Training, Transformation, and Education
Bakhurst (David)
Source: O'Hear (Anthony), Ed. - Mind, Self and Person
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract1

  1. In "McDowell (John) - Mind and World", John McDowell concludes that human beings "are born mere animals, and they are transformed into thinkers and intentional agents", principally by their initiation into language. Such "transformational views" of human development embrace a model of learning by initiation that represents language acquisition as a movement from a non-rationally secured conformity with correct practice, through increasing understanding of correct practice, to a state of rational mastery of correct practice. As such, they tend to represent initiate learning as beginning with something like what Wittgenstein calls "training" (parallel ideas are found in Vygotsky2).
  2. This paper considers the cogency of this picture of learning and development. I argue that although the idea of training (as developed, say, by Meredith Williams) can be defended from the usual objections, it is susceptible to criticisms brought recently by Sebastian Rödl, who argues that it is unfaithful to the reality of infancy and the nature of child-parent interaction. Rödl's criticisms draw attention to the pre-linguistic child's motivation to be "one of us", to find mutual recognition as one of a kind. A being whose life activity manifests this form of consciousness, he maintains, is not an object of training, but a subject of education.
  3. I argue that Rödl's arguments, combined with Michael Tomasello’s compelling empirical work on language acquisition, force us to revise the transformational view, but do not refute it outright as Rödl believes.


For the YouTube podcast – Royal Institute of Philosophy, 07/03/2014 – see YouTube - RIP - Bakhurst - Training, Transformation, and Education.

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: Footnote 2: See "Vygotsky (Lev), Hanfman (Eugenia), Vakar (Gertrude) - Thought and Language".

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  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
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