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Wittgenstein as a School Teacher

Chapter
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Education book series (BRIEFSEDUCAT)

Abstract

Briefly discussing Wittgenstein’s own elementary teaching experience to provide background, contrast is drawn between issues of efficacy in teaching and normative training into regular patterns or customs of usage. Wittgenstein attended teacher training in Vienna in 1919 and taught in Austrian rural village schools until 1926 when he abruptly resigned after an incident involving hitting a pupil that led to a court trial that lasted several months. The judge called for a psychiatric examination of Wittgenstein, a report that has gone missing. The so-called ‘Haibauer incident’ constitutes a central and smouldering episode in Wittgenstein’s own psychological make-up and ethical self-development—one that he returns to many years later as the basis for his ‘confession’. The effect of this historicist approach is to relativize Wittgenstein’s teaching and his ‘discipline’ to the cultural context of his time—1920s Austria dominated by the Glöckel educational reforms that introduced pedagogy based on social democratic principles. We then examine some of the boundaries Wittgenstein drew between empirical studies, including pedagogy, and conceptual ones. In Wittgenstein’s later writings, he occasionally notes (parenthetically) that his remarks pertain to grammatical problems instead of psychological or causal ones (Z §§318 and 419). Finally, following Josè Medina, we bring home a point of particular significance to analytic philosophy of education concerning adept initiation into practices: what Wittgenstein refers to as ‘mastery of techniques’ (PI §199) requires facility and autonomy within the rules not explicable on causal terms, nor diminished by its origins in normative training. Realizing this avenue through training does not however undermine the rational elements of teaching and learning—the space of reasons—sought by the analytic school. Etiological problems connected to teaching and learning are then distinguished from philosophical issues surrounding ranges of meaningful use and degrees of arbitrariness in relation to rule-following. The conclusion earlier articulated by Standish (Philosophy and education: Accepting Wittgenstein’s challenge. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, pp 143–158, 1995) is that Wittgenstein’s later philosophy draws a sharp distinction between any possible ‘science’ of education and his therapeutic concept of philosophy as the dissolution of grammatical problems. Pulling from work developed over the last two decades, we then present Peter’s signature theme of Wittgenstein as a ‘pedagogical philosopher’, a picture he developed along with James Marshall, Paul Smeyers and Nicholas Burbules.

Keywords

Wittgenstein Causes Empirical Philosophical Pedagogy Glöckel Austrian Education Reform Pedagogical philosophy 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of EducationWilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research, The University of WaikatoHamiltonNew Zealand
  2. 2.Ontario Institute for Studies in EducationUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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