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The Formation of Reason

ISBN: 978-1-4443-3909-3
200 pages
May 2011, Wiley-Blackwell
The Formation of Reason (1444339095) cover image


In The Formation of Reason, philosophy professor David Bakhurst utilizes ideas from philosopher John McDowell to develop and defend a socio-historical account of the human mind.
  • Provides the first detailed examination of the relevance of John McDowell's work to the Philosophy of Education
  • Draws on a wide-range of philosophical sources, including the work of 'analytic' philosophers Donald Davidson, Ian Hacking, Peter Strawson, David Wiggins, and Ludwig Wittgenstein
  • Considers non-traditional ideas from Russian philosophy and psychology, represented by Ilyenkov and Vygotsky
  • Discusses foundational philosophical ideas in a way that reveals their relevance to educational theory and practice
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Table of Contents



Author’s Preface

1. What Can Philosophy Tell Us About How History Made the Mind?

What Role for Philosophy?

Wittgenstein and Davidson

Wittgenstein and Davidson Contrasted


The Idea of Bildung

Understanding the Bildungsprozess

The Conceptual and the Practical


2. Social Constructionism

Social Constructionism Introduced

The Social Construction of Reality

Why Bother About Global Constructionism?

Against Global Constructionism

Matters Political

The Social Construction of Mental States

Why Mental States Are Not Socially Constructed

The Social Construction of Psychological Categories


3. Self and Other

Problems of Self and Other

The Problem of Self and Other in One’s Own Person

Strawson on Persons

Wiggins on Persons and Human Nature

The Significance of Second Nature

Further Positives

Conclusion: Two Cautionary Notes

4. Freedom, Reflection and the Sources of Normativity

McDowell on Judgement

Owens’s Critique

Defending Intellectual Freedom

Freedom and the Sources of Normativity

Sources of Normativity I: Practical Reasoning

Sources of Normativity II: Theoretical Reasoning

A McDowellian Response


5. Exploring the Space of Reasons

McDowell on the Space of Reasons


Ilyenkov on the Ideal


6. Reason and Its Limits: Music, Mood and Education

An Initial Response

The Challenge Reconfigured

Passivity Within Spontaneity


Mood, Salience and Shape




7. Education Makes Us What We Are

A Residual Individualism

Vygotsky’s Legacy

Reconciling Vygotsky and McDowell


Final Thoughts on Education



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Author Information

David Bakhurst is the John and Ella G. Charlton Professor of Philosophy at Queen's University, Kingston, Canada. He is the author of Consciousness and Revolution in Soviet Philosophy (1991) and co-editor (with Christine Sypnowich) of The Social Self (1995) and (with Stuart Shanker) of Jerome Bruner: Language, Culture, Self (2001).
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“This is a book of fresh and original perceptions concerning questions in mental, moral, and metaphysical philosophy. I admire the system by which Bakhurst so often proceeds of critical resume of previous work—both the old and the new, the familiar and the unfamiliar. Few can cast the net so wide or, in doing so, stick so admirably to the point. Here lies the possibility of progress in philosophy.”
Professor David Wiggins, New College, Oxford

“The philosophy of Bildung must be at the heart of any effort to comprehend our lives. This much will be evident to the reader of David Bakhurst’s admirable book The Formation of Reason, which shows how reflection on Bildung supplies us with the means to see through persistent confusions besetting our thought about self and other, mind and body, freedom and nature, autonomy and sociality.”
Professor Sebastian Rödl, Philosophisches Seminar, Universität Basel

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