Part One - Realm


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Part One - Realm

  1. 1. 4 THE SEARCH FOR MEANING INSIGHTS1. Perhaps the greatest contribution of the analytic philosophers is their personal witness to the importance of meaning and their faith in the possibility of making meanings clear.2. Each symbolic form has its appropriate field of application.3. The nature of science and its limitations are becoming increas- ingly clear.4. Artistic importance has its characteristic logical forms.5. The concept of personal meaning is especially important to the Existentialists.6. We must turn from the personal emptiness of the I-It to the loving, community-creating affirmation of I-Thou.7. Contemporary literature proves further vivid evidence of mod- ern mans search for synnoetic meaning.8. Values are of a different logical order from facts.9. Collingwood sees history as a reconstruction of past-events— what must have happened—on the basis of an imaginative identi- fication with the thought of the persons who decided the events.10. The historian can discover what actually happened by an act of sympathetic understanding.11. The historian divests himself of his preconceptions and enters into the life of the past on its own terms.12. One of the most impressive signs of the contemporary search for meaning is this development of religious thought that is tak- ing place.13. Current curriculum revisions belong to the general movement toward deeper and more secure meanings.14. The objective of the present book is to provide a comprehensive orientation to the search for meaning in the curriculum, uniting in one coherent account the various strands both from the gen- eral thought movements of our time and from the studies going forward in the various disciplines. 63
  2. 2. 64 PART ONE: MEANING AND HUMAN NATURE15. A human being is in essence a creature who creates, discovers, enjoys, perceives, and acts on meanings.16. These meanings are of six general kinds: symbolic, empirical, es- thetic, synnoetic, ethical, and synoptic.17. A philosophy of the curriculum based on meaning is constructed by ascertaining the essential distinct logical types of human meaning, as exhibited by the successful fields of disciplined in- quiry.18. The educator can seize the opportunity to battle such areas as fragmentation, surfeit, and transience of knowledge, by show- ing what kinds of knowledge are required for full understanding and how the essential elements may be distinguished from the unessential ones in the selection of instructional materials. ____________________
  3. 3. THE SEARCH FOR MEANING 65 THE SEARCH FOR MEANINGThe attacks on meaning described in the last chapter have not beenwithout countervailing influences. Recent decades have also witnesseda sustained and many-sided search for meaning. The results are pro-viding the basis for a renewal of modern man and for an educationalprogram in which human possibilities can be amply fulfilled. Thinkerswith widely different interests and orientations are converging in aremarkable way on the problem of meaning. They are opening up newchannels of understanding having profound influence both on profes-sional practices and on currents of popular thought. SYMBOLICS AND MEANINGMeaning and the Interpretation of Language In 1923, C.K. Ogden and I.A. Richards published The Meaningof Meaning1 a work that has since become a classic in the field of theinterpretation of language. These scholars demonstrated the wide-spread confusion regarding the meaning of "meaning," and they soughtby systematic analysis to discard meaningless conceptions and tomake proper distinctions among valid modes of interpretation. Theydiscussed and evaluated sixteen major definitions of meaning. Theyformulated a new theory of signs in which the functions of languagewere reduced to two, namely, the referential and the emotive. By sucha distinction the authors hoped to strike a decisive blow at supersti-tion, obscurantism, and "word magic," and to provide a comprehensive,contextual, and functional basis for the whole range of languagemeanings. It is doubtful whether this division of language functionsinto the two types—of referential and emotive meanings—does justice tothe full range of meanings. There is no doubt about Ogden andRichards contribution to a revival of concern for meaning and thestimulus they provided in this and later works to the serious study ofthe varieties of symbolic forms.Meaning in Semantics One movement in the field of language meaning is semantics. Al-fred Korzybskis Science and Sanity2 became the bible of the GeneralSemanticists, who promised solutions to the most vexing problems ofhumankind through a scientific reconstruction of linguistic meanings.Charles Morris, in his Foundations of the Theory of Signs,3 devel-oped "semiotics," which was subdivided into the fields of "semantics,""pragmatics," and "syntactics." Popularizers of semantics, includingStuart Chase and S.I. Hayakawa, brought to the attention of thegeneral public some knowledge of the pitfalls of language and of themethods available for the improvement of verbal communication.Meaning and Analytic Philosophers Another group of investigators for whom the problems ofmeaning are fundamental are the analytic philosophers. Thesephilosophers owe their inspiration to such thinkers as G.E. Moore,1 Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., New York, 1923.2 3rd ed., International Non-Aristotelian Library Publishing Co., Lakeville, Conn., 1948.3 The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1938.
