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Some Philosophical Orientations of Educational Research

You Do What You Think, I Think

Jurgen Habermas
Knowledge and Human Interest (1971)

There is a relationship

Between our knowledge And our interests - what we want to use knowledge for

Habermas (Frankfort School)

Was a reaction to positivism. Positivism is the philosophy that the only true knowledge is knowledge based on actual sense experience. True knowledge only comes from affirmation of theories through strict scientific method.

In Positivism

Metaphysical speculation is avoided. Positivism was developed by Auguste Comte (the first sociologist) in the mid 19th century.

The Positivistic idea

is sometimes referred to as a "scientistic" ideology it is often shared by those who believe in the necessity of progress through scientific progress, and by those who argue that any method for gaining knowledge should be limited to natural, physical, and material approaches.

In Educational Psychology

a positivistic approach is favoured by behaviourism. BF Skinners work (I did these experiments, and people respond to positive and negative reinforcement, ergo we should )

Comte first theorized

about positivism He saw the scientific method as replacing metaphysics in the history of thought, and who observed the circular dependence of theory and observation in science

Comte theorized that

society undergoes three different phases in its quest for the truth (the Law of three stages). These three phases are the theological, the metaphysical, and the positive phases.

In the theological phase

Whole-hearted belief in all things with reference to God. (God had reigned supreme over human existence preEnlightenment.) Humanity's place in society was governed by the Church with humans accepting church doctrines and not questioning the world.

In the metaphysical phase

(the time since the Enlightenment to the time right after the French Revolution) was steeped in logical rationalism. In this second phase universal rights of humanity are most important. Humanity is born with certain rights, that should not and cannot be taken away, which must be respected. Democracies and dictators rose and fell in response to humans innate rights.

In Comtes positive (final) phase

The central idea is that individual rights are more important than the rule of any one person. Humanitys ability to govern itself makes this stage different from the rest. Any person can achieve anything based on his or her individual free will and authority.

In Comtes positive (final) phase


Insight is democratic - because we all can and should - see the same things. If we can just figure things out (using science) we can overcome the naturalistic fallacy (the belief that we can move from the is to the ought). The third principle is most important in the positive stage.

Knowledge constitutive interests

Divides knowledge into three categories Technical empirical knowledge Practical Interpretive knowledge Emancipatory (critical) knowledge

Technical empirical knowledge

Arises out of the Enlightenment and is, in essence, scientific.

Technical empirical modes of understanding

involve developing a theory and then making sets of highly contrived observations that seek to either prove or disprove the theory. The Fraser Institute follow this logic. [the word limitation cannot be found in their work.

Practical Interpretive knowledge


Seeks to measure the world as we live it. Learning and knowledge evolve from observing the world as it comes. At the core of this is language and interpretation. [language mediates reality, e.g. Fred Rayners language of work]

Practical Interpretive knowledge


is represented by the wisdom of experience. [e.g. there is a reason for Freds language being thus]

Emancipatory knowledge

Is achieved through a process of 'critical reflection. We ponder the state of our knowledge, and what has brought us to think in such ways.

To emancipate one's thinking

is to think about what we think, why we think it, and what has influenced us to think this way. For example, how has the culture of teaching that I learned at the University of Alberta influenced my actions?

Habermas believes

technical empirical knowledge is so in love with itself that it poorly tolerates challenges to it as a basis of knowledge.

When referring to science

Habermas terms this dominance 'scientism. [the bi-serialized hard data] This is science's belief in its own supreme power. Thus, there is a 'hegemony' of science over knowledge.

Habermas notes that

ultimately, truth cannot be grounded in evidence, but in consensus. [his bias] However, the two (evidence and consensus) draw together in Habermas' "ideal speech situation".

Habermas Ideal Speech Situation

The 'ideal speech situation' requires what we would think of as "fair play" in dialogue.

Habermas Ideal Speech Situation


All participants must have equal opportunity to participate. They must have the right to assert, defend, or question any factual or normative claim.

Habermas Ideal Speech Situation

This interaction also must not be constrained by active role or status differences or "one-sided binding norms.

Habermas Ideal Speech Situation

Finally, participants in an ideal speech situation must be motivated only by the desire to reach a consensus about the truth of statements and the validity of norms.

Your Task

We are going to work together to see if we can analyze how orientations of educational research might be explained by Habermas critique.