chapter  6
13 Pages

The forms of knowledge re-visited

In a paper entitled ‘Liberal education and the nature of knowledge’, first published in 1965,1 I tried to outline a coherent concept of liberal education concerned simply with the development of the pupil’s knowledge and understanding, the diversity of its content being determined by the diversity of the forms that human knowledge and understanding in fact take. An essential part of that argument was the suggestion that within the domain of knowledge a number of forms can be distinguished which are different in their logical character. The account given of those forms was necessarily very brief and its inadequacies have provoked a certain amount of critical comment.2 Precisely what I was trying to do has been the subject of some debate, as well as the satisfactoriness of some of the arguments I deployed. Since then I have returned to this subject in a number of places, in particular in The Logic of Education3 written in collaboration with Professor R.S.Peters. Over the years, the thesis originally advanced has undergone a number of minor modifications which mark either certain developments in my own thoughts on the subject, or applications of the central ideas to somewhat different educational problems. It is the object of this chapter to outline my present reflections on the original ‘forms of knowledge’ thesis, elaborating those points which are not discussed more fully in other chapters in this volume.4