  4. 4. 66 PART ONE: MEANING AND HUMAN NATUREBertrand Russell, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, and their movement cur-rently dominates professional philosophy in England and America. Un-like Existentialists, who are concerned with the "meaning of life" andthe problems of selfhood and decision, analytic philosophers undertakethe detailed critical scrutiny of various modes of human discourse. Intheir earlier years the analysts were most interested in the pure con-structive languages of logic, mathematics, and natural science. Ana-lytical philosophers have become preoccupied with the problems of or-dinary language. They have tried to show how most of the traditionalphilosophical puzzles have been created by philosophers themselves inusing concepts without reference to their generally accepted mean-ings-in-use. This philosophic emphasis on distinct logical orders of meaningand on the clarification of human understanding by the analysis ofthe actual uses of symbols is basic to the philosophy of curriculum setforth in this book. While the method of treatment used herein is notpredominantly that of the language analysts, the present work pre-supposes a similar commitment to the exposition of meanings-in-use andparallel conclusions as to the multiple patterns of human significa-tion.Distinct Logical Orders of Meaning Ernst Cassirer, using methods quite different from those of thelanguage analysts, has also established the principle of distinct logi-cal orders of meaning. In his great Philosophy of Symbolic Forms4and his briefer Essay on Man,5 Cassirer shows that the characteris-tic mark of human activity is the creation and transformation of sym-bols. The whole world of human meanings, he says, is expressed in theseveral kinds of symbolic forms contained in such diverse fields asmyth, ritual, language, art, history, mathematics, and science. Eachof the types of symbolic forms has its unique and legitimate humanfunctions. For example, ritual communicates orders of experience notexpressed in speech. The arts present meanings different in kind fromthose of the sciences and inexpressible in the categories of empiricaldescription. Each symbolic form has its appropriate field of applica-tion, and, though it has relationships with other systems, is not whol-ly reducible to any other form. EMPIRICS AND MEANING The search for symbolic meaning inherent in semantics and lin-guistic analysis and comprehensively outlined by Cassirer is paral-leled by the inquiries into meaning in each of the other realms of hu-man understanding. Thanks to the labors of philosophers, historiansof science, and scientists reflecting on their own enterprise, both thenature of science and its limitations are becoming increasingly clear.Investigators as diverse as James Byrant Conant, Alfred NorthWhitehead, Bertrand Russell, Percy Bridgman, Rudolph Carnap,Stephen Toulmin, and Ernest Nagel, to name but a few, have critical-ly examined the methods and assumptions of science. They have shownwith precision what scientific knowledge is and what it is not. Theyhave demonstrated the validity and the scope of scientific methods.They have defined the terms in which empirical descriptions and theo-retical explanations are to be interpreted.4 Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., vol. 1, (1953); vol. 2, (1955); vol. 3, (1957).5 Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., 1944.
