Maria Montessori’s philosophy of education: an early beginning of embodied education

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For a century Montessori’s philosophy of education has been understood in separation from Dewey’s philosophy of education. According to Thayer-Bacon [1], a plausible explanation is that Kilpatrick, Dewey’s influential student, rejected Montessori’s system of education [2]. His main objection was that her educational system was founded on an outdated psychology.

In contrast, this paper suggests, Montessori’s educational systems is founded on a psychology which, like Dewey’s, was markedly ahead of her time by putting purely embodied interactions with the environment as the foundation of human understanding. By comparing Montessori’s psychology [3; 4] to Dewey’s [5; 6] this paper shows their compatibility. The developed pragmatism of Sellars [5;6] and the interactivism of Bickhard [7] further enables us to explain how the prelinguistic human-environment interactions (or transactions), central to Dewey and Montessori, are pure processes [8]. The pure process ontology enables us to see how more complex processes emerge from simpler ones and how learning in the mere causal domain of bodily human-environment interactions can grow into the linguistic and conceptual domain of education.

The ambition is to show that a flourishing interaction between Montessori and pragmatism is possible and preferable if we are to understand the proper role of the body in education.

[1] Thayer-Bacon, Barbara (2012). Maria Montessori, John Dewey, and William H. Kilpatrick. Education and Culture, 28, 1, 3-20.
[2] Kilpatrick, W. H. (1914). The Montessori system examined. Cambridge, Mass.; The Riverside Press
[3] Montessori, M. (1912). The Montessori method. NY: Frederick A. Stokes Company
[4] Montessori. M. (1949). The absorbent mind. Adyar: The Theosophical Publishing House
[5] Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education. NY: The Macmillan Company
[6] Dewey, J. (1925) Experience and nature. Chicago: Open Court Publishing Company
[7] Sellars, W. (1960). Being and Being Known. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association, 34, 28-49.
[8] Sellars, W. (1981). Foundations for a metaphysics of pure process: The Carus lectures of Wilfrid Sellars. The Monist 64 (1):3-90.
[9] Bickhard, M. H. (2009). The interactivist model. Synthese, 166, 3, 547-591.
[10] Seibt, Johanna (2016). How to Naturalize Intentionality and Sensory Consciousness within a Process Monism with Gradient Normativity—A Reading of Sellars. In James O'Shea (ed.), Sellars and His Legacy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 186-222.
Translated title of the contributionMaria Montessoris pædagogiske filsofi: en tidlig begydelse for kropslig (ud)dannelse
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Event18th International Network of Philosophers of Education Conference: Pedagogical Forms in Times of Pandemic - Danish School of Education, Festsalen, Tuborgvej 164, 2400 Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 17 Aug 202220 Aug 2022


Conference18th International Network of Philosophers of Education Conference
LocationDanish School of Education, Festsalen, Tuborgvej 164, 2400 Copenhagen
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  • educational science

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