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This paper examines the role of knowledge in education. It proposes that the arguments of Paul Hirst on liberal education can be updated using the idea of a ‘space of reasons’ drawn from the epistemology associated with John McDowell. It further argues that for education to flourish within the space of reasons the idea of ‘epistemic freedom’ needs to be both recognised and developed. Such freedom is particularly exemplified in the ability to form judgements. It is noted that education at all levels has been subjected to processes of ‘rationalisation’, processes identified by Max Weber over one hundred years ago: these processes severely restrict epistemic freedom. However, the paper argues that Alistair McIntyre's concept of a practice can be used to inform our thinking about subject disciplines. The pursuit of knowledge can therefore be seen in terms of practices which operate within the space of reasons. Moreover, we can see the idea of a practice as a counterweight to rationalisation
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-230
Number of pages20
Issue number2
Early online date13 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


  • education
  • Knowledge
  • Freedom

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