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1. The educator needs to understand human nature.
2. A comprehensive view must allow for the many-
sidedness of man.
3. Humans are beings who discover, create, and
express meanings.
4. Meaning refers to the inner life, or the life of mind.
5. The objective is to understand the inner life that is
the center and substance of human existence and
from which all distinctively human actions spring.
6. Each type of meaning that has demonstrated
generative power is the special province of a
company of experts who make the preservation
and advancement of that sort of meaning their
professional business.
7. Varieties of productive meanings correspond to
the varieties of scholarly disciplines.
8. Meanings wax and wane, as do the disciplines
responsible for them.


9. The symbols of the disciplines are essential to scholars

for analyzing, criticizing, and elaborating their domains
of meaning.
10. The educator needs to understand the kinds of meaning
that have proven effective in the development of
civilization and to construct the curriculum of studies on
the basis of these meanings.
11. The purpose of classifying meanings in education is to
facilitate learning.
12. Every cognitive meaning has two logical aspects,
namely, quantity and quality.
13. An intimate connection exists between education, the
nature of man, and the scholarly disciplines.


Education is a means of helping human beings to become
what they can and should become. The educator needs to
understand human nature. He needs to understand people in
their actual- ities. In their possibilities, and in their idealities.
He must also know how to foster desirable changes in them.


For the required understanding one naturally turns to
the scientists and scholars who have made the study of
human beings their concern. It is evident at once there are
many different classes of investigators interested in the
exploration of human nature. No one type of expert has a
monopoly on knowledge about man. Each kind of
investigator sees a man from a particular perspective. Each
is well quipped to elucidate certain aspects or dimensions of
what human beings are.

Physicists And Chemists

Physicists and chemists usually do not study man as
such. They usually assume that he is part of the general
matter-energy system of nature. They often assume that a
person as a material structure con- forms to the same
physcochemical laws as rocks, plants, animals, and all other
existing things. Some physical scientists hold that the
phenomena of mind that are not found in developed form
except in man, need to be considered even within natural
science in order to explain the observed non-random
organization of energy in the natural world.

Biologists consider man as one species of animal, the
most highly developed of all forms of living things within the
evolutionary sequence. Biology deals with distinct living
organisms. Biologists draw attention especially to the
extraordinary adaptive powers of Homosapiens that result
from the extensive elaboration of the nervous system.

Psychologists divide into two principal groups in their
view of human nature. One group, oriented toward the
biologists, concentrates on the physiological, chemical, and
neurological structures and functions required to explain
human behavior. The other group approaches the study of
man from the standpoint of his inwardly perceived mental
states, using such concepts as consciousness, intention,
purpose, value, choice, and the like. Both kinds of
psychologists see man as an organism with mind. They differ
in the ways in which they interpret the meaning of mind and
the data they use to explicate it.

Sociologists and social psychologists see man as a
social animal. They describe and try to explain the many
patterns of social organization and transformation that
human beings exhibit. Sociologists scientifically analyze
social institutions as they specifically relate to various
sectors of society.

Economists describe man as a producer and consumer
of material goods and services. They see man with wants
that always outrun resources, and with the need to invent
social mechanisms for the allocation of the limited resources.
The economist is a specialist in economics that is primarily
concerned with the production, distribution, and
consumption of various goods and services.

Political Scientists
Political scientists see man as a seeker after power or
influence. They describe the many ways, such as force,
reason, propaganda, threats and promises, and economic
and social pressures, in which people influence and are
influenced by one another. The political scientists is
concerned with the accurate description and analysis of

political episodes especially as they specifically relate to

various govern-mental entities.

