Kohlberg mistakenly neglects the (lack of) connection between moral reasoning and moral action? When he praises what he calls the “rational passions”? Do these features of Peters’s ideal of the educated person really coincide, as Martin claims, with our male cultural stereotype? The answer is not so clear as Martin suggests. I shall return to this point. First, let us finish detailing Martin’s argument. She grants that both females and males can attain to the same extent Peters’s ideal. The obvious next question, which Martin herself poses, is: Why then berate Peters’s ideal? If the traits possessed by Peters’s educated person are good, should we not regard it as a worthy ideal despite its alleged overlap with our male cultural stereotype? Indeed, why is it not the case that, in Martin’s words, “in extending to women cognitive virtues which have long been associated with men and which education has historically reserved for men, Peters’s theory of education strikes a blow for sex equality”?16 Martin’s answer is that “the traits Peters attributes to the educated person are . . . evaluated differently for males and females.”17 That is, they are genderized: appraised differentially according to sex. In particular, traits Peters’s ideal promulgates-rationality, analyticity, criticality, concern for the canons of science and math-are, Martin suggests, appraised positively for males but negatively for females. An educated woman, as judged by Peters’s standards, is judged to be masculine and unfeminine, an “unnatural or abnormal woman.”18 Such women, Martin contends, are placed in a “double bind” and are made to feel self-alienated, for to be educated they must adopt a male perspective and so must “give up their own way of experiencing and looking at the world, thus alienating themselves from themselves. To be unalienated they must remain uneducated. ”19 Moreover, an educated woman must acquire traits that are negatively evaluated when possessed by her, and to give up traits that would be positively evaluated when possessed by her, since Peters’s ideal excludes them. As Martin puts it, “men and women can both achieve Peters’s ideal. However, women suffer, as men do not, for doing so.”20 For this reason, and for others, Martin argues that we ought to reject Peters’s ideal of the educated person. And since philosophy of education suffers from the productive/reproductive dualism that Martin claims is at the root of Peters’s ideal, she suggests that full eradication of the problem demands our rethinking of the very domain of philosophy of education, and the redefinition of its subject matter.21

These are weighty conclusions indeed. Despite Martin’s articulate and powerful presentation, however, there are several serious weaknesses in her argument that make acceptance of those conclusions problematic. Consider first Martin’s claim that the disciplines embrace a male cognitive perspective. Is it the case that the disciplinary cognitive perspective is male? What does this claim come to? In Martin’s discussion the disciplinary cognitive perspective is male, or masculine, in two ways: First, it captures or embodies the way men look at things, or sees things “through male eyes”;22 second, it idealizes those traits that in our society are judged positively for males (but negatively for females), and that in fact are central to our cultural stereotype of a male human being. These two ways of a discipline’s cognitive perspective being male are quite distinct, and in fact each way leads to trouble for Martin’s analysis. For the first way that there is a male way of looking at things-is false under the interpretation Martin seems to give it; and the second way-that the disciplines ideally embody traits and dispositions that our society judges to be positive for males-is true, but fails to secure the conclusion Martin wishes to infer from it.

Consider first the first sense of “male cognitive perspective” just mentioned. Is it the case that there is a male way of looking at things? It is not clear that this first way of being male is a way of being male at all. Martin’s claim that there is a specifically male way of looking at things (and, for that matter, her claim that there are “truly femininequalities”23) is simply false, if that is taken to mean that all and only males share or naturally develop that particular perspective. The perspective Martin labels male is one that emphasizes objectivity, rationality, analyticity, concern for logical rigor and argumentation, etc. Yet none of us would say that all and only men achieve, develop, or approve of these traits. Martin herself claims that the traits and dispositions she is calling male can be achieved equally well by both sexes.24 Moreover, Martin’s papers themselves eloquently refute the claim that women cannot achieve these traits. So it cannot be that there arecertain unique and mutually exclusive perspectives, through one of which all males view things, and through another of which all females do. There is no genetic determination of sex-bound cognitive perspective.

If this much is correct, the force of Martin’s claim that the disciplinary cognitive perspective is male must rest on the second interpretation of male cognitive perspective: It is male not in that all and only males achieve or naturally develop it, but in that it idealizes those traits that in our society are judged positively for males (but negatively for females), that in fact are central to our cultural stereotype of a male, and that men are encouraged to develop through processes of socialization. Here I think Martin is undeniably correct. That is, it is undeniable that our society does genderize traits as Martin claims. But this fact is in no way capable of undermining Peters’s ideal of the educated person.

Recall that Peters’s ideal is deficient, according to Martin, because it places women in a double bind and causes them to become self-alienated. To the extent that women achieve the traits and dispositions favored by Peters’s ideal, they are judged negatively, as unfeminine; while to the extent that women manage to maintain society’s judgment of them as feminine, or normal women, they must be judged uneducated in the light of Peters’s ideal. Now this double bind is surely a real one, and a painful one, for women, but it is important to analyze rightly the source of this suffering. Martin locates the source in Peters’s ideal. I want to suggest that the responsibility for the suffering lies not with Peters’s ideal, but with societal genderized evaluation of the various traits and dispositions that ideal recommends.

