Module 2: Breaking Down the Four Major Philosophies – Idealism, Realism, Existentialism, and Pragmatism

The four major philosophies presented to us in the 2nd part of the module which are Idealism, Realism, Existentialism, and Pragmatism gave me an idea on what types of philosophies that would clearly suit my teaching style and methods. It made me appreciate every school of thought and why each is valuable and important to learn and to understand these philosophies.

Idealism

I have to say that I am more inclined of becoming an idealist since based on the readings that idealist tends to focus more on lasting values. According to Cohen (1999), that the aim of an idealist is more on “character development and the search for truth demands for personal discipline and steadfast character”. It aims and desires to form a society that advocates and builds love for knowledge, academic excellence, and morally good people.

Way back in college, I was often surrounded by high-intellect individuals coming various groups such as smart classmates, opinionated friends and super-educated professors whom I always considered as Idealist People. In all honesty, I really don’t have a problem in dealing with them since I considered myself as one and alike – the “Idealist”. I was, of course, observing them while they were talking and sharing their own views about the world and the truth to know and to be known which fascinated my imagination, made me curious even more – hence, I had a great time conversing with them.  I have observed through the four years of my relationship with them, their views changed and sometimes, they do not believe what they have had believed a couple of years ago. I once have a friend who perfectly fits under the Platonic Idealism since according to this theory people should concern themselves primarily with the search for truth. For the truth is perfect, unfathomable and eternal, it cannot be grasped and be found in the world of man, a world that is too imperfect and constantly changing. As what I have observed, this friend of mine tends to create his own perfect world – based on his own criteria and understanding, a utopia where life is favorably just, equal, peaceful, joyful, and free. Of course, I find it absurd and I told myself, “He is the king of his own little kingdom!”.

That is why, if I become an idealist teacher, I would definitely focus more on my student’s abilities and moral excellence to discover their better selves and in order to become a good social beings in this society. Since an idealist focuses more on the spiritual aspect of life, then it would be nice to teach my students on literature, history, philosophy, and religion. Inside the classroom, I will encourage my students in developing their imagination, analytic skills and comprehension. I will make use of the Socratic Method to assist them in exploring and challenging their ideas. Engaging them in debates is a good venue to present ideas and learn new perspectives of truth.

Realism

According to Stephen Hicks (2010), “Realism is nature-centered, uses senses, perception, and reason, it is empirical in orientation, focuses both on mind and body value, is science friendly, promotes integrationalism, and celebrates happiness or liberty”. In comparison, Hicks believes that knowledge is the proof or the evidence of ideas wherein this “knowledge” has been tested and observed. While in idealism, knowledge is the end in itself – no more tests and observations. He also added that the value of knowledge under realism is to make the real world a better place while the value of knowledge under idealism is contemplation.

Furthermore, Cohen (1999) believes that realism’s ultimate reality is the physical object. What I really liked about realism is the fact that a realist can teach logic to students in order for them to concretely experience ideas and make them acceptable to one’s senses and intellect. I also like the thought that by using our own perception and senses, one can fully understand the world that we are living. Indeed, it is empirical in orientation and solely is based on someone’s experience. I believe, when a teacher is a realist then he/she gives more value to observation and experimentation inside the classroom. In this way, what is being perceived or observed can be the ultimate basis of truth and reality so long as the evidence supports the facts presented. I am somehow in favor of Realism and I am hoping that I can apply this in my future classes.

Existentialism

Existentialism is “subjective and lies within the individual” (Cohen, 1999). Cohen highlighted that ONE’S CHOICE is the center of existentialism – free from outside influence and external standards. Also, its focus is more on freedom and the development of authentic individual.

Personally, I also appreciate the concept of existentialism. For me, valuing individual’s choice is a must, in order to really understand who we really are as an individual. According to the French Philosopher, Jean Paul Sarte, an existential moment can only happen when an individual takes responsibility for the consequences of their actions and decisions they have chosen and would often ask themselves this question, “Whom am I and what I should do?”.  Thus, it makes sense to me this statement that “existence precedes essence”. For me, one can only know our own selves when we first know who we are based on the things that we have acquired and learned in this world – in short EXPERIENCE. I have this interesting friend of mine in the name of May, she exclaimed, “After college, all of us will pursue further studies at UE – the University of Experience!”

However, there is this part that I am somehow skeptical about the statement by other existentialists, wherein according to them, we must recognize the finiteness of our lives in this small and fragile planet, rather than believing in the salvation through God. It’s like saying that there is no guarantee in life and that death is the only guarantee, the end of existence which makes an existentialist sounds scary due to absence of a Creator. I cannot accept this kind of idea without hurting or insulting my person, my existence as a whole.

Pragmatism (Experientialism)

For a pragmatist, one can only gain true knowledge through experience and use the scientific method. For them, only those who are experienced and observers are real. This term was first introduced by Charles Pierce and the word pragma is literally translated as “action” and  “practice or  practical”.

For me, the value of “doing” is magnified which I find very important because it teaches students to simply act and go beyond their imagination. I definitely would like to make use of this approach in the classroom as I am a type of teacher who loves giving problem-solving examinations to students.  As much as possible, it would be best to expose my students to real life situations so that whatever they may experience in the future, they will survive and apply practical means and ways to solve their problems.

Conclusion

I am enlightened with all the four major philosophies of education. I was able to identify my strengths and weakness and categorize them accordingly. It gave me so much confidence and appreciation about understanding our selves, our world, and our life as a whole. Out of these four philosophies, I can confidently say that I am more inclined to idealism, realism, and pragmatism. For me, a combination of these three best suits my own teaching styles and beliefs. As an idealist, character development and good values are the first major considerations to be taught in schools. Next, I will incorporate realist perspective by allowing my students to explore their senses and make their personal analysis on their observations. I will encourage them to be critical with their reasoning and provide corresponding proofs to support their statements and claims. Lastly, I will incorporate pragmatism by allowing my students to make good decisions as well as encourage them to commit mistakes in order to experience what life is all about. I will encourage them to enjoy studying at the University of Experience, after all, we only have one dear life to live.

REFERENCES:

Cohen, L. M. (1999). Four general or world philosophies. Retrieved from: http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/ed416/PP2.html

Hicks, S. (2010, May 6). Contrasting realist to idealist philosophy, Clip 1-6. [Digital Video] Retrieved at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8ED24C083DD5FCAA

Philosophical roots of education. (n.d. ) 388-424. Available at http://www.wou.edu/~girodm/foundations/philos.pdf

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