You are on page 1of 1


Search ProgrammesECER 2017
Forms of Knowledge and Forms of Practices. The Construction of a Bildung Curriculum
in Line with the Epistemological Practice Turn

As a starting point for my paper I will revisit Paul Hirst’s ‘forms of knowledge’ as making up a curriculum for liberal
education. Hirst attempts to develop an epistemological foundation for liberal education by arguing that a person’s
mind is developing through more differentiated ways of experiencing the world. A liberal education should offer the
students possibilities to acquire different forms of knowledge and thereby expanding their experiencing of the world.
As Hirst himself has pointed out his ideas in the 1960s and 70s were framed within a rationalistic thinking ”The main
error in my position was seeing theoretical knowledge as the logical foundation for the development of sound
practical knowledge and rational personal development. Education in theoretical forms of knowledge was seen as
fundamental to everything else in education. […]I now consider practical knowledge to be more fundamental than
theoretical knowledge, the former being basic to any clear grasp of the latter […]. The priority of personal
development by initiation into a complex of specific, substantive social practices with all the knowledge, attitudes,
feelings, virtues, skills, dispositions and relationships that that involves”. (Hirst 1993, p.197) During the 1990s his
interest was more focused on how different kinds of practices could make up the foundation for education. It seems
as if he lost interest in liberal education and how knowledge forms the mind in his later works. However, I think it is
possible to re-formulate his ideas from the 1970s in the light of his ‘practice turn’ in the 1990s. In my contribution I
will replace Hirst’s idea of knowledge forms with the idea of knowledge traditions and different ways of knowing – or
epistemic cultures. Thereby the construction of educative practices for the formation of competencies can be
discussed. Normally the competency discourse, seems to be trapped in rationalistic thinking including a narrow and
traditional way of conceiving knowledge as well as an instrumentalistic view of education. A reconceptualization of
knowledge in accordance with the practice turn would pave the way for alternative ways of talking about the
content of education and also to connect the competence discourse to ideas of liberal education and Bildung.


Hirst, P.H. (1974) Knowledge and the curriculum (London, Routledge & Kegan Paul).
Hirst, P.H. (1993b) Education, knowledge and practices, in: R. Barrow & P. White (Eds) Beyond liberal education:
essays in honour of Paul Hirst (London, Routledge).
Nussbaum, M. (2011) Creating capability: the human development approach.
Sen, A. (2004) “Capabilities, Lists, and Public Reason: Continuing the Conversation,” Feminist Economics 10, no. 3:
White, J. (2005) Reassessing 1960s philosophy of the Curriculum. London Review of Education Vol 3, No. 2, July
2005, pp. 131–144.
Yoo, J-B. (2001) Hirst’s Social Practices View of Education: A Radical Change from His Liberal Education? Journal of
Philosophy of Education Volume 35, Issue 4, pages 615–626.

Author Information
Ingrid Carlgren (presenting)
Stockholm University