Anthropologists describe the many types of human
beings, with regard to both physical characteristics and
cultural patterns. They study the varieties of languages,
customs, beliefs, rituals, laws, and forms of social
organizations that man has developed. They see human
beings as having certain basic biological and social needs
that are satisfied in a great many different ways, according
to the circumstances of environment and historical
development. Anthropologists investigate human beings in
relation to distribution, origin, classification, and
interrelationship of races, physical characteristics, social
relationships, cultural, and environmental

Linguists view man in his distinctive capacity for
speech. They describe the many ways human beings have
invented to communicate with one another. Linguists
analyze the formal patterns that characterize the languages
of humankind. The linguist is one who speaks and
understands several different languages. The linguist is a
person who is an expert in languages.

Geographers study man in relation to his earth habitat.
They show how human behavior is conditioned by such
factors as climate, food supply, ease of transportation,
distribution of natural resources, and population. The
geographer is an expert in dealing with the earth and its life.
They describe sea, land, and the distribution of plant and
animal life including humankind's industrious activities.

Natural And Social Scientists


For the most part, the natural and social scientists are
concerned with describing the distinctive behavior of classes
or kinds of human beings, rather than of individual persons.
They are also not generally concerned with the inner or
subjective life of man except as a means of explaining
observed behavior. Other groups of experts on human
nature are interested in understanding man more directly
from the inside. Natural science is also concerned with any
of the sciences like chemistry, physics, or biology that deal
with matter, energy and their inter-dependence and
transformations with objectified phenomena that is distinctly

Artists see man as a being with a rich and variegated
life of feeling. They attempt to objectify the most significant
kinds of human feelings through various types of works of
art, including musical compositions, paintings, sculptures,
buildings, dances, poems, play, and novels. Artists also
regard man as a creative agent, and they exemplify the
range and power of human creativity through their own
works. The artist is one who practices imaginative art forms.
An artist is also skilled in deception

Biographers set forth the unique individuality of the
person. They show how, through the interplay of many
factors, a singular life develops toward its particular
consummation. Biographers write an account of the life of

Moralists portray man as a moral agent, with a
consciousness of right and wrong. They see him as free and
responsible, fashioning his own destiny through a continuing
series of moral decisions. Moralists describe the great moral
visions of humankind, by the light of which the way of each
person is illuminated and judged. Moralists are concerned

with moral principles, problems, and opportunities. Moralists

are also concerned with regulating morals of other people.


Historians see man as a being living in time, with

memory of the past, anticipation of the future, and the
freedom of a creative present in which both past and future
meet. They try to understand the real mean-ing of past
events by imaginatively reconstructing the conscious life of
the persons who brought these events to pass. The historian
produces synthesis through scholarly investigation.
Theologians regard man as dependent for his being
upon God and as having a spiritual nature rendering him
capable of entering into relationship with the divine.
Theologians believe that human beings possess the power of
infinite self-transcendence, living in nature but also able by
virtue of imagination to look upon natural existence from an
exalted transcendent standpoint. Theologians are expert in
theology. They study God and his relation to worldly

People of Knowledge
People of knowledge investigate human nature using a
variety of methods and from a great many different
perspectives. The natural scientists, by and large, are
interested in types of observable human behavior. They
refer to the inner life of man chiefly to render the outer
phenomena intelligible. On the other hand, the humanistic
scholars are more immediately concerned with the inner life
of man. They consider the outer conditions of existence
mainly as the background and context for understanding the
particular forms of subjectivity. All the different groups of
investigators are concerned with the same human reality.
What, then, is humankind?




It is the special task of the philosophers to attempt a
comprehen-sive interpretation of human nature.
Philosophers try by incorporating and coordinating the work
of inquirers from other scholarly specialties with the results
of their own reflection. A comprehensive view must allow for
the many-sidedness of man. Man is everything the various
special inquiries show him to be: He is a complex energy-
system; an intelligent adaptive organism with highly
developed neurophysiological mechanisms and the power to
perceive, think, and purpose; an organized social animal
with demands for goods and power that need intelligent
allocation; a maker of culture and a user of language; a
being who lives in a natural and social environment with
which he must cope; a creature of feeling and a creator of
interesting forms to objectify them;

