Philosophy's contribution to social science research on education

Hammersley, Martyn (2006). Philosophy's contribution to social science research on education. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 40(2) pp. 273–286.



This article offers a Weberian perspective on philosophy's relationship to social science research in education. Two key areas where it can make an important contribution are discussed: methodology, and the clarification of value principles that necessarily frame inquiries. In relation to both areas, it is claimed that some researchers underestimate philosophy's contribution, while others exaggerate it. Thus, in methodological work, there are those who effectively suppress philosophical issues, producing 'methodology-as-technique'; at the same time, others generate 'methodology-as-philosophy', often denying the possibility of knowledge, the regulative ideal of truth, and the desirability of objectivity. It is argued that both these tendencies are counterproductive: neither enables research on education to flourish. In relation to the second area, it is shown that philosophy is needed to clarify the value principles that educational researchers use to frame their inquiries; but, at the same time, that it cannot provide a value framework to govern social science. The concept of equity is discussed as an example. In summary, it is argued that while philosophy plays an essential role in social and educational inquiry, there are important limits to its contribution.

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