Challenge for education: Learning to value the world intrinsically

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Bai, H. (2001). “Challenge for education: Learning to value the world intrinsically,” Encounter 14 (1): 4 - 16.

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Cartesian dualism
Virtue ethics

            In a celebrated passage in Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein states his view of philosophy: "What is your aim of philosophy?– To shew the fly the way out of the fly-bottle."  Although his remark was directed specifically at philosophers whom he likened to trapped flies in their metaphysical fly-bottles, it can apply to humanity in general insofar as we are linguistic-conceptual creatures who live by ontological "pictures" of what the world is like and what we are like, all the while assuming these pictures to be the reality itself.  This unconsciousness happens because we have internalized – that is, reified– these pictures through having been socialized into particular historical, sociocultural, intellectual, religious, and other personal and institutional contexts of situatedness.

            In this paper, I take up the Wittgensteinian project of showing ourselves a way out of the fly-bottle of a certain ontological picture of the world which, I shall argue, underlies our destructive treatment of the earth, as well as continuing inequities and exploitation in the world.  The first part of my paper approaches the problematic ontology first through exposing the hegemony of instrumentalism and how this ontology is implicated in the exploitive treatment of fellow human beings and nature.  Moving beyond the terrain of understanding the problem, the second part of the paper addresses the question of practice, arguing that the key to breaking out of the mould of the problematic dualistic, mechanist ontology is the recovery of our capacity to value the world intrinsically through the cultivation of aesthetic consciousness. 

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