Like many of the animals on earth,

humans are caring, nurturing, protecting,
and providing beings. Most animals
their offspring for independence by teach

to hunt and protect themselves, thereby

insuring survival of the species. Humans
exhibit this
drive as well. What are the things that
humans teach their children that are not
absolutely necessary for their survival?
Why are we as concerned with them?


a unique self; a doer and judge of good and evil; a dweller in

time, who remembers, anticipates, and celebrates deeds
done; a creature of God partaking of the divine nature
through the power of boundless self-transcendence.
Is this all the philosopher can say of man, that he is the
sum of all the things that specialists say of him? Is there any
unifying idea of human nature of which the experts'
testimonies are partial aspects. A classic philosophical
answer is that man is a rational animal, that his unique
property is the ability to reason, that his distinctive quality is
in the life of mind. According to this view, each of the
aspects of man described by the various specialists is a
manifestation of the life of mind. Even as a matter and
energy system, man is of a peculiar sort, determined by the
power of thought. His organic adaptations are based on
thought. His social and cultural forms are expressions of
reason. His arts, his individuality, his morality, his history, his
worship—all are embodiments of reason. This power of
thought distinguishes man from everything else in the
creation. In human nature reason is of the essence.
This philosophical answer suffers from the limitation
that such ideas as rationality, reason, and mind tend to be
too narrowly construed as referring to the processes of
logical thinking. The life of feeling, conscience, imagination,
and other processes that are not rational in the strict sense
are excluded by such a construction. The idea of man as a
rational animal in the traditional sense is accordingly
rejected for being too one-sided. The philosopher is a person
who seeks wisdom, clarity, understanding, and
enlightenment. The philosopher is a scholar and thinker.


This difficulty can be avoided by using a unifying
concept that expresses the broader connotations of the idea
of reason. The concept proposed is meaning. This term is
intended to express the full range of connotations of reason
or mind. There are different meanings contained in activities
of organic adjustment in perception, in logical thinking, in

purposive decision in oral judgment, in the consciousness of

time, and in the activity of worship. All these distinctive
human functions are varieties of meaning, and all of them
together—along with many other varieties of meaning, and
all of them together—along with many others—comprise the
life of meaning, that is, the essence of the life of man.
The proposed philosophic answer to the question about
the nature of humankind is that humans are beings who
discover, create, and express meanings. Human meanings
extend across a broad spectrum, encompassing all the
unique qualities of mind described by the scientists and
scholars who study human nature.


The importance of this fundamental concept may be
made clearer by explaining four dimensions of meaning.
The first dimension is that of experience. A meaning is
an experience, in the sense that it pertains to human
consciousness. Meaning refers to the inner life, or the life of
mind. This inner life has the peculiar quality of
reflectiveness, or self-awareness. Automatic reaction to
environmental stimuli is not the characteristic human mode
of response. The unique human response is one in which the
person is aware of his responding. He acts consciously rather
than mechanically. As the psychologists say, thought is a
"mediating process" intervening between stimulus and
response. Reflective mediation is the basis of meaning.
As a reflective experience, meaning presupposes a
basic principle of duality, or of self-transcendence. In self-
consciousness a person both is himself and yet, so to speak,
stands outside himself. He is at one and the same time both
subject and object, knower and known, agent and patient,
observer and observed. This duality is what enables a person
to know anything at all. One knows something if he is at one
and the same time distinct from and identified with what he
knows. All perception of relationships is based on this
duality. A relationship is identity-in-difference: two things are