  5. 5. THE SEARCH FOR MEANING 67 ESTHETICS AND MEANING In esthetics new exponents of meaning have appeared. Againstthe criticisms of modern art by those who hold that the classical mo-tifs are the only meaningful ones, and more particularly, that visualart should be representational and music should be limited to the tra-ditional melodies and harmonies, critics like Clive Bell, Roger Fry,Igor Stravinsky, and Roger Sessions have made a strong case for amore generous conception of artistic importance. Under the banner of"significant form," those who defend modern art against the charge ofmeaninglessness have pointed to the wider possibilities of esthetic ex-pression provided by the new artistic forms. Susan Langer, taking her lead from Ernst Cassirer, whose gen-eral theme she popularized in her book, Philosophy in a New Key,6makes a particular cogent case for the distinctively esthetic mode ofunderstanding. She denies that a work of art is only an expression ofthe artists personal feelings. She argues that artistic importancehas its characteristic logical forms. She insists that significance isnot limited to the literal meanings of factual statements, but extendsalso to the art symbols objectifying the patterns of feeling found inmans inner life. In the literary arts the concern for meaning is manifest in theNew Criticism in the work of persons such as Edmund Wilson, WilliamEmpson, W.K. Wimsatt, Jr., John Crowe Ransom, and Ronald S.Crane. In this movement the earlier dependence of literary interpre-tation on psychology, philology, history, and sociology has beenovercome and a fresh recognition of the uniquely literary modes ofunderstanding has been achieved. SYNNOETICS AND MEANING Turning next to the synnoetic realm, substantial progress is be-ing made in the articulation and interpretation of personal meanings.Psychoanalysis, though grounded in the identification of unconsciousand irrational factors, is primarily aimed at bringing these subter-ranean forces under the scrutiny and control of reason. What ap-pear as meaningless dreams and fantasies and as inexplicable actionsare shown by analysis to be symbols of unconscious meanings. Thesehidden meanings often reflect disturbances in relationships with otherpersons and in evaluations of the self. Improvement of relations withothers and self may then follow the recognition of unacceptable emo-tional patterns and understanding of their causes.Psychotherapists Search for Meaning Many different systems are employed for the revelation andclarification of these personal meanings. Sigmund Freud and his fol-lowers emphasize infant sexuality and the Oedipus complex. C.G. Junganalyzed the interplay of inferiority and superiority feelings. Thera-pists in the line of Alfred Adler find important clues to behavior inthe problems of infantile dependence and the struggle for power. Theapproach used by Harry Stack Sullivan and his followers is to ana-lyze patterns of inter-personal relations, particularly with the“significant persons” in association with whom early self-appraisalsare formed. In contrast to the early analysts who regarded the peri-od of infancy as all-important in the development of emotional life,many present-day therapists place as much or more emphasis upon ex-periences beyond infancy. They concern themselves directly with6 Penguin Books, Baltimore, 1948.
  6. 6. 68 PART ONE: MEANING AND HUMAN NATUREpresent behavior patterns instead of tracing everything back to thefirst few months or years of life.
  7. 7. THE SEARCH FOR MEANING 69. Traditional methods exist be they rite or ritual, to search for the answers to questions that humans have pondered For centuries, and longer—the psychologists couch, point-counterpoint debate, and yoga. When one sees orpictures someone in these situations one automat- ically assumes that there is some very deep thought occurring. Can one see some- one think? Can a teacher necessarily assume that a child who is looking out the win- dow does not have his/her mind on his/her class work?
  9. 9. THE SEARCH FOR MEANING 71Existentialists Search for Meaning Others, besides psychotherapists, have joined in the search formeaning in selfhood and in human relationships. The concept of person-al meaning is especially important to the Existentialists. As PaulTillich points out, preoccupation with meaninglessness is itself evi-dence of a passionate concern for meaning. Rejecting the idea of thesubconscious from depth psychology, Jean Paul Sartre proposes ascheme of “existential psychoanalysis,” that consists of a thorough-going introspective analysis of the content of consciousness aimed ateliminating the self-deceptions by which one tries to avoid responsibili-ty for his own authentic existence. Karl Jaspers, more concernedthan Sartre with relationships beyond the self, finds the “way to wis-dom” in the will to unlimited communication, and protests against thedepersonalized mass culture that has lost faith in “Transcendence,”the source of all true selfhood. Martin Buber discovers the source oftruly human meaning in the “I-Thou” relation that he contrasts withthe impersonal, manipulative, objectifying “I-It” type of relation. Inthe act of turning from the personal emptiness of the I-It to the lov-ing, community-creating affirmation of I-Thou, Buber believes the se-cret of a meaningful life may be found.Contemporary Literature