Complexity theory and the philosophy of education

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Following a brief introduction to complexity theory, this paper considers how various themes in the field relate to the philosophical study of education. Issues and questions introduced include the challenge of complexity theory for the philosophy of education - and, conversely, critical challenges for complexity theory from educational philosophy; complexity theory and educational continuity and change; the importance that complexity theory places on interpretive perspectives that are transphenomenal, transdisciplinary and transdiscursive; the risks of simplifying complexity to a point that excludes its ambiguities and includes only its dominant usages; the degree of coherence between Dewey's philosophical orientation and that of complexity theory; how Foucault might be read as a complexity theorist; how educational research informed by complexity theory might ask different questions with different analytical perspectives - connectionist, holistic, non-linear, rather than input-output 'black-box' causal modelling, for example; and how curriculum, teaching, the epistemology of schooling, and the 'education of consciousness' - understood as an emergent phenomenon - might be different when viewed from the perspective of complexity theory. Copyright © 2008 The Author.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-18
JournalEducational Philosophy and Theory
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008


Mason, M. (2008). Complexity theory and the philosophy of education. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 40(1), 4-18. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-5812.2007.00412.x


  • Complexity theory
  • Philosophy of education


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