A woman who achieves and cares about objectivity, rationality, analysis, and canons of empirical and logical rigor becomes self-alienated because those traits and dispositions are judged negatively with respect to women. But Peters’s ideal teaches women to value and try to achieve them nonetheless. Therein lies the double bind: Peters’s ideal and society’s genderized evaluations are in conflict. If society’s judgments are taken as fixed-that is, if we grant that society’s judgments regarding “truly feminine qualities”25 are appropriate and proper, or if we grant, as Martin seems to be claiming, that some qualities are truly feminine- then placing responsibility for the suffering created by the double bind on Peters’s ideal seems unavoidable. But taking society’s judgments as fixed in either of these ways seems to me a mistake. It is not the case that qualities being urged as truly feminine are so they are neither the exclusive property of women, in the sense that all and only women naturally acquire them; nor are they such that women, but not men, ought to achieve them. It is not the case (nor, as I will argue, is it Peters’s contention) that men ought not to be, for example, empathetic or nurturing. Moreover, while it is true that society does not regard such qualities as male, and judges men with such qualities negatively, as unmasculine or effeminate, we surely need not simply settle for society’s judgments on these matters. We can challenge society’s judgments on these issues and argue that, societal judgments notwithstanding, empathetic and nurturing men and rational women should not be judged negatively. In fact, in the case of “unfeminine” males, we do challenge societal judgments. If, for example, a nonempathetic, non-nurturing male defended his ways by arguing that being empathetic and nurturing would cause him to suffer and to be self-alienated, since society judges men with such traits as unmasculine, we would surely-and rightly-reject this defense, for we regard these traits as good traits, for men as well as women, and reject the contrary societal judgment. Martin it seems would agree. But if the self-alienation defense fails for unfeminine men, it fails for unmasculine women as well.26 Consequently, we err if we find fault with Peters’s ideal on the grounds that it leads to the self-alienation of women, for the fault lies not with the ideal, but with erroneous and damaging genderized societal evaluations. Peters’s ideal looks bad here only because it encourages women to have traits-good traits that society mistakenly regards as traits that are bad for women to have.

The problem then, to reiterate, is not with Peters’s ideal, but with society’s erroneous judgments regarding the goodness of traits-and the willingness of women and men to accept uncritically those erroneous judgments. Indeed, if Peters’s ideal were taken seriously, and women (as well as men) encouraged to be critical and rational, the double bind would not arise, since women would recognize that it is the erroneous ideal of femininity proffered by society that errantly grounds the inappropriate and unnecessary self-alienation.27 In this way the existence of the double bind calls for a commitment to Peters’s ideal, not a rejection of it. For a woman who achieves rationality is in a better position to rationally reject an indefensible societal ideal of femininity than a woman who cannot subject that ideal to critical scrutiny.

As a feminist, I reject the idea that rationality is a positive quality for males only. This seems to me to sell women’s rational capabilities far too short. But in any case, as I have been arguing, we should not regard society’s genderized evaluations as fixed. Rather, we should regard them as wrong. And SO we should not reject Peters’s ideal for the reasons Martin offers us. Peters’s ideal then can be seen as striking “a blow for sex equality”-both by extending the domain of rationality to women and explicitly holding that women can be rational, and by challenging a societal evaluation that has been the cause of much injustice and suffering and is in great need of challenge. Martin’s argument depends on the acceptance of society’s genderized evaluations-in particular, its judgment that rationality is unfeminine. But she (and we) should not accept it. It is this genderized evaluation, not Peters’s ideal, that is the problem; self-alienation results from pernicious societal judgments, not from faulty philosophical ideals.


I argued briefly that it is improper to regard the disciplinary cognitive perspective as male if by that is meant that such a perspective is one that all and only males share or naturally develop. There are additional problems with Martin’s regarding the disciplinary cognitive perspective as male.

One problem has to do with the assumption that all the disciplines or rational traditions Peters and Hirst would have us initiated into are alike with respect to cognitive perspective. Martin writes, for example, that “the intellectual disciplines into which a person must be initiated to become an educated person exclude women and their works, construct the female to the male image of her and deny the truly feminine qualities she does possess.”28

Can this be said of disciplines such as physics or mathematics, which do not treat of women-or men-at all? These disciplines, which do not take humans of either gender as subject matter, seem innocent of the charges Martin presses against them. Indeed, it would be hard to imagine what physics or mathematics as seen through a female cognitive perspective would be like. Would the Peano axioms be different? The subject matter of real analysis? The theory of quantum chromodynamics? Would a female cognitive perspective not regard these intellectual achievements as bona fide achievements? If those questions are answered in the negative, then we must conclude that the several disciplines do not share a unitary cognitive perspective. If some of the disciplines do indeed embrace a male cognitive perspective, others do not, as they do not issue in gender statements or take women (or men) as subject matter. But if different disciplines embrace different cognitive perspectives, the blanket claim (just cited) Martin makes regarding “the intellectual disciplines into which a person must be initiated”29must be qualified, and the underlying assumption that there is a unitary cognitive perspective that the disciplines share must be given up. For while it is no doubt true that some of the “disciplines of knowledge ignore or misrepresent the experience and lives of women,”30 some disciplines, especially mathematics and the physical sciences, are simply and legitimately unconcerned with the lives and experiences of women (and men). This point suggests, in turn, that Martin’s use of the notion of cognitive perspective is not especially precise or careful. I shall return to this point.