Searching For Meaning Contemporary literature provides further vivid evidence ofmodern man’s search for synnoetic meaning. While typologically po-etry, the novel, and drama are art forms communicating estheticmeanings, they can also be powerful expressions of concern for self-hood and for community among persons. In various ways such diversewriters as W.H. Auden, T.S. Eliot, William Faulkner, James Joyce,Franz Kafka, Andre Malraux, Thomas Mann, Eugene O’Neil, J.D.Salinger, and Tennessee Williams portray some of the deepest con-cerns of human beings—a concern that in its very seriousness revealsa profound faith in the potential meaningfulness of personal exis-tence, even under conditions that seem to deny all meaning and valueto life. ETHICS AND MEANING In the realm of ethics, subjectivism and skepticism regardingmeaning are encountering strong opposition. Anthropologists aremore disposed than they once were to recognize the universality ofsome moral principles, despite the relativity of laws and customs inthe cultures of humankind. Social scientists are taking the normativeaspects of human behavior more seriously than before and some areeven beginning to assert that it is the proper business of the scientistnot only to describe what is but also to investigate what ought tobe. Jurists like Justice Brandeis have led jurisprudence away fromliteralistic interpretations of the legal tradition toward a view oflaw as an expression of standards for the good life in a dynamic soci-ety. Such thinkers are making increasingly clear the dependence of ameaningful social order upon moral principles rather than mere cus-tom and tradition. They emphasize the need for continual re-examina-tion of laws in the light of these principles.Ethical Theory and Meaning These developments are complemented by certain trends in ethi-cal theory. Philosophers are largely agreed, as David Hume long ago
  10. 10. 72 PART ONE: MEANING AND HUMAN NATUREdecisively argued, that an “ought” can never be derived from an “is,”that is, that values are of a different logical order from facts.While this insight exposes the futility of trying to establish moralityas an empirical science, and thus contradicts certain assumptions im-plicit in the efforts to develop a scientific ethic, it does support theautonomy of morals and prepares the way for the discovery of dis-tinctively moral meanings. G.E. Moore, in his classic, Principia Ethi-ca,7 presents a realistic theory of morals, refuting the “naturalisticfallacy” inherent in every attempt (as in egoism, hedonism, utilitari-anism, voluntarism, and supernaturalism) to define “good” by refer-ence to any matters of fact (such as interest, pleasure, utility, orthe will of man or God). Later philosophic analysts, including R.M.Hare, Stephen Toulmin, and P.H. Nowell-Smith, though generally re-jecting Moore’s intuitionism, take seriously the principle of the auton-omy of the moral realm and continue to make valuable contributionsto the clarification and illumination of moral meanings. SYNOPTICS AND MEANINGThe Searching for Meaning in History The search for meaning in the synoptic disciplines is yielding en-couraging results. In the discipline of history, nineteenth-century sci-entific historians had been confident that the historian could strictlypresent the facts about what really happened in the past. In reactionagainst this reduction of history to empirical science, the subsequentHistoricist movement emphasized the personal, irrational, and contin-gent factors in historical judgments, thus bringing into question thepossibility of any reliable historical knowledge. The possibility ofgenuine historical understanding has once again been affirmed, on abroader basis than that of the scientific historians. For example, R.G.Collingwood sees history as a reconstruction of past events—whatmust have happened—on the basis of an imaginative identification withthe thought of the persons who decided the events, Herbert Butter-field, too, holds that in a larger sense than the scientific historiansthought, the historian can discover what actually happened by anact of sympathetic understanding. The historian divests himself of hispreconceptions and enters into the life of the past on its own terms.The Search for Meaning in Religion In religion theologians continue the pursuit of ultimate mean-ings with great vigor. Having successfully weathered the crises offaith caused by the higher criticism of the Bible, the theory of evolu-tion, and the comparative study of religions, religious thinkers areendeavoring to assess the claims of faith in the light of new develop-ments in knowledge and the social order. Protestant thinkers such asKarl Barth, H. Richard Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, and Rudolph Bultmannare reformulating the doctrine of revelation so as to establish anautonomous logic of religious understanding. Roman Catholic thinkers(e.g., Jacques Maritain and Etienne Gilson) offer versions ofThomistic theology, reaffirming the common sense meanings of Classi-cal Realism within a dual framework of Natural and revealed Theol-ogy. Interpreters of Jewish thought in all three of the leading tradi-tions—Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform—are working out ways ofmaking Judaism a relevant and meaningful way of life and thought in7 Cambridge University Press, New York, 1959.
