The Pedagogy of "As If"

Educational Theory 74 (2) (2024)
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In this paper Johan Dahlbeck sets out to propose a pedagogy of “as if,” seeking to address the educational paradox of how students can be influenced to approximate a life guided by reason without assuming that they are already sufficiently rational to adhere to dictates of practical reason. He does so by outlining a fictionalist account, drawing primarily on Hans Vaihinger's systematic treatment of heuristic fictions and on Spinoza's ideas about how passive affects can be made to strengthen reason. Dahlbeck suggests that such an account can help us overcome the problem of assuming that reason needs to be enlisted as an instrument in the educational endeavor to live according to the guidance of reason. The reason this is so is that fictions can use passive affects that are prosocial and that thereby strengthen the sense of community necessary for laying a cooperative foundation for successful joint striving. Dahlbeck suggests further that exemplary teachers are crucial to this endeavor insofar as they can offer educational fictions as imaginative and temporary placeholders for the truth, allowing students to act “as if” they were already guided by reason.

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Johan Dahlbeck
Malmö University


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