Philosophy as engagement for rationality

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapters


Despite the apparent ample justification for teaching children to be rational, there is considerable controversy among philosophers over whether rationality is worth defending as a basic educational ideal. For instance, while some critical theorists assert that the extraordinary success of reason, in the form of scientific rationality and means/end calculations, in offering mankind domination over nature leads inexorably to domination of humans over humans, many feminist philosophers argue against rationality on the grounds that our traditional ideals of rationality are often modelled on stereotypically masculine traits (e.g. being dispassionate) and then used to denigrate the stereotyped nature of women (e.g. being emotional). In this paper, I first argue that, following Nicholas Rescher, rationality should be conceptualized as comprising cognitive, practical, and evaluative rationality. For one thing, this conception is comprehensive and thus able to remedy the defects of the popular means end theory. For another, the ideal of rationality implicit in this conception is an Inclusive rather than an exclusive one: not only does it not force us to choose between the cognitive and emotional components of our nature, it actually forbids nothing that is good for us. Based on this tripartite conception of rationality, I then advance an argument founded on pragmatic considerations for rationality as a fundamental educational ideal. Finally, in order to promote the development of rationality in children, I suggest that teachers should engage them in doing philosophy in the classroom, especially by means of Matthew Lipman’s Philosophy for Children programme. Copyright © 2015 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia Inc..
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPESA Conference 2014: Conference papers
Place of PublicationClaremont, Western Australia
PublisherPhilosophy of Education Society of Australasia
ISBN (Print)9780473296841
Publication statusPublished - 2015


Lam, C. M. (2015). Philosophy as engagement for rationality. In PESA Conference 2014: Conference papers (pp. 28-39). Claremont, Western Australia: Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia.


  • Conceptions of rationality
  • Development of rationality in children
  • Philosophical inquiry
  • Philosophy for children


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