united in the one act of consciousness in order that their

nonidentity may also be recognized.
All the varieties of human meaning exemplify this self-
trans-cendence. It is the secret of man's unique adaptability.
Because of it he can make judgments of truth and falsity, of
beauty and ugliness, of right and wrong, of holiness and
profanity; he can predict and control events, use tools,
create interesting objects, make laws, organize socially,
know the past, and project purposes. In short, this inherently
dual quality of experience is the source of all that is
characteristically human.
Meanings are experiences in the inner life. The
humanistic scholars give a more intuitively acceptable
picture of essential human nature than do the scientific
interpreters, for whom the inner life is inference rather than
testimony and direct objectivism. Both are valuable and
mutually corrective sources of knowledge about man. Direct
readings of the inner life need to be checked against
inferences from observable behavior. Outward
manifestations need to be humanized and individualized by
recognition of the inner sources from which they spring. No
matter which method of study is adopted, the objective is
the same. The objective is to understand the inner life that is
the center and substance of human existence and from
which all distinctively human actions spring.
The second dimension of meaning is rule, logic, or
principle. The many types of meaning are distinguished from
one another by some difference in characteristic form. Each
type of meaning has its own rule that makes it one kind of
meaning and not another. Each is defined by a particular
logic or structural principle. Meaning is not an
undifferentiated experience of awareness. Consciousness is
differentiated into a variegated array of logical types.
Intention meanings follow a different rule from memory
meanings. Social meanings have a different logic from
artistic meanings. Moral meanings are based on a different
formation principle from language meanings. Each item in

the long endless list of evidences of human mentality has its

particular defining characteristics.
The third dimension of meaning is selective
elaboration. Theoretically, there is no limit to the varieties of
meaning. Different principles of meaning formation can be
devised ad infinitum. New combinations and nuances of rule
can be imagined without limit. Not all of these possible kinds
are humanly important. From the endless variety selection
occurs. The types that are significant in actual human life
are the ones that have an inherent power to growth and lead
to the elaboration of the enduring traditions of civilization.
These are the kinds of meaning that have proven fruitful in
the development of the cultural heritage.

One could attempt an a priori analysis of possible

classes of meaning and attempt to forecast that would prove
most fertile. It seems far better to benefit from the long
experience of humankind and to regard as most significant
the forms of meaning that have actually demonstrated their
These selected types of meaning that have been
elaborated into the traditions of civilization can be identified
by means of the classes of specialists who serve as the
guardians, refiners, and critics of the cultural heritage. These
specialist consist of the scientists, scholars, savants, or "wise
men" who are recognized as the authoritative interpreters of
the human inheritance. Each of these men of knowledge
belongs to a community that is for the most part invisible,
comprised of persons bound together by common
responsibility for a particular kind of meaning. Each such
community has its characteristic discipline or rule by which
the common responsibility is discharged. This discipline
expresses the particular logic of the meaning in question.
The kinds of meaning that have been selected for their
proven capacity for elaboration are to be found by reference
to the world of disciplined scholarship. Each type of meaning
that has demonstrated generative power is the special
province of a company of experts who make the
preservation and advancement of that sort of meaning their
professional business.
For the elucidation of meaning we return to the same
source to which we turned for knowledge of human nature.
Earlier we asked what these men of knowledge knew about
man. Now we ask more broadly what the men of knowledge
know. What the wise ones know are meanings, and the
varieties of productive meanings correspond to the varieties
of scholarly disciplines. The operative kinds of meanings are
revealed in the work of linguists, mathematicians, scientists
of various types, artist-critics, moralists, historians,
theologians, and philosophers, who together inhabit the
world of scholarship.

It should not be assumed that the universe of meanings

is exhausted by the particular collection of meanings that
have been elaborated in any given civilization at any given
stage in its history. It should not be assumed that meanings
are represented by a

Children are not always as naïve as many

adults would like to believe. Not every
of human nature is pleasant, and though
children may not understand why a
exists, they often understand the
atmosphere that surrounds it. When such
an atmosphere is present in the home,
will that affect the student at school,
and if so, how will the teacher's
understanding of human nature allow
him/her to deal with the child?


