Skip to main content

Teaching Children to Ignore Alternatives is—Sometimes—Necessary: Indoctrination as a Dispensable Term

Abstract

Literature on indoctrination has focused on imparting and revising beliefs, but it has hardly considered the way of teaching and acquiring certainties—in Wittgenstein’s sense. Therefore, the role played by rationality in the acquisition of our linguistic practices has been overestimated. Furthermore, analyses of the relationship between certainty and indoctrination contain major errors. In this paper, the clarification of the aforementioned issues leads me to suggest the avoidance of the term ‘indoctrination’ so as to avoid focusing on the suitability of the case to the concept rather than on the analysis of the case itself. This should facilitate that the process of helping children to acquire a world-picture—by teaching them to ignore alternatives to certainties—is definitely accepted as normal and natural, for many beliefs are expected to end up becoming ungrounded certainties not only in the medium or long term, but also, and above all, in the short term.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. In Wittgenstein’s later work, rationality becomes context-dependent, for the rules applied on each occasion depend on the language-game that is being played at that moment: thus, what is rational in a specific context need not be so in a different one. However, it should be noted that this paper displays a narrow conception of rationality, for I focus on the weighing of grounds and the ability to raise doubts. In this sense, Wittgenstein (OC 110) notes that the chain of justifications of empirical propositions comes to an end in “an ungrounded way of acting”.

  2. Since the first passages of On Certainty were aimed at responding to Moore, who considered certainty in propositional terms, Wittgenstein began by regarding certainty as belief in framework propositions. However, Wittgenstein’s conception of certainty developed in such a way that he ended up contemplating it as an instinctive, non-propositional and non-epistemic mode of acting, to the extent that it is immune to doubt within the very world-picture it belongs to (Stroll 1994). This second conception came to dominate On Certainty. But even though certainties can be verbally articulated for heuristical purposes, this should not lead us to think that they are propositional beliefs (Moyal-Sharrock 2004).

  3. To be precise, one can argue for certainties, but the premises of such argument are bound to be less firm and robust than the conclusion they are supposed to prove. To this it should be added that certainties have consequences that abductively support them (see OC 248).

  4. Once our certainties have been acquired, they are also independent of our mental states inasmuch as we constantly take for granted countless certainties regardless of whether we are then thinking about them, and even when we would prefer that they no longer make up our world-picture (Ariso, 2018).

  5. If a concept is family-resemblant, there is no non-trivial feature that is shared by all members of the extension of the concept.

  6. Of course, I do not mean that the term ‘indoctrination’ should be avoided because it is a family-resemblance concept, but because of the reasons provided hereafter.

References

  • Ariso, J.M. 2012. Wahnsinn und Wissen. Zu Wittgensteins Lage und Denkbewegung. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ariso, J.M. 2015a. Learning to Believe: Challenges in Children’s Acquisition of a World-Picture in Wittgenstein’s on Certainty. Studies in Philosophy and Education 34: 311–325.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ariso, J.M. 2015b. Some Variations of the Certainty of One’s Own Death. Linguistic and Philosophical Investigations 14: 82–96.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ariso, J.M. 2016. Can Certainties be Acquired at Will? Implications for Children’s Assimilation of a World-Picture. Journal of Philosophy of Education 50 (4): 573–586.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ariso, J.M. 2018. Enhancing Second-Order Empathy in Medical Practice by Supplementing Patients’ Narratives with Certainties. BMC Medical Education 18: 35.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Berger, P., B. Berger, and H. Kellner. 1974. The Homeless Mind: Modernization and Consciousness. New York: Vintage Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bigelow, M. 2012. What Teachers can Learn from Students. NSTA Blog. http://nstacommunities.org/blog/2012/06/30/what-teachers-can-learn-from-students/. Accessed 14 Apr 2018.

  • Callan, E., and D. Arena. 2009. Indoctrination. In Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Education, ed. H. Siegel, 104–121. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Churchill, J. 1988. Wittgenstein: The Certainty of Worldpictures. Philosophical Investigations 11 (1): 28–48.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cooper, D. 1973. Intentions and Indoctrination. Educational Philosophy and Theory 5 (1): 43–55.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Degenhardt, M. 1976. Indoctrination. In Philosophy and the Teacher, ed. D. Lloyd, 19–30. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dell’Utri, M. 2016. Wittgenstein: The Pervasiveness of Persuasion. Philosophical Investigations. https://doi.org/10.1111/phin.12094

    Google Scholar 

  • Dostoyevsky, F. 1955. The Brothers Karamazov. New York: Random House.