Of particular interest is Martin’s claim that philosophy of education is itself suffering from a bad case of male cognitive perspective. Martin argues that women are excluded both as the subjects and objects of educational thought from the standard texts and anthologies: as subjects, their philosophical works on education are ignored; as objects, works by men about their education and also their role as educators of the young are largely neglected. Moreover, the very definition of education and the educational realm adopted implicitly by the standard texts, and made explicit by contemporary analytic philosophers of education, excludes women.31

Martin argues first that philosophy of education has excluded women as objects of educational thought. Thus she writes that “Pestalozzi’s insight that mothers are educators of their children and that we can learn from their methods has been largely ignored in educational philosophy.”32 In addition, Martin claims that women have also been excluded as subjects of educational thought-that is, “women philosophers of education have been overlooked”33 by philosophers of education, their philosophical contributions ignored. Martin singles out Maria Montessori as such a neglected woman philosopher, as well as Mary Wollstonecraft, Catherine Macauley, Catharine Beecher, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman.34

Now I must confess that I have no special love for the standard view of the history of philosophy of education. I would be happy to add to the list of important philosophers of education the women Martin mentions, as I would be happy to delete from the list men whose contribution to philosophy of education is questionable. But on what basis is such a list constructed? What criteria must a philosopher of education-woman or man-meet, in order to be placed on the list? Martin agrees that “criteria do have to be satisfied”35 before the women she mentions are properly included, but she offers no suggestion as to what these criteria might be. Moreover, her discussion of this matter involves a serious equivocation between “educational philosophy” and “educational thought,” suggesting that persons “who have thought systematically about education”36 are ipso facto to be regarded as philosophers of education. This, however, will not do, unless we are willing to allow all systematic thought about education (whatever “systematic” might mean) to count as philosophy of education, and all thinkers about education to count as philosophers. That this would force us to regard people such as John Holt, Jonathan Kozol, Patricia Graham, David Tyack, W. James Popham, David K. Cohen, Judy Blume, Robert W. Cole, Jr., Jesse Jackson, and Walter Mondale as philosophers of education is sufficient reason to reject Martin’s identification of “educational thinker” with “educational philosopher.” How then is this distinction to be drawn? I would argue that philosophy of education is marked out by its distinctive (though not unitary) methods; by its concern with a certain set of questions that, as with all philosophical questions, cannot be decisively settled on empirical grounds; by its connection with other philosophical concerns and areas, such as epistemology, metaphysics, axiology, ethics, and social and political philosophy; by its connection with a certain body of literature; and so forth. But my concern at the moment is not to establish a definitive list of criteria by which we can demarcate the educationally philosophical. It is rather to argue that without some such list of criteria by which to so demarcate, argument concerning whether this or that person ought to be considered a philosopher of education is bound to be uncompelling. Yet Martin offers such argument without offering such criteria. In fact, Martin admits that the works of the women she mentions “must be studied and their significance determined before one can be sure that they should be included in the standard texts and anthologies. This analytic and evaluative endeavor remains to be done.”37 But if Martin is not willing to say, on the basis of analysis and evaluation, that these candidates have been unjustly excluded, how can it be obvious that such exclusion is in fact unjust? In short, until Martin can make a convincing case that some women have unjustly been excluded from the standard anthologies and texts-that is, until she can show that some women have in fact made serious contributions to philosophy of education (and not educational thought)-her charge that philosophy of education excludes women as subjects must be considered unfounded.38

Martin’s charge that philosophy of education excludes women as objects is also problematic, for she neglects to say what it is about women’s lives and experiences that is as such germane to philosophy of education. Having said nothing concerning criteria by which to determine whether some subject is or is not a bona fide concern of philosophy of education, Martin nevertheless insists that “women’s experiences” -which she tends to equate with what she calls reproductive processes-are improperly excluded by philosophers of education from consideration. But she has given us no reason to regard reproductive processes as philosophically significant. Why should reproductive processes be regarded as a topic of concern for philosophy of education?

Why is philosophy of education mistaken for ignoring such processes, when physics or psychology is not? Martin’s argument depends crucially on her offering some criteria by which to recognize topics as having significance for philosophy of education. But she offers no such criteria, and her argument for regarding reproductive processes as philosophically significant seems at times to come down simply to the point that women are involved in them, as if that fact by itself is sufficient to qualify those processes as philosophical.39 Of course such a fact does no such thing, any more than the fact that men are involved in them make football or oil drilling topics of concern for philosophy of education. Without some general notion of what makes a topic a topic of moment for philosophy of education, Martin’s charge that philosophy of education mistakenly fails to concern itself with reproductive processes will remain unconvincing, for some such notion is crucial to establishment of the charge, Martin’s claim depends entirely on her view of what is to count as important for philosophy of education, but she never seriously explores this topic. Without such consideration, however, her argument is impotent to secure her conclusion.40 (For the sake of clarity, I wish to emphasize that I am not arguing that philosophy of education should ignore reproductive processes, but only that Martin has given us no compelling argument that it should not.)

