Higher Education in the Making

Pragmatism, Whitehead, and the Canon

By George Allan

Subjects: Education
Series: SUNY series in Constructive Postmodern Thought
Paperback : 9780791459904, 262 pages, February 2004
Hardcover : 9780791459898, 262 pages, February 2004

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Table of contents


Series Introduction

1. Crumbling Cathedrals

2. Content Canonists

3. Procedural Canonists

4. Anti-Canonists

5. Relative Canonists

6. Canonical Dynamics

7. Canonical Dialectics

8. Pragmatic Canonists

9. Education for a Democracy

10. Religious Education

11. Education for Our Common Good

12. Cathedral Ruins

13. Constructive Pragmatics

Works Cited

Note on Supporting Center


SUNY Series in Constructive Postmodern Thought

Argues for a pragmatic canon always in need of renovation.


George Allan argues that the so-called "culture wars" in higher education are the result of the dogmatic and unyielding certainty that both canonists and anti-canonists bring to any discussion of how best to organize an undergraduate curriculum. He then proposes a middle way. Drawing from William James, John Dewey, and Alfred North Whitehead, he contrasts the absolutist claims of both canonists and anti-canonists with a fallibilist approach and argues for a more pragmatic canon that is normative and always in need of renovation.

A wide variety of voices are heard in Allan's conversation about the nature and meaning of an education canon, including philosophers Aristotle, Descartes, Arthur Lovejoy, Hannah Arendt, Spengler, Emerson, Lyotard, and Rorty. Contemporary voices include Eva Brann, Charles Anderson, Francis Oakley, Martha Nussbaum, Gerald Graff, Henry Louis Gates Jr. , and Bill Readings.

George Allan is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Dickinson College. He is the author of several books, including, most recently, The Patterns of the Present: Interpreting the Authority of Form, published by SUNY Press.