Education and philosophy in R. F. Holland’s Against Empiricism : A reassessment

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1228-1239
Journal / PublicationEducational Philosophy and Theory
Issue number13
Online published28 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018


In his 1980 book Against Empiricism: On Education, Epistemology and Value, British philosopher R. F. Holland (1923–2013) exposes the inadequacies of a philosophy of education originating from an empiricist worldview. By following Plato’s view that the issue of what qualifies as knowledge has to be understood with reference to whether it is teachable, Holland’s critique of empiricism highlights the social and communal dimensions of education. The primary objective of this paper is to offer a reassessment of Holland’s thoughts on education and value. To do so, I first discuss Holland’s use of Plato’s ideas in his article ‘Epistemology and Education’ to demonstrate that Holland’s position can offer us a fruitful way to diagnose common, prevalent educational practices. I then turn to look at Holland’s views on value and morality. To illustrate how his thoughts on education can be seen to be relevant to the contemporary world, I explore and criticize some implicit presuppositions on knowledge in the 2011 box-office hit Limitless. The conceptual dimension of Holland’s take on education is then examined alongside with some recent trends in epistemology and philosophy of education.

Research Area(s)

  • epistemology, knowledge, Limitless, Plato, R. F. Holland, Wittgenstein