module specification

SS6072 - Philosophy, Enlightenment and Education (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Philosophy, Enlightenment and Education
Module level Honours (06)
Credit rating for module 15
School School of Social Professions
Total study hours 150
45 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
105 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 30%   CW Exercise 750-1000 words
Coursework 70%   CW Essay 2000 - 2500 words
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Autumn semester North Thursday Afternoon

Module summary

This module enables students to explore major currents of thought in the Western philosophical tradition which have had and continue to have an impact on educational theory and practice. 

Module aims

• To build students’ familiarity with major currents of philosophical discourse and enquiry and the problems that prompt them;

• To lead students to appreciate the relevance of philosophical problems and theories to questions about the nature and aims of education;

• To enable students to explore relationship between ideas concerning human nature, human development and the sources of knowledge and the day-to-day transaction of education through curricula, pedagogies and institutional cultures;

• To enable students to extend their repertoire of critical skills through philosophical enquiry.


There will be an initial identification of key philosophical issues involved in the question of the nature, purposes and methods of education.

The sources of knowledge and the nature of learning.  Plato’s conception of learning as recollection. Locke on the mind as a tabula rasa.  Contrasting conceptions of the process of learning.  The ‘nature/nurture’ debate.

Conceptions of human nature and of the process of human development.  Aristotle’s conception of the good life, and of the moral and intellectual virtues. The impact Aristotelianism on thinking about education.

The Romantic and Idealist conception of self-development as ‘self-realization’.  The idea of Bildung and the central role played by art and aesthetic experience.

Utililtarianism as a theory of the basis of moral and political value, and a framework for institutional practice and reform. The continuing impact of Utilitarian thinking on educational theory and education policy.   The challenge from Newman’s conception of liberal education.

Pragmatism’s challenge to ‘intellectualism’ and to the conception of knowledge as valuable for its own sake.  Dewey’s view of education as a social and interactive process, in which the pupil learns how to live. His conception of the importance of education for democracy and social reform.

Recent developments. The impact social constructionism, pluralism and cultural and moral relativism.

Throughout the module, questions and issues will be addressed in a way that highlights their relevance to contemporary theories, questions and controversies concerning education.

Learning and teaching

Lectures, seminars, small group work, and individual tutorials.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:

• Discuss major currents of philosophical thought and enquiry along with the work and ideas of substantial contributors to them;

• Identify philosophical issues especially relevant to questions about the nature, purposes and methods of education;

• Relate philosophical ideas and debates to a critical understanding of education and its curricular, pedagogic and institutional practices and commitments;

• Engage in a critical and reflective way with current debates and controversies regarding educational theory and practice.


Assessment strategy

Assessment is by written coursework, involving an exercise which develops and test specific interpretative, analytic and critical skills, and an coursework essay which requires students to address major questions within the remit of the module.


Aristotle, trans.Tredennick, (19...), Ethics, London, Penguin

Burr, V., (2003), Social Constructionism, London: Routledge

Carr, D. (2003)  Making Sense of Education, London: RoutledgeFalmer

The Children’s Society, (2009), A Good Childhood, London: Penguin

Dearden, R.F. (1968) The Philosophy of Primary Education: An introduction, London: Routledge Kegan Paul

Dewey, John  (1966)  Education & Democracy, New York, The Free Press

Lawton, D & Gordon P. (2002), A History of Western Educational Ideas, London: Woburn Press

Locke, J. ed. Nidditch, P. (1973) Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Oxford: Oxford University Press

Morsy, Z. (Ed.) (1997)  Thinkers on Education, Vols.1-4, Oxford: Oxford & IBH Publishing

Neiman, S., (2009), Moral Clarity: a guide for grown-up idealists, London: Bodley Head

Palmer, J. (Ed.)(2001), Fifty Major Thinkers on Education, London: Routledge

Plato, trans. Guthrie, W (1956)  Protagoras & Meno, London: Pegnuin

Pring, R., (2009), John Dewey: a philosopher of education for our time, London and New York: Continuum

Winch, C. (1998)  The Philosophy of Human Learning, London: Routledge