Studies in Philosophy and Education

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 49–62 | Cite as

Abstract rationality in education: from Vygotsky to Brandom

  • Jan DerryEmail author


Abstract rationality has increasingly been a target of attack in contemporary educational research and practice and in its place practical reason and situated thinking have become a focus of interest. The argument here is that something is lost in this. In illustrating how we might think about the issue, this paper makes a response to the charge that as a result of his commitment to the ‘Enlightenment project’ Vygotsky holds abstract rationality as the pinnacle of thought. Against this it is argued that Vygotsky had a far more sophisticated appreciation of reason and of its remit. The paper proceeds first by examining the picture of Vygotsky that is presented in the work of James Wertsch, and especially his claim that Vygotsky was an ambivalent rationalist, goes on to provide an account of Vygotsky that corrects this picture, and develops this in the light of the work of Robert Brandom, who shares Vygotsky’s inheritance of Hegel. The conclusion towards which this piece points is that the philosophical underpinnings of Vygotsky’s work provide a radically different idea of rationality and epistemology from that characterised as abstract rationality and that this has significance for education studies.


Abstract rationality Concepts Vygotsky Brandom Hegel 


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© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of EducationUniversity of LondonLondonUK

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