Wittgenstein and Therapeutic Education



Wittgenstein’s method of doing philosophy with a therapeutic purpose has a direct bearing on current debates about the propriety of therapeutic education. Many detractors of therapeutic education worry that the practice contributes to a secular understanding of the self and of personal responsibility that is morally bankrupt and damaging to both individuals and society. They worry that therapeutic education teaches students to think of themselves as damaged and to think of their actions as rooted in their wounds rather than in autonomous choices. In that spirit, such critics of therapeutic education call for a return to a “traditional” academic curriculum, and to a view of individuals as morally capable and culpable. While such complaints might be valid for some particular therapeutic educational programs, Wittgenstein’s manner of examining and healing himself through the process of philosophical reflection demonstrates the soundness of therapeutic education, at least in principle. Wittgenstein’s example shows that the sort of open-ended examinations of self, morality, and one’s conception of the world associated with therapeutic education is essential to the development of moral depth and spiritual well-being rather than being antithetical to them. Critics of therapeutic education may be hostile to Wittgenstein’s example of moral and spiritual seeking because they are wedded to the ideas of moral and religious truth rooted in what Charles Taylor identifies as having evolved during the Reformation, whereas Wittgenstein’s own method is more in keeping with a progressive religious outlook that emerged in the cultural revolution of the 1960s.


Wittgenstein Therapy Therapeutic education Religion Secularism 


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and ReligionWestern Carolina UniversityCullowheeUSA

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