Page:Democracy and Education.djvu/325

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CHAPTER XX

 

INTELLECTUAL AND PRACTICAL STUDIES

 

1. The Opposition of Experience and True Knowledge.—As livelihood and leisure are opposed, so are theory and practice, intelligence and execution, knowledge and activity. The latter set of oppositions doubtless springs from the same social conditions which produce the former conflict; but certain definite problems of education connected with them make it desirable to discuss explicitly the matter of the relationship and alleged separation of knowing and doing.

The notion that knowledge is derived from a higher source than is practical activity, and possesses a higher and more spiritual worth, has a long history. The history so far as conscious statement is concerned takes us back to the conceptions of experience and of reason formulated by Plato and Aristotle. Much as these thinkers differed in many respects, they agreed in identifying experience with purely practical concerns; and hence with material interests as to its purpose and with the body as to its organ. Knowledge, on the other hand, existed for its own sake free from practical reference, and found its source and organ in a purely immaterial mind; it had to do with spiritual or ideal interests. Again, experience always involved lack, need, desire; it was never self-sufficing. Rational knowing, on the other hand, was complete and comprehensive within itself. Hence the practical life was in a condition of perpetual flux, while intellectual knowledge concerned eternal truth.

This sharp antithesis is connected with the fact that Athenian philosophy began as a criticism of custom and tradition

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