  11. 11. THE SEARCH FOR MEANING 73the modern world. One of the most impressive signs of the contempo-rary search for meaning is this development of religious thought thatis taking place, despite all the forces of secularization, not only inthe various branches of Christianity and Judaism, but also in Islam,Buddhism, Hinduism, and many smaller syncretistic and theosophicalsects.The Search for Meaning in Philosophy In philosophy, mention has already been made of the signal con-tribution to the recovery and expansion of meaning made in quite dif-ferent directions by the logical analysts and the Existentialists.Metaphysics is recovering from the crushing blows administered bylogical empiricism and pragmatism. Even some analytic philosophersare now saying that metaphysical statements may be something morethan nonsense. A few adventurous spirits, most notably Alfred NorthWhitehead, have dared to attempt new cosmological schemes afterthe manner of the great system-builders of the past. In these effortsthe possibility of attaining a synthesis of meanings through a compre-hensive interpretation of experience is once again affirmed. PURPOSE OF SUMMARY The aim of the foregoing summary sketch of some twentieth-cen-tury movements reflecting modern man’s search for meaning has beentwofold: first, to show the forces of skepticism, frustration, and con-fusion in present-day life have by no means won the day, and second,to suggest some of the kinds of resources available for the construc-tion of a meaningful philosophy of general education. DEVELOPMENT OF CURRICULA FOR SCHOOLS It is important to relate that in the development of curriculafor the schools, much work has been done since World War II on in-structional materials in a number of the academic disciplines. Theseefforts were stimulated initially by the pressures for more efficienteducation to meet the urgent demands for trained manpower in an evermore tightly organized technical society geared to the needs of na-tional defense. Mathematics was the first discipline in which radicalrenovations of teaching materials took place. Sweeping changes soonfollowed in physics, chemistry, and biology, and these were joined byeconomics, English, and foreign languages. Geographers, historians,anthropologists, and other specialist also have undertaken studiesand discussions concerned with revisions in their teaching materials.Although the reconstructions in all these fields have been aimedchiefly at the secondary school, they have not been without effect onthe curriculum at the elementary, middle and junior high school andcollege levels. Reconstructionistic efforts represent fresh perspec-tives on the subjects of study themselves, regardless of the level. CURRENT CURRICULUM REVISIONS REFLECT DEEPER AND MORE SECURE MEANINGS These current curriculum revisions are actually more than re-sponses to pressures for educated manpower. They belong to the gen-eral movement toward deeper and more secure meanings. Evidence for
  12. 12. 74 PART ONE: MEANING AND HUMAN NATUREthis statement lies in the fact that the new programs of instructionare not simply rearrangements of old materials, nor mere substitu-tions of up-to-date for out-of-date information. They are based on acomplete reconsideration of the distinctive characteristics of the sev-eral disciplines in regard to content, methods, and basic concepts.They are based on a study of the methods for effective teaching andlearning of these fundamental meanings. It is noteworthy that thenew teaching materials are not being produced either by the profes-sions in education alone or only by scholars in the academic disci-plines. In a manner worthy of a serious effort to reach basic under-standings, they are an outcome of the cooperative work of scholars,teachers, and curriculum specialists and the business community. A COMPREHENSIVE ORIENTATION TO THE SEARCH FOR MEANING The objective of the present book is to provide a comprehensiveorientation to the search for meaning in the curriculum, uniting in onecoherent account the various strands both from the general thoughtmovements of our time and from the studies going forward in the vari-ous disciplines. From the analysis of human nature and meaning out-lined in this and the two preceding chapters, the major features of aphilosophy of the curriculum for general education emerge. HUMAN BEINGS ACT ON MEANINGS A human being is in essence a creature who creates, discovers,enjoys, perceives, and acts on meanings. These meanings are of sixgeneral kinds: symbolic, empirical, esthetic, synnoetic, ethical, andsynoptic. These meanings correspond respectively to the distinctive hu-man functions of expressing and communicating (symbolics), describ-ing (empirics), making and perceiving significant objects (esthetics),entering into relations (synnoetics), deciding between right andwrong (ethics), and comprehending integrally (synoptics). Each ofthese realms of meaning is defined by a certain general logic of mean-ing. Within each realm there are special fields of study, each definedby its own subject matter, typical concepts, and methods of inquiry.Yet all these exhibit the general logic of the realm to which they be-long.