corresponding collection of scholarly disciplines. Meanings

wax and wane, as do the disciplines responsible for them. On
this account, any conclusions drawn about man and his
meanings on the basis of actual cultural elaborations must
be regarded as tentative and incomplete.
The fourth dimension of meaning is expression.
Meanings that have civilizing power are communicable. They
are not private property. The communication of meanings
takes place through symbols. Symbols are objects that stand
for meanings. The possibility of symbolization is dependent
on the unique human power of self-transcendence, for the
dual quality of reflective awareness is required to
understand a symbol. The essence of a symbol is that it is
both identified with its referent and distinguished from it. For
example, the word symbol "tree" is not a tree, and yet by
the power of thought the symbol stands for a tree.
Symbolization also presupposes self-transcendence in the
awareness of a common world. Symbols are taken as having
the same or similar connotation to oneself as to others into
whose being one imaginatively projects oneself.
The symbolic expressions of meaning are of particular
concern to the communities of scholars representing the
various types of meaning. Each kind of meaning has its
distinctive expressions, the symbolic forms of each
corresponding to the peculiar rule or logic of the type. The
symbols of the disciplines are essential to scholars for
analyzing, criticizing, and elaborating their domains of
In summary, these are the four dimensions of meaning:
the experience of reflective self-consciousness, the logical
principles by which this experience is patterned, the
selective elaboration of these patterns into productive
traditions represented by scholarly disciplines, and the
expression of these patterns by means of appropriate
symbolic forms. These dimensions all pertain to the idea of
meaning and help to explicate it.



In order to simplify this task of curriculum planning, it is

necessary to divide the many scholarly disciplines into broad
categories so that a balanced allocation of studies may be
made. There is no single basis of categorization that any
body of material forces on the investigator. Classifications
are to some extent arbitrary, depending on the uses for
which they are intended. The purpose of classifying
meanings in education is to facilitate learning. It is desirable
to organize the disciplines along lines of general similarity of
logical structure. In this manner certain basic ways of
knowing can be described. These may be used to allocate
studies for general education and for the education of
persons in their essential humanness.


A study of the logical patterns of the disciplines shows
they may be divided into nine generic classes on the basis of
logical structure. This can be demonstrated as follows: Every
cognitive meaning has two logical aspects, namely, quantity
and quality. Knowledge consists in a relation of the knower
to some range of things known, and each such relation is of
some kind. There are three degrees of quantity: singular,
general, and comprehensive. In other words, knowledge is
either of one thing, of a selected plurality, or of a totality.
There are three distinct qualities of meaning that can be
designated as fact, form, and norm. In other words, the
meanings may refer to what actually exists, to imagined
possibilities, or to what ought to be.
The nine generic classes of meaning are obtained by
pairing the three quantity aspects with the three quality
aspects in all possible combinations. Each of the nine classes
may now be briefly characterized and associated with the
discipline or disciplines to which it applies.

1. General form. This class includes the disciplines

that are concerned with the elaboration of formal patterns of
general application in the expression of meanings. They
comprise the various symbol systems of ordinary language,

of mathematics and logic, and of gesture, ritual, and other

nondiscursive symbolic conventions. Together they
constitute the realm designated "symbolics."
2. General fact. When general forms are related to
actuality, they express the kind of knowledge that is the
special province of the sciences. These disciplines,
designated by the term "empirics," are concerned with
material truth expressed in the general laws and theories of
the actual world as studied in the natural and social
3. Singular form. This class includes meanings
perceived in imagination, without any necessary reference to
actual fact and as embodied in unique particular objects.
This class of meanings is basic to the various arts and is
designated by the term "esthetics."
4. Singular fact. These meanings arise out of
concrete existence in direct personal encounter. They are
reflectively elaborated and expressed in existential
philosophy, religion, and psychology, and in those parts of
the literary enterprise designed to portray the uniquely
personal dimensions of existence. Individual psychology and
the various types of individual psychotherapy, counseling,
and guidance also aim at an understanding of singular fact.
All these disciplines, or parts of disciplines, may be
designated by the term "synnoetics."
5. Singular norm. This class comprises particular
moral obligations within a given situation where one seeks
for knowledge of what he really ought to do. The discipline of
morals is concerned with the methods of making and
justifying such decisions.
6. General norm. Generalizations concerning moral
conduct and the development of moral principles are usually
assigned to the discipline of ethics. Knowledge of singular
norms and knowledge of general norms are commonly
associated closely since the latter is appealed to in
justification of the former, and the former is considered as
the necessary source for the latter. Both singular and
general norms are distinguished by the quality of obligation,

