Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Noddings chapter 2: Dewey’s Rejection of Truth

It seems strange that the author should celebrate Dewey’s rejection of truth as the foundation of his philosophy. She does note, however, that this rejection was an act of the will. That is, he was unwilling to be dependent on unobservable entities outside of himself. But if we look at it objectively, we should be able to see that his willing truth away can not make it so. The traditional philosophers, from Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle up through Thomas Aquinas all recognized that the idea of truth is intimately connected to the very idea of existence. Truth is that which really exists, whether any given person recognizes it or not. The purpose of inquiry is to learn what this truth really is, not to create it in our own image. The world existed long before Dewey was born, and it continues to exist without him. To assert that knowledge is bigger than truth is a logical absurdity, since the knowledge of any one person is inherently limited. No one can know all the truth there is to know, and given the ease with which individuals can make mistakes, there is always the chance that what we think we know is wrong. But regardless of how many people know a particular truth, that truth still remains. To base an entire philosophy on rejecting truth, as Dewey and his followers seem to do, can only lead to conclusions that are no longer based on reality.

Noddings tries to illustrate this idea by setting up the false dichotomy of the faulty math rule. But even in doing so, she acknowledges the importance of truth by rejecting the faulty rule because it does not give correct (i.e. true) answers. In fact, that is how the truth is demonstrated. The teacher who believes in truth does not simply tell the student the rule is wrong, but demonstrates that it gives false answers, then rejects it for one that gives true answers. In fact, this was the approach that Aquinas was famous for. He first posed the objections and proved them to be false before demonstrating what the truth had to be. Any philosophy of education (or anything else, for that matter) that is not based on truth can only lead to confusion.


alicepawley said...

So Markc, after reading Ch 8, has your opinion on this changed at all? or been clarified in certain ways?

MarkC said...

Chapter 8 hasn't been assigned yet, so I haven't gotten to it. In light of your question, I may jump ahead to it to see where the author is going.