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Mind Association

Against Empiricism: On Education, Epistemology and Value. by R. F. Holland Review by: John White Mind, New Series, Vol. 91, No. 363 (Jul., 1982), pp. 465-467 Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of the Mind Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2253241 . Accessed: 24/01/2013 07:19
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in thephilosophy It is hardto be happywiththis.To saddle materialism to the completenessof currentphysics of mind with a commitment it would is doublyunfortunate; theory) thatis, as a physical (completeness, in theformulation of theviewfalse,and itgivesprominence seemto render with failsto connect whichsimply physics theviewtoa thesisaboutcurrent the basic issues. It is not clear, either, that Levin has satisfactorily ofa certain to do itin terms He attempts explainedhis notionofreduction. truthdefinitions; the contentis not, it contentin the envisagedscientific fromthesegivensome would seem, in the axioms but mustbe generated science,in a wayI cannotsee thatLevin has explained.Given thesedoubts, really resources oftheconceptical his explanation itis also unclearwhether to be drawn. and type-type distinction allows a particular-particular Levin's metaphysicalargumentis provocative,perplexingand unand itdoes notdeepenour because itis verycompressed, partly persuasive, Butthelastfour chapters provideinteresting ofmaterialism. understanding responses to many problems surroundingmaterialism(however it is and, althoughnot essentialreading,can be recompreciselyformulated) theseissues. mendedto anyonestudying
EXETER COLLEGE, OXFORD P. F. SNOWDON

and Value. Epistemology on Education, AgainstEmpiricism: By R. F. HOLLAND. Oxford:Basil Blackwell,I980. Pp. 248. ?12.50. Holland's essays dating of Professor This is a finecollectionof fourteen back withone exceptionto I965, six of themunpublished.Four are on and education,fouron ethics,two on suicide and fouron metaphysics religion. 'while the Holland sums up his main themewell in his introduction: to speakfor I am moreconcerned tenorofthisbook is againstEmpiricism, And I thinkthatmuch of what I tryto thanagainstanything. something speak forcan be foundin Plato' (p. 9). theseessaysare a critiqueofseveralrelatedlinesofthought. Negatively, 'Epistemologyand Education' discusses the failureof Lockean episteas mologyto connect education with the promotionof understanding, opposed to habituation.Hume's accounts of causation are discussed in 'The Link between Cause and Effect'. More recent attempts,e.g. by betweeneventsare spurned Davidson, to 'volatilise'causes into relations for a robuster, commonsensicalaccount based on contacts between physicalobjects like railwayenginesand the truckson to whichtheyare notthrough hooked.'Suicide as a Social Problem'looksforenlightenment on thetraditions a reflection butthrough techniques Durkheim'sstatistical whichbelongsto commonunderstanding. of our society, and institutions Holland's reviewof the book 'Philosophersdiscuss Education', included to base here,giveshighmarksto R. K. Elliott'scritiqueofHirst's attempt