In the light of all this it is difficult to assent to Martin’sclaims that CAPE is “a servant of patriarchal policy,” and that “the paradigms of analytic philosophy of education do not apply to . . . women.”41 Of course they do: Women can be initiated into the main intellectual traditions, can be rational and critical, and so on. The paradigms of CAPE do indeed apply to women and men. It is only Martin’s erroneous identification of these traits as male that lend her polemic what plausibility it has. Martin claims that CAPE “make[s] women and their activities and experiences invisible,”42 but she has not shown that those activities and experiences are properly thought of as women’s at all, that the particular women she mentions ought to be regarded as important philosophers of education, or that reproductive processes are of genuine philosophical interest. Indeed, while views about what counts as genuinely philosophical play a central role in her overall critique of CAPE, Martin never seriously addresses the task of setting out criteria or offering argument by which to establish. a work, issue, topic, or thesis as genuinely philosophical. But, as I argued earlier, without addressing this task, criticisms of CAPE for neglecting topics and concerns inappropriately can only be seen as unfounded. Moreover, Martin’s claim that central tenets of CAPE, including Peters’s conception of education, “derive from male experience”43 depends for its force on the faulty claim that only males are capable of male experience. Martin’s own work gives the lie to the view that what she regards as male experience is truly male. In short, Martin’s arguments that CAPE suffers from male cognitive perspective or male bias must be rejected. The arguments Martin provides simply do not establish their conclusions.


Martin also criticizes the “rationality theory of teaching,” which she claims stems from a misplaced focus on male experience. The rationality theory of teaching has it that “teaching is . . . an initiation into open rational discussion,”44 and that to teach

is at some points at least to submit oneself to the understanding and independent judgment of the pupil, to his demand for reasons, to his sense of what constitutes an adequate explanation. . . . Teaching involves further that, if we try to get the student to believe that such and such is the case, we try also to get him to believe it for reasons that, within the limits of his capacity to grasp, are our reasons. Teaching, in this way, requires us to reveal our reasons to the student, and, by so doing, to submit them to his evaluation and criticism.45

Martin argues that this theory of teaching, in its emphasis on engaging the reason of the child and on the production of justifying reasons by the teacher, renders much of what goes on in child rearing nonteaching: “Most of the teaching and learning which takes place in relation to the reproductive processes of society do not fit these criteria [of the rationality theory].”46 She complains in addition that, because there are some situations in which the production of reasons is otiose or impossible, and that the aim of the child rearer is nonetheless perfectly justifiable, activities meeting the criteria of the rationality theory will not be rational: “Thus there are many contexts in which an activity meeting the requirements of the rationality theory of teaching will not be rational from the standpoint of the demands of the particular context.”47

Martin’s first complaint, that the rationality theory renders much of childrearing activity nonteaching, is not at all compelling. For one thing, her assumption that these activities are cases of teaching is gratuitous and question-begging. If the issue being considered is whether certain activities constitute teaching, simply assuming that they do is question-begging against the rationality theory, which holds that they do not. Moreover, Martin’s assumption is groundless: She offers no reason for regarding those activities as teaching activities, except her implicit reason that such activities contribute to the education and development of the child. But unless she is prepared to argue that everything that so contributes counts as teaching-a dubious proposition indeed-this implicit reason does not aid her cause. Martin’s second complaint, that in some contexts acting in accordance with the rationality theory would be irrational, is surely right, but is utterly forceless as an argument against the rationality theory. For what it shows is simply that in such contexts teaching is irrational. The rationality theory does not say “only teach,” as if the development of habits and character traits or the instilling of values in very young children, for example, is a bad thing. It simply holds that such activities, while eminently worthwhile and central to a child’s development, do not constitute teaching.

Besides misinterpreting the rationality theory in this way, Martin’s discussion betrays a serious misunderstanding of the relationship between the concepts of teaching and learning. After detailing activities that are central to child rearing and reproductive processes, and which are clearly part of child development, Martin writes: “Yet, if the teacher’s reasons are not revealed or the learner’s rationality is not acknowledged, the rationality theory denies the labels of ‘teacher’ and ‘learner’ to the parties involved.“48 Now we have already considered Martin’s error with respect to the label “teacher”: She has given us no reason to think that these activities must always be properly regarded as teaching activities, and so her use of “teacher” here, as earlier, is both question-begging and gratuitous. But her mention of the label “learner” deserves additional comment. It is simply false that the rationality theory holds that if the teacher has not taught, the learner has not learned. That is, it is false that the rationality theory holds that teaching is a necessary (or sufficient) condition of learning. One can learn all sorts of things in all sorts of ways; learning need not be the result of teaching. (We all have learned, for example, what the weather is like today. Who has taught us that?) So Martin is simply mistaken in taking the rationality theory to hold that when the label “teacher” is inappropriate, the label “learner” is as well.

Lurking behind Martin’s criticism of the rationality theory is a lack of appreciation of the motivation for that theory of teaching. In articulating and defending the rationality theory, most have focused on the need for any sound analysis of teaching to distinguish that mode of bringing about the acquiring of beliefs in the student from other modes of student belief-acquisition. In the passage Martin cites, for example, Scheffler begins by noting that beliefs “can be acquired through mere unthinking contact, propaganda, indoctrination, or brainwashing.”49 We might add to this list methods such as torture, deception, training, lying, threatening, conditioning, manipulating, and so on. Scheffler goes on to note that teaching as the rationality theory portrays it is differentiated from these other modes of belief inculcation by its focus on the role reason plays for the student and the teacher, such reason being unnecessary for, and in some cases necessarily absent from, these other modes.

