A Methodology for Comparing Syllabus Topics Across Educational Contexts
Chapter Four: The Philosophical Basis of Comparisons II – Towards a Hermeneutic ‘Synthesis’
All the great philosophical ideas of the last century – the philosophies of Marx, Nietzsche, phenomenology, German existentialism, and psychoanalysis – had their beginnings in Hegel.
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Sense and Non-Sense, 1964, p.63
[W]ithin the circle of the philosophers of my generation who diagnose our times, Foucault has most lastingly influenced the Zeitgeist.
Jurgen Habermas, Taking Aim at the Heart of the Present, 1989, p.107
In this chapter it will be argued that hermeneutic approaches provide a philosophical basis for making comparisons across contexts that incorporate important features of modernity and post-modernity thinking while avoiding the excesses of over- empiricism, class reductionism and relativism. Hermeneutic conceptions of reality will be posited as both an important synthesis and critique of the positions outlined in Chapter Three – hermeneutic perspectives providing a powerful alternative, suited to a truly dynamic comparative education for our times. With a dynamic conception of knowledge, the politics of knowledge, and of agency, it will be argued that hermeneutic philosophies provide the grounds upon which to construct methodologies that facilitate meaningful yet sensitive comparisons of syllabus topics in school history education across contexts. Hermeneutic approaches provide a perspective that is sensitive to cultural and linguistic differences while at the same time providing the subject with the space – the platform even – to make evaluations and assessments. Hermeneutic conceptions of truth and history enable the subject to take positions while acknowledging important limits.
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