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Title: A critical study of the Bergsonian roots of Piaget's theory of the development of human understanding
Author: Morrow, W. E.
Awarding Body: Institute of Education (University of London)
Current Institution: UCL Institute of Education (IOE)
Date of Award: 1982
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This thesis investigates the conceptual foundations and educational implications of Piaget's theory. Its main argument is that Piaget's theory can be seen as an attempt to provide a scientific grounding for a basically Bergsonian position. In Creative Evolution Bergson advances a theory which is at the same time a theory of evolution and a theory of knowledge. Piaget's theory is analogous (the 'genetic' strand in his epistemology is Bergsonian.) However, Bergson claims that there are two distinct kinds of knowledge, intellect and intuition; and that intellect (science) cannot understand evolution. Piaget rejects these further claims (the 'scientific' strand in his epistemology is anti-Bergsonian.) From a Bergsonian point of view, Piaget's project is bound to fail. It is shown that Bergson's theory supports the ideals of 'childcentred education'; and both Sir Percy Nunn's and Piaget's theories are ambivalent about those ideals. The reason for this is that both Nunn and Piaget accept Bergson's view that knowledge is to be conceived of in an evolutionary framework, but both reject Bergson's view that there are two distinct kinds of knowledge. Neither Nunn's or Piaget's theories can provide a satisfactory account of invention, and both undermine the ethical foundations of 'child-centred education'. A consideration of Piaget's theory from a Bergsonian point of view illuminates some of its central obscurities, and reveals some of its main problems. It transpires that Piaget's theory solves these problems in a strikingly Bergsonian fashion, and, thus, is much closer to a Bergsonian position than may at first appear. An investigation of Piaget's theory as scientific epistemology casts doubt on its status as epistemology. An investigation of Piaget's theory as genetic epistemology shows it to be flawed by its assumption of the epistemological primacy of the individual. Bergson's theory is flawed in the same way.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available