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The Formation of Reason

The Formation of Reason

David Bakhurst

ISBN: 978-1-444-39559-4

Mar 2011, Wiley-Blackwell

200 pages



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


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