The blind leading the blind

14441260434_f044610c7e_m“Thoughts without intuitions are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind.”
Immanuel Kant: Critique of Pure Reason, B 75



Kant wrote the above in order to call for a metaphysics that is both synthetic and a priori – i.e. a metaphysics that uses both reason and experience – i.e. a metaphysics that uses intuitive concepts. It’s not important here exactly what that means, I use this to illustrate the futility and wrong-headedness of those who argue for practice without theory, or theory without practice – because

Theory without practice is empty, practice without theory is blind.

I’ve been reading a paper by D.C. Phillips today entitled The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: The Many Faces of Constructivism and I realise that this is actually a moral point. Phillips uses the example of Ernst von Glasersfeld, who (he says) uses a weak epistemological theory in order to argue for his particular pedagogical theory (or, quite possibly, chooses the epistemology as it allows him to articulate his beliefs about pedagogy).  That seems to be doing an injustice to his students – doesn’t it?

So what if you are the sort of person who does not think that theory is important – how are you going to ensure that you don’t hurt your learners with your unreflective practice? I just don’t see how anyone can really believe that, at some level, theory is not important.

In the words of the  immortal Sinatra, you can’t have one without the other.

Pieter Brueghel the Elder – The Blind Leading the Blind flickr photo by Gandalf’s Gallery shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

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2 Responses to The blind leading the blind

  1. Dave says:

    Triffic! I’ve been trying to argue this all my professional life. I used to add in research as well, especially in how education reproduces inequalities.At the same time. I used to argue that philosophers (especially) should divest themselves of their professional illusions that they were addressing Mankind or Eternity, focus on the actual audience, and acquaint themselves with some good pedagogical practice.May people were glad to see me retire.

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