Even in the case of activities “which take place in relation to the reproductive processes of society,”50 there is room for, and need for, distinctions to be drawn between these various modes of belief acquisition and inculcation. Yet Martin’s discussion is entirely devoid of such distinctions and of even the recognition of their appropriateness and necessity. In this regard Martin’s discussion is a giant step backward from analyses like Scheffler’s and Green’s,51 which are devoted in large part to articulating and drawing out the implications for education of the distinctions between the various modes of belief acquisition and inculcation. Even if Martin is right that someactivities that the rationality theory does not regard as teaching activities ought to be so regarded-and, as we have seen, she has offered no compelling reason for thinking so-her analysis is blind to these educationally crucial distinctions. In this respect it muddies waters that analysis has helped to clear.52 The “bottom line” of Martin’s criticism of the rationality theory of teaching is that it is based on cases that are “derived solely from male experience”53 and “makes the educational activities of mothers, and by implication mothers themselves, appear nonrational, if not downright irrational.”54 But it is not derived solely from male experience, for that experience is not, as I argued earlier, properly understood as male. More importantly, the rationality theory does not in the least make the educational activities of mothers, and mothers themselves, appear nonrational or irrational. It only holds that activities that do not meet its criteria be regarded as nonteaching activities. There is much that is nonteaching, however, that is rational, and in no way does the rationality theory imply that persons engaged in nonteaching activities are irrational. We must conclude then that the rationality theory of teaching easily survives Martin’s criticisms.


There is a further difficulty with Martin’s treatment of the notion of cognitive perspective that deserves mention. Martin is offering arguments against what she takes to be CAPE’s male cognitive perspective. She wants us to be convinced of her conclusion, and to be so for good reason. Now if Martin is simply assuming or adopting an alternative, female cognitive perspective, she could rightly be charged with begging the question, since she would be assuming her conclusion (that the male cognitive perspective is inadequate or inferior). But then we ought not to be convinced, on the basis of good reason, of her conclusion. So the principle of charity demands that we interpret Martin to be not question-beggingly assuming a rival cognitive perspective from which to challenge the male cognitive perspective, but rather adopting an objective cognitive meta-perspective, which is neutral as between the male cognitive perspective and its rivals, and from which she can fairly criticize and assess male and other first-order cognitive perspectives. What would such a second-order meta-perspective be like? In order for it to be capable of fair and proper assessment of first-order perspectives, it must at a minimum be neutral with respect to alternative first-order perspectives, it must be objective, it must evaluate in accordance with or on the basis of reason, and so on-otherwise, its evaluations would be either question-begging or baseless. So the second-order perspective must be thought to embody at least the standard philosophical ideals of objectivity and rationality. But then how is that meta-perspective different from the first-order male cognitive perspective Martin wants to criticize? For the male perspective Martin challenges takes those ideals to be central. (Martin might argue that the two differ in that the male cognitive perspective fails to incorporate female experience. But, as I argued earlier, this response will not do, for rationality-or rational experience-is not male, or nonfemale, in the requisite sense.)

Thus Martin is caught on the horns of a dilemma. Either her argument is launched from a female cognitive perspective, in which case it is question-begging against the male perspective, and so is impotent as a criticism of that male perspective; or else her argument is grounded in a neutral meta-perspective that respects the demands of impartiality, objectivity, and rationality-those very ideals held dear by the male cognitive perspective, in which case she is assuming the very cognitive perspective she wishes to argue against.

This is a real and serious problem for Martin, a problem noted (and charitably dealt with) by Professor McClellan in his response to Martin’s presidential address.55 For Martin is engaged in the task of rational analysis, which, as McClellan notes, “presuppose[s] criteria that are neither male nor female.”56 She seems, however, at least at some points, to be claiming that analysis and rationality are themselves sex-bound. The problem then is that Martin’s project presupposes that rationality is not male, but her claims, especially her discussion of male cognitive perspective, often suggest that it is. I strongly suspect that were Martin to come to grips with the dilemma I have sketched, she would locate the difficulty in the very notion of “cognitive perspective,” which is left unanalyzed by Martin and which is an extremely vague and slippery notion. I believe that investigation would show that that notion, when used as Martin uses it, is incoherent, or at any rate cannot do the work Martin requires of it. I agree with McClellan that the notion of cognitive perspective is “untenable entirely” 57--though not necessarily for the reasons McClellan offers. In any case, it seems clear that Martin’s analysis suffers from a fundamental difficulty on this point.