    Google Scholar 

  • Elgin, C.Z. 2009. Art and Education. In Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Education, ed. H. Siegel, 311–324. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Feyerabend, P. 1975. Against Method. New York: Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Flew, A. 1972. Indoctrination and Religion. In Concepts of Indoctrination: Philosophical Essays, ed. I. Snook, 67–92. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gardner, P. 1982. Indoctrination: A Child-Centred Approach. The Polytechnic Wolverhampton Faculty of Education Journal 1: 1–19.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gardner, P. 2004. Hand on Religious Upbringing. Journal of Philosophy of Education 38 (1): 121–128.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Garrison, J.W. 1986. The Paradox of Indoctrination: A Solution. Synthese 68 (2): 261–273.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gatchel, R.H. 1972. The Evolution of the Concepts. In Concepts of Indoctrination: Philosophical Essays, ed. I. Snook, 9–16. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

    Google Scholar 

  • Green, T.F. 1972. Indoctrination and Beliefs. In Concepts of Indoctrination, ed. I. Snook, 25–46. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hand, M. 2002. Religious Upbringing Reconsidered. Journal of Philosophy of Education 36 (4): 545–557.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hare, R.M. 1964. Adolescents into Adults. In Education: The Philosophic Approach, ed. T. Hollins, 47–70. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hare, W. 1979. Open-Mindedness and Education. Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Harvey, C. 1997. Liberal Indoctrination and the Problem of Community. Synthese 111: 115–130.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kleinig, J. 1982. Philosophical Issues in Education. London: St. Martin’s Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Laura, R.S. 1983. To Educate or to Indoctrinate: That is Still the Question. Educational Philosophy and Theory 15 (1): 43–55.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mackenzie, J. 2004. Religious Upbringing is Not as Michael Hand Describes. Journal of Philosophy of Education 38 (1): 129–141.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Macmillan, C.J.B. 1983. On Certainty and Indoctrination. Synthese 56: 263–272.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Marconi, D. 2016. Persuading the Tortoise. Philosophical Investigations 39 (2): 123–137.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McDonough, T. 2011. Initiation, Not Indoctrination: Confronting the Grotesque in Cultural Education. Educational Philosophy and Theory 43 (7): 706–723.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Merry, M.S. 2005. Indoctrination, Moral Instruction, and Nonrational Beliefs: A Place for Autonomy? Educational Theory 55 (4): 399–420.

    Google Scholar 

  • Moyal-Sharrock, D. 2004. Understanding Wittgenstein’s on Certainty. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Perissinotto, L. 2016. How Long Has the Earth Existed? Persuasion and World-Picture in Wittgenstein’s on Certainty. Philosophical Investigations 39 (2): 154–177.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Perloff, R.M. 1993. The Dynamics of Persuasion. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Peters, R.S. 1966. Reason and Habit: The Paradox of Moral Education. In Philosophy and Education, ed. I. Scheffler, 245–262. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

    Google Scholar 

  • Raywid, M.A. 1980. The Discovery and Rejection of Indoctrination. Educational Theory 30: 1–10.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Reardon, K.K. 1991. Persuasion in Practice. London: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Siegel, H. 1988. Educating Reason: Rationality, Critical Thinking, and Education. New York and London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Siegel, H. 2004. Faith, Knowledge and Indoctrination: A Friendly Response to Hand. Theory and Research in Education 2 (1): 75–83.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Siegel, H. 2009. Open-Mindedness, Critical Thinking, and Indoctrination: Homage to William Hare. Paideusis 18 (1): 26–34.

    Google Scholar 

  • Spiecker, B. 1987. Indoctrination, Intellectual Virtues and Rational Emotions. Journal of Philosophy of Education 21 (2): 261–266.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stroll, A. 1994. Moore and Wittgenstein on Certainty. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tan, C. 2011. Islamic Education and Indoctrination: The Case in Indonesia. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Taylor, R.M. 2017. Indoctrination and Social Context: A System-based Approach to Identifying the Threat of Indoctrination and the Responsibilities of Educators. Journal of Philosophy of Education 51 (1): 38–58.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • White, J. 2017. Indoctrination and Systems: A Reply to Rebecca Taylor. Journal of Philosophy of Education 51 (4): 760–768.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wilson, J. 1964. Education and Indoctrination. In Education: The Philosophic Approach, ed. T. Hollins, 24–46. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wilson, J. 1972. Indoctrination and Rationality. In Concepts of Indoctrination, ed. I. Snook, 17–24. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wittgenstein, L. 1986. Philosophical Investigations. Oxford: Blackwell. (Abbreviated as ‘PI’ throughout).

    Google Scholar 

  • Wittgenstein, L. 1988. Zettel. Oxford: Blackwell. (Abbreviated as ‘Z’ throughout).

    Google Scholar 

  • Wittgenstein, L. 1997. On Certainty. Oxford: Blackwell. (Abbreviated as ‘OC’ throughout).

    Google Scholar 

  • Wittgenstein, L. 2007. Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. (Abbreviated as ‘LC’ throughout).

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

This paper has been written within the research project ‘Cognitive Vulnerability, Verosimilitude and Truth’ financed by the Spanish Ministry of Education (FFI2017-84826-P).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to José María Ariso.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Ariso, J.M. Teaching Children to Ignore Alternatives is—Sometimes—Necessary: Indoctrination as a Dispensable Term. Stud Philos Educ 38, 397–410 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11217-018-9642-3

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11217-018-9642-3

Keywords

  • Indoctrination
  • Persuasion
  • Error
  • Wittgenstein
  • Certainty
  • World-picture