Community of Philosophical Inquiry Online and Off: Retrospectus and Prospectus

Community of Philosophical Inquiry Online and Off: Retrospectus and Prospectus

David Kennedy (Montclair State University, USA) and Nadia S. Kennedy (SUNY Stony Brook, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2110-7.ch002
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Abstract

This chapter addresses, in psychohistorical, philosophical, and educational terms, the emergence of and prospects for the practice of a specific form of philosophical pedagogy in an online environment. It explores a form of structured group dialogue known as “community of philosophical inquiry,” a communal critical thinking discourse that reflects the ongoing transformation of the contemporary information environment into a hybrid zone which combines the literate, the oral, and the imagistic. After a description and analysis of the structure and process of CPI as a complex system, a discussion of the distinctive pedagogical role of a CPI facilitator, and a genealogical look at the post modern information environment, the chapter explores how this “ideal speech situation,” which is also a hybrid, is challenged or enhanced through its insertion into the post modern information environment, and how it satisfies the conditions for the communicative ideal of social democracy.
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Introduction

This chapter will address, in psychohistorical, philosophical and educational terms, the emergence of and prospects for the practice of a dialogical pedagogy in an online environment. We will explore a form of structured group dialogue known as “community of inquiry,” a form which reflects the transformation, through the virtual collective space created by digital technology, of the contemporary information environment into a hybrid zone that combines the literate, the oral, and the iconic or imagistic. Community of inquiry can be broadly defined as the practice of communal, dialogical interaction centered on the problematization and collaborative reconstruction of philosophical, scientific, moral or aesthetic concepts and the questions in which they are embedded. Because this term has developed many references and connotations over the past half-century, we will, in order to avoid confusion, limit our discussion of the term to what, in Matthew Lipman’s and Ann Sharp’s original adoption of C.S. Peirce’s epistemology, Justus Buchler’s metaphysics and John Dewey’s logic (Peirce, 1966, 2011; Buchler, 1990; De Marzio, 1997; Dewey, 1916, 1938; Lipman, Sharp & Oscanyan 1980; Lipman, 2003; Sharp, 1987, 1993). Lipman and Sharp understood specifically as community of philosophical inquiry, which we will refer to as CPI. We will use the term community of inquiry (CI) to refer to a larger pedagogical category that can be identified by its collaborative, dialogical and constructivist theory of inquiry, but which might take different forms in actual practice and in different disciplines.

There are several advantages to this limitation. Most importantly, it connects directly with the form of group dialogue that has its origins in ancient Greece, most famously in the philosophical practice of Socrates, which represents a benchmark that has even yet to be fully appropriated by Western educational theory and practice. Secondly, philosophical discourse, at least in its more traditional form, has the distinction of operating most visibly according to the epistemological assumptions of critical thinking—that is, through the offering and evaluation of reasons, based on inductive and deductive logical criteria. And finally, philosophical dialogue is unequivocally oriented to personal and collective meaning, as opposed merely to the transmission and/or retention of information. As such it offers an educational form that fully honors Vygotskian social constructivist epistemology and learning theory, and which establishes the conditions both for John Dewey’s (1902) “Copernican Revolution” in education and Paulo Freire’s (1965) epochal identification of dialogue as a necessary condition for any emancipatory pedagogy, as well as providing a secure place in the curriculum for moral education in the form of ethical inquiry. As a discipline, we may characterize it as the primary or ur-discourse of education, because it provides a context for the four dimensions of reasoning—formal, informal, interpersonal and philosophical—identified by Cannon and Weinstein (1993) as fundamental to a form of thinking that is both autonomous and dialogical.

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