Earlier I suggested that Martin’s portrayal of Peters’s ideal of the educated person was not quite fair to Peters. Martin’s account, recall, has it that Peters’s ideal coincides with our cultural stereotype of a male human being in calling for no role for emotions or feelings; in not valuing empathy, sensitivity, compassion, nurturance, or other “arational” traits. In addition, Martin argues that Peters’s ideal and its twin, Hirst’s ideal of a liberally educated person, place no value on acting in the world, but only thinking. As Martin says of Hirst’s conception:

The received theory’s liberally educated person will be taught to see the world through the lenses of the seven forms of knowledge, if seven there be, but not to act in the world. Nor will that person be encouraged to acquire feelings and emotions. The theory’s liberally educated person will be provided with knowledge about others, but will not be taught to care about their welfare, let alone to act kindly toward them. That person will be given some understanding of society, but will not be taught to feel its injustices or even to be concerned over its fate.58

And with respect to Hirst’s twin, Peters: “Peters’s educated person is intended to inhabit a world in which feelings and emotions such as caring, compassion, empathy, and nurturance have no legitimate role to play.”59 Finally, bringing the two together:

The Peters-Hirst educated person is an ivory-tower person: a person who can reason yet has no desire to solve real problems in the real world; a person who understands science but does not worry about the uses to which it is put; a person who can reach flawless moral conclusions but feels no care or concern for others.60

Has Martin fairly described Peters’s and Hirst’s conceptions here? Let us consider Peters first. I take it as uncontroversial that Peters regards moral education as part of education. Martin’s claim that Peters’s ideal does not allow any room for caring, compassion, empathy, and so on thus implies that, according to Peters, these emotions and feelings have no role to play in moral education. Yet, as anyone acquainted with Peters’s writings on moral education knows, these emotions and feelings have a central role in Peters’s conception of moral education. He takes for granted that a key aim of moral education is the development or moral conduct.61 In criticizing Kohlberg, Peters complains that “Kohlberg pays too little attention” to “a central aspect of morality . . . namely, the intimate connection between knowing the difference between right and wrong, and caring.”62 He writes further that he regards the question “How do children come to care?” as “the most important question in moral education.”63 He chides Kohlberg for being “particularly weak on the development of the affective side of morality, of moral emotions,”64 and complains that Kohlberg does not deal adequately with the development of will in morality, which Peters regards as central because of its role in fostering moral action.65 Moreover, leaving moral education now and focusing on the general question of the relationship between reason and emotion, in Peters’s book Reason and Compassion66-whose title alone spells trouble for Martin’s interpretation-Peters explicitly denounces the sharp separation between reason and emotion that Martin attributes to him. He writes, for example, that “the antithesis between reason and passion is misconceived”;67 he speaks of the importance of, and indeed the necessity of, the emotions in undergirding reason, and of the inseparability of reason and its “appropriate passions.”68 In short, Martin badly misconstrues Peters’s position on the relation between reason and the emotions, on the role of the emotions in education, and on the relationship between thought and action. Martin’s claims that Peters denies the emotions a legitimate role in education, that Peters divorces reason from emotion, and that he divorces reason (and emotion) from action are simply false. Martin has only selectively attended to Peters here, and has ignored that portion of Peters’s work which challenges her interpretation.69

Martin’s portrayal of Hirst fares no better. She claims that Hirst’s conception of the liberally educated person also divorces thought from emotion and action, resulting in ivory tower people. But Hirst’s liberally educated person, like Peters’s educated person, has mastered moral judgment, which relies on an appreciation of feelings and emotions. In any case, Martin’s identification of Hirst’s and Peters’s conceptions as “twins” spells trouble for her analysis of Hirst here, for if the two conceptions are isomorphic, as Martin claims, and if Peters’s conception, contrary to Martin, does not divorce reason from emotion or action, then it follows that Hirst’s does not either. That is to say, Martin can retain her criticism of Hirst only by retracting her “twins” analysis.


Martin’s discussion of the “epistemological fallacy”-the view that the theory of knowledge is sufficient to determine the curriculum-I find compelling.70 I agree with Martin that normative considerations, particularly those concerning the aims of education, are highly relevant to the determination of the curriculum. What this shows is that philosophy of education needs to reassert the legitimacy, and indeed the primacy, of questions concerning the aims of education.

But to claim this is not to claim that philosophy of education needs to be “redefined,” “restructured,” or “reconstituted,” all these being terms used by Martin to describe what needs to be done to philosophy of education. Martin’s arguments for restructuring, redefining, and reconstituting do not warrant such sweeping conclusions.

Martin argues, for example, that the exclusion of women and the reproductive processes of society “is a consequence of the structure of the discipline” of philosophy of education, and that “the very subject matter of the field must be redefined.”71 But her argument to that end relies wholly on her criticism of Hirst and Peters, as if these two philosophers constituted the discipline. Martin actually suggests that this is the case. She writes, for example, that Peters’s conception of education and the educated person “defines the domain”72 of CAPE, and that Hirst’s conception of the liberally educated person along with Peters’s conception “are accepted in general outline by the field of philosophy of education.”73 Martin’s suggestion is that to differ with Peters and Hirst is to cease to do philosophy of education as it is presently “structured.” But this is simply false. Martin is confusing the discipline of philosophy of education with the theses of two of its practitioners. Note that this is true even if Martin is right that all or most philosophers of education accept those theses -even universal acceptance of the theses within the discipline does not warrant the identification of the theses with the discipline. Even if it did, Martin’s identification would still be in trouble, for many “CAPE-ers” have criticized those theses. (I mention D. C. Phillips, Robert Halstead, and Martin herself as noteworthy examples.) So Martin’s identification of philosophy of education as a discipline with the particular theses of a particular pair of writers must be rejected. It is not the case that these theses are universally accepted within the discipline, and even if it were, the identification would not be called for.

