Language, ideology and education
This thesis examines the relationship between language and social reality. The position argued for is one which sees language as having a constitutive role to play in the formation and maintenance of the social world. It elaborates and develops a view expressed by Quentin Skinner, namely, that language and the social world are mutually supportive and exist in a state of dynamic interaction. Because language has this constitutive role in relation to the social world attention to the use of language is important for the language we employ will be a significant factor in determining the nature of that world. The notion of ideology is defined in a critical sense as 'malign decontestation', i. e., the presentation of that which is contestable as if there were only one legitimate perspective. The concepts of absolutism and universalisation are taken as key ideological markers. Given the constitutive role of language, the identification of ideological language becomes important because aspects of the social world which are informed by such a language will reflect the errors inherent in the linguistic structures themselves. One of the central arguments of the thesis is that ideological language often arises when insufficient attention is paid to the ontological differences between activities whose subject matter is the natural world and those whose subject matter is the social world. There is a focus on educational issues because the impetus for this thesis arose out of a growing unease with the nature of the language used in relation to this topic. Although a concern with the language of education is not uncommon, the full significance of the language we use in this area is often unacknowledged because the necessary theoretical background is absent. It is the main purpose of this thesis to provide a philosophical justification for this concern.