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liberaleducationon specialised disciplinesat the expense,again, of our in ethicsgenerally thinking and Consequentialist commonunderstanding. essay. in its particular applicationto educationis attackedin essay after Holland's deep attachmentto Plato is apparent throughout.It is in his commitment to reflectiveness aboutwhatwe alreadyknow expressed rather than to specialised scientificdiscovery. Educationally, Plato's geometry lessonintheMenohas moreto teach discussion oftheslave-boy's us than a Rylean philosophy of education based on 'knowing how'. at 'Education and Values' connectseducation,as Plato did, withmastery levels of understanding,rather than with taking part in a different competitive struggle.Among the ethical essays, 'Moralityand the Two Worlds Concept' bracketsPlato with Kant and Kierkegaard,as against in connecting the quest forgoodness with Aristotle and the Utilitarians, of and the Impossibility while'AbsoluteEthics,Mathematics inwardness; Politics' championsnot only Plato's belief in the existenceof absolute to act as a model foran ethicsat but also thepowerofgeometry goodness, matheforwhichthe onlyrelevant the oppositepole fromutilitarianism, is arithmetic. rnatics enshrinesa Absolute ethics,the ethics of inwardnessand of eternity, religiousview of man. The lattercomes out, too, in 'Suicide', with its in establishing of the difficulties just what counts as taking uncovering for'the suicide, one's own life:a vitalissue forone who sees lifeas a gift, unlikethemurderer, is-religiously speaking-necessarilyan ingrate'(p. I53). The essay on 'The Miraculous' seeks to undermine Hume's ifwe had been present whenthewaterturnedto wine,we may scepticism: withsomething 'at one and thesametimeempirically havebeenconfronted and conceptually impossible'(p. I 84). 'For Ever?' claimsthatthere certain paradoxical about the unlimitedtemporal 'for is somethinginherently not an can onlyworkwitha relative, ever'. Our theoretical understanding is the latter employment absolute,'forever'; only in an ethico-religious possible.'On theFormoftheProblemofEvil' arguesthatPike and Mackie additionalpremises have obscuredthe formof the problemby importing into the classical triad of propositionswhich constitute it. There is no in the triad.We need not look formoral reasonswhy God inconsistency evil into the world. He may have had no reasons: a religious introduced of His love. personmighteven see thisas a manifestation ofHolland's There is no doubtabout thefascination and theprofundity 'The kindofphilosophical workthatis mostworth having philosophising. thosein whoma senseofmystery has been has alwaystendedto come from nurtured and kept alive' (p. 93). All these essays breathethis sense of aided by the carefullywroughtlanguage in which they are mystery, Even where I could not go along with all the arguments, I felt written. by Holland's vision-very muchas one is, mnyself affected, againstmyself, not a Platonist, by thatofPlato. although timeand again. Absolutegoodnessis thethemeto whichHolland returns Whatit is is, likethe Form ofthe Good, ultimately ineffable, althoughwe is sometimes knowat leastthatit is not goal seeking, seen in, forinstance, 'the egregiousfineness of an action like the rescue of an innocentperson whois harmedor wronged'(p. ioo), is connected witha senseofwonderat

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To me thismakesgood sense, theworldand withthestandpoint ofeternity. ofhumanexistence; to a point:ethicsmustbeginin wonderat themystery preoccupations we musttakecare and in the press of everyday utilitarian not to lose our inwardness.Can one go so farand no further? Holland's towards sense of mystery takeshim, I think,beyondthis,frommystery vision of objective mysticism. I cannotfollowhim in his ethico-religious values; neithercan I have faith,beyond all reason, in the paradoxical ofGod's love for ofmiracles, possibility or in evilas thepossibleexpression
us.

resignation totheoutward unavoidable, however suitablea Kierkegaardian worldmaybe forthesaint.At one point(p. io6) Holland allows thatnonabsolutist per centof all ethicalphenomena. ethicscan accountforninety himis theremainder. Whatinterests Othershavebroaderoutlooks. Among and does notturn themnotleastPlato, whoseabsolutegoodnessirradiates itsbackon thesocio-political world.True, Plato,likeHolland,teachesus to and hence the well-being, of the soul. look inwards, to care forthe unity, connectedwithjustice in the For Plato,justice in the soul is inextricably in deriving from thelatter theformer. state.He has well-known difficulties politics(unlikethe miraculous, For Holland, however,all is inwardness: note) fallsaway as 'impossible'. All this bears on what Holland says about education. Why are the the mastery of intellectual pursuitsfortheirown sake and understanding so art and ways of thinking spiritof a people throughtheirliterature, important to Holland? If,as seemsclear,it is because theyurgethescholar ofabsolutevalues, thenthe questionarises;what on towardsa perception in thiscase right does theeducatorhave to imposehis own ethicalposition, to concentrate an ethico-religious position,on his pupils?Has he theright on his ten per cent of ethicalphenomenaor should he help them,too, to cope with the ninetyper cent-with the world of work, politics and social intercourse? ordinary Other questions disturb. Has 'knowinghow' no place in education? Holland does seem to allow it some place in schooling. He says (p. 59) that whoseability is 'manuallyorientated and practical'need different children from themoreintellectually inclined.Does thismean,then,that curricula educationproper,as in Plato, is only foran elite few?It appears so. But important questions arise here both about what the contentand aims of educationshould be and about whether these should differ fordifferent is Plato alwaysthemostdependableof On neither ofthesematters children. guides.
INSTITUTE UNIVERSITY OF EDUCATION, OF LONDON JOHN WHITE

compromise. Yes, but . . . some sort of political arrangements are

Holland's ethical monism leads him to underratethe irresolvable complexity of our moral life. Politics he sees as 'impossible' fromthe its lifeblood standpointof the absolute: its ethic is consequentialism,

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