There is, moreover, a related problem concerning the notions of restructure, reconstitute, and redefine that Martin is appealing to. What is it, exactly, to restructure or redefine a discipline? Is it simply to change a prevailing view, or is it more fundamental than that? Was physics restructured or redefined in the shift from Newton to Einsten, or from Rutherford to Bohr? Was philosophy of science redefined in the shift from Carnap to Kuhn? The answer to these questions depends on what is meant by restructuring and redefinition. Even if those terms are taken weakly, to mean we should reject Peters’s and Hirst’s conceptions-a view with which I am not unsympathetic-Martin has not successfully made the case for restructuring, since, as I have tried to show, her arguments regarding exclusion, self-alienation, and so on simply fail to establish their conclusions. If Martin means by those terms something stronger than a simple rejection of Peters or Hirst-perhaps, for example, that we should change our views about the constitution of philosophy and/or philosophy of education -then the case for restructuring is even less successful. It must be concluded that Martin’s sweeping claims regarding the restructuring, redefining, and rethinking the domain of philosophy of education are simply unsuccessful, and that her call for the radical alteration of the discipline is uncalled for.


Does this mean that Peters’s and Hirst’s conceptions are correct, or that philosophy of education is in the pink? Not at all. My own view shares with Martin’s the conviction that there are fundamental problems with CAPE, and with Hirst’s and Peters’s conceptions. These fundamental problems include, first, an overreliance on a particular sort of analysis, often called “ordinary-language” analysis, in which the main weight of an argument rests on a locution like “it would be odd to say. . .” Such a method of argument relies far too heavily on an undue regard for ordinary usage, and an unwillingness to countenance alternative usage in the service of inquiry. At the risk of being accused of “physics envy,” let me simply note where we would be if we were unwilling to take seriously linguistic oddities regarding the bending of space, or the “smearing out” in space-time of certain elementary particles. This infatuation with ordinary-language analysis, and its subservience to ordinary usage, is, I believe, a prime cause of the sterility of much philosophy of education, including that of Peters and Hirst. Another fundamental problem is philosophy of education’s tenuous relation to so-called pure philosophy.74

Yet another problem (and here I agree with Martin) is an aversion to normative inquiry concerning educational aims, practices, and outcomes. Analysis is not incompatible with normative concerns, contrary to conventional analytical wisdom, and I regard the articulation and defense of educational aims as a central focus of philosophy of education. But these points must wait for their development until another day.


1 Jane Roland Martin, “Needed: A New Paradigm for Liberal Education,” in Philosophy and Education: The Eightieth Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, ed. Jonas F. Soltis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), pp. 37-59: idem. “Sophie and Emile: A Case Study of Sex Bias in the History of Educational Thought,” Harvard Educational Review 51 (August 1981): 357-72; idem, “Two Dogmas of Curriculum, “Synthese51 (April 1988): 5-20: idem, “The Ideal of the Educated Person,” in Philosophy of Education 1981: Proceedings of the Thirty-Seventh Annual Meeting of the Philosophy of Education Society, ed. Daniel R. DeNicola (Normal, Ill.: Philosophy of Education Society, 1982) pp. 3-20, reprinted in Educational Theory 31 (Spring 1981): 97-109; idem, “Excluding Women from the Educational Realm,” Harvard Educational Review 52 (May 1982): 133-48; and idem, “Sex Equality and Education: A Case Study,” in “Femininity,” “Masculinity,” and “Androgyny”: A Modern Philosophical Discussion, ed. Mary Vetterling-Braggin (Totowa, N.J.: Littlefield, Adams, 1982), pp. 279-300.

2 Martin, “Excluding Women,” pp. 146-48.

3 Ibid.. p. 148.

4 Martin, “The Ideal of the Educated Person.”

5 Ibid., p. 4.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid., p. 5.

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid., p. 6.

10 Ibid.

11 Ibid., p. 7, emphasis in original.

12 Ibid., p. 8.

13 Ibid., pp. 8-9.

14 Ibid., p. 9, emphasis in original.

15 Ibid.

16 Ibid.

17 Ibid.

18 Ibid., pp. 9-10.

19 Ibid., p. 11.

20 Ibid.

21 Ibid., pp. 15-16.

22 Ibid., p. 6.

23 Ibid., p. 7, emphasis added.

24 Ibid., p. 9.

25 Ibid., p. 7.

26 I am grateful to Edward Mooney for suggesting this point.

27 I do not mean to suggest that this would be easy for women. After all, societal influences are strong. I only mean to suggest that Peters’s ideal, if achieved, would tend to undercut those societal judgments that underlie the double bind Martin describes.