  13. 13. THE SEARCH FOR MEANING 75In search for meaning, humans often turn to na- ture and solitude. It is very likely that this is simply to get away from other people and thedistractions that accompany them. This does not mean, however, that people want to be lonely,just left alone. As a teacher concerned with the social and psychological well being of a child, how can one tell when or if a child is lonely orjust wants to be left alone? How can the situa- tion be handled? They are teaching?
  15. 15. THE SEARCH FOR MEANING 77AUTHORITATIVE SYSTEMATIC STUDY OF MEANINGS BY EXPERTS These special fields are designated as the various disciplines inwhich the authoritative systematic study of meanings by communitiesof experts is carried on. Disciplines are assigned to the various realmsof meaning on the basis of the general logical type of meaning theyexhibit. Thus, analysis of how linguists and mathematicians knowshows that they share the general logical features of the realm ofsymbolics. Similarly, the work of physicists, biologists, psychologists,sociologists, economists, and other scientists shows certain commonfeatures permitting all to be grouped within the empirical realm, de-spite their many differences in detailed methods and concepts. The var-ious different artistic enterprises may be grouped together within theesthetic category of meaning. History, religion, and philosophy, forall their contrasts, still share a common synoptic role. The case ofsynnoetics and ethics is less clear because the disciplined pursuit ofmeanings in these realms is not organized as definitely along distinctprofessional lines, but is carried on by special groups of experts fromother disciplines, such as psychology, literature, and religion. Theseexpert contributions, though differing in detail, have the same basiclogic within each realm, of relational intuition or normative judg-ment, as the case may be. CURRICULUM BASED ON MEANING A philosophy of the curriculum based on meaning is constructedby ascertaining the essential distinct logical types of human meaning,as exhibited by the successful fields of disciplined inquiry. The nexttask is to analyze each of the disciplines so as to exhibit its particu-lar structure, organizing concepts, and methods. In this manner the entire range of basic meanings may be chart-ed, and the structures and interrelationships of the various realmsand disciplines within each realm may be comprehensively viewed. Suchan understanding of the fundamental patterns of meaning enables theeducator to make a successful attack on the various sources of frus-tration in learning. The educator can seize the opportunity to battlesuch areas as fragmentation, surfeit, and transience of knowledge,by showing what kinds of knowledge are required for full understand-ing and how the essential elements may be distinguished from theunessential ones in the selection of instructional materials. In thisfashion the curriculum may become a means for the realization of thedistinctively human potentialities. WAYS OF KNOWING1. How do symbols give meaning to life?2. Do you believe that sometimes your actions are senseless or meaningless?3. Do you believe what you are doing makes a positive difference?4. Are you concerned with establishing relationships with others? Why? Why not?5. Do you work with students in an impersonal and objective man- ner? Yes/No? Why?6. Do you work with students in a loving, caring, and personal manner? Yes/No? Why?7. How do you get deeper, lasting, and secure meanings out of life?8. How can the educator seize the opportunity to show what kinds of knowledge are required for full understanding and how the
  16. 16. 78 PART ONE: MEANING AND HUMAN NATURE essential elements may be distinguished from the unessential ones in selecting instructional materials?9. Why should the educator fashion the curriculum as a means for the realization of the learners distinctively human potentiali- ties?