28 Martin, “The Ideal of the Educated Person,” p. 7, emphasis in original.

29 Ibid.

30 Martin, “The Ideal of the Educated Person,” p. 6.

31 Martin, “Excluding Women,” p. 134.

32 Ibid., p. 135 . 33 Ibid.

34 Ibid., pp. 135-36.

35 Ibid., p. 136.

36 Ibid.

37 Ibid.

38 This is so even for Martin’s best case, that of Montessori. Martin writes that “Montessori’s claim to inclusion in the standard texts and anthologies is apparent, for her philosophical works on the education of children are widely known” (“Excluding Women,” p. 135). But are these works really philosophical? Martin offers no criteria for demarcating works of philosophy of education from other educational works. According to the criteria I have briefly sketched in the text, Montessori’s works would not count as examples of philosophy of education, though they surely would count as examples of systematic educational thought. (Perhaps this explains Martin’s puzzlement concerning the fact that, of all the anthologies she considers. only Robert S. Rusk’s The Doctrines of the Great Educators [New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1965, revised 3rd Edition] includes a consideration of Montessori. Rusk’s volume does not explicitly limit itself to philosophy of education; most of the others do.)

39 Cf., for example, Martin, “Excluding Women,” pp. 140, 142.

40 Martin lays the blame for CAPE’s neglect of reproductive processes largely on the conceptions of education and liberal education developed by R. S. Peters and Paul Hirst. See Martin, “Excluding Women,” pp. 138-42. She notes, and deplores, the judgment that Pestalozzi’s character Gertrude’s interactions with her children do not invariably count, given Peters’s conception of education, as educational interactions, but she never says why they should so count. Moreover, Martin suggests that, due to the narrowness of Peters’s conception of education, questions concerning the transmission of values-regarding, for example, the meaning of “transmission,” the values that ought to be transmitted, the relative rights of parents and schools to transmit values, and so on-cannot even be raised by CAPE (140). But this is simply false. Such questions can, and are, raised by CAPE (to cite just one example, in discussions of the moral and educational acceptability of values clarification programs), and put into glaring relief Martin’s forced analysis according to which the narrowness of Peters’s conception of education amounts to his exclusion of reproductive processes from that conception. I agree with Martin that these are important questions, but it is simply false that CAPE cannot raise and attempt to deal with them. If these are indeed questions concerning philosophical dimensions of reproductive processes, then the fact that CAPE can and does raise them stands as a powerful refutation of Martin’s claim that CAPE excludes reproductive processes from its domain.

41 Martin, “Excluding Women,” p. 145.

42 Ibid.

43 Ibid., p. 146.

44 Israel Scheffler, “Concepts of Education: Reflections on the Current Scene,” in his Reason and Teaching (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1973), p. 62. Cited in Martin, “Excluding Women,” p. 143.

45 Israel Scheffler, The Language of Education (Springfield, Ill.: Thomas, 1960), p. 57. Emphasis in orginal. Cited in Martin, “Excluding Women,” p. 143.

46 Martin “Excluding Women,” p. 144.

47 Ibid.

48 Ibid.

49 Scheffler, “Concepts of Education,” p. 62.

50 Martin, “Excluding Women,” p. 144.

51 Thomas F. Green, The Activities of Teaching (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1971).

52 It is perhaps worth noting that Martin’sdiscussion also fails to take intoaccount the moral constraints on teaching suggested by the rationality theory, which takes as central the teacher’s obligation to treat the student with respect as a person.

53 Martin, “Excluding Women,” p. 147.

54 Ibid., p, 145.

55 James McClellan, “Response to Jane Martin,” pp. 21-26.

56 Ibid., p, 22.

57 Ibid.

58 Martin, “Needed: A New Paradigm for Liberal Education,” p. 44

59 Martin, “Excluding Women,” p. 147.

60 Martin, “The Ideal of the Educated Person,” p. 11.

61 R. S. Peters, “Reason and Habit: The Paradox of Moral Education,” in Philosophy and Education, 2nd ed., ed. Israel Scheffler (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1966), pp. 245-62.

62 R. S. Peters, “Moral Development: A Plea for Pluralism, ” in Cognitive Development and Epistemology, ed. Theodore Mischel (New York: Academic Press, 1971), pp. 237-67. Citation is from p. 261, emphasis added.

63 Ibid., p. 262.

64 R. S. Peters, “Why Doesn’t Lawrence Kohlberg Do His Homework?” in Moral Educa- tion . . . It Comes with the Territory, ed. David Purpel and Kevin Ryan (Berkeley, Calif.: McCutchan Publishing Co., 1976), pp. 288-90. Citation is from p. 289.

65 Ibid.. pp. 289-90.

66 R. S. Peters, Reason and Compassion (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972).

67 Ibid., p. 73.

68 Ibid., p. 77. Cf. also p. 53, and throughout.

69 It must be pointed out that Martin cannot save her position by claiming that she is only interested in Peters’s conception of the educated person, for on that conception a person’s education includes at least moral education.

70 Though I am not convinced that Hirst is guilty of the fallacy, since I am dubious about Martin’s argument that “liberal education” means “all that is valuable in education” and also since Hirst implicitly appeals to the normative premise that liberally educated persons ought to be familiar with the central forms of knowledge.

71 Martin, “Excluding Women,” pp. 147-48.

72 Ibid., p. 139.

73 Ibid., p. 142. It is worth pointing out Martin’s frequent sliding (as evidenced here) between leveling her charges at CAPE and at philosophy of education generally.

74 Cf. in this regard my “The Future and Purposeof Philosophy of Education,” Educational Theory 31 (Winter 1981): 11-15.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 85 Number 1, 1983, p. 100-119
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 864, Date Accessed: 1/22/2022 10:57:32 PM

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