setting them apart from both facts and formal conventions

or constructs. While the ethical realm is not commonly
divided into constituent disciplines, such a division is
possible for theoretical analysis. For example, the methods
and categories of social ethics differ from those of personal
ethics. Each of these domains may be divided into ethical
disciplines dealing with decisions in various aspects of life,
such as family, business, intellectual pursuits, technology,
and political affairs.
7. Comprehensive fact. The study of actuality from a
comprehensive standpoint, including both the singularity of
the unique event and the relationships of that event with
other events, is the province of the discipline of history. The
historian integrates symbolic, empirical, esthetic, and ethical
meanings into a synoptic perspective on what happened in
the past.
8. Comprehensive norm. When all kinds of
knowledge are comprehended within a synoptic perspective
controlled by the normative quality, the resulting discipline is
religion. Religious knowledge is regarded as an apprehension
of the Ultimate Good—a Harmony of the Whole, A Complete
Truth—that is not contained in any of the more limited ways
of knowing. Religious knowledge is usually thought to
require an act of faith by which a total commitment is made
to whatever is regarded as ultimately worthy of devotion. In
this essentially normative act all the various classes of
knowledge are synthesized.
9. Comprehensive form. A formal consideration of
knowledge in all its kinds belongs to the discipline of
philosophy. The philosopher's task is to interpret meanings
in any realm or discipline by the use of concepts of wide
generality, thus affording a synoptic view of all the ways of

In the present analysis the two normative classes will

be treated together under the category designated "ethics"
and the three comprehensive classes will be treated
together under the category designated "synoptics," thus

yielding six realms of meaning. The resulting logical

classification of meanings is summarized in Table 1.

Table 1


Generic classes Realms of

Quantity Quality Meaning Disciplines

General Form Symbolics Ordinary language,

mathematics, non
discursive symbolic
General Fact Empirics Physical sciences,
life sciences,
psychology, social
Singular Form Esthetics Music, visual arts,
arts of movement,
Singular Fact Synnoetics Philosophy,
literature, religion,
in their existential

Singular Norm Ethics The varied special

General Norm of moral and ethical

Comprehensive Fact Synoptics History

Comprehensive Norm Religion
Comprehensive Form Philosophy


It is evident that disciplines are not always clearly
assignable to a single realm of meaning. Some disciplines
have inner tensions that incline some scholars working in
them toward one logic of meaning and other scholars toward
another. Part of the confusion in the social sciences is due to
the fact that some social scientists are committed to a
rigorously empirical program, while others believe they
should also be concerned with ethical meanings. Some
psychologists incline toward the synnoetic realm in their
concern for individuals in their subjective life, while others
hold to a strong empirical line. Historians differ as to whether
their discipline belongs in the empirical social sciences or in
the synoptic class with philosophy.


In this chapter, an attempt has been made to show the
intimate connection between education, the nature of man,
and the scholarly disciplines. Education can only be
conducted effectively on the basis of knowledge about
human nature in its actuality and possibilities. A survey of
the relevant fields of scholarship shows there are many
different critical perspectives on man. A working
philosophical synthesis of these different perspectives may
be achieved by modifying the classic formula that man is a
rational animal to read that man is an animal that can have
meanings. The variegated content of meaning is contained
in the various distinctive aspects of human nature exhibited
by the many specialized studies of man.
Analysis shows the meanings by which human nature is
defined are conscious experiences with structural principles,
some of which prove capable of elaboration as cultural
traditions with corresponding symbolic expressions. These
traditions of significant meaning may be found in the most
refined and articulate form in the various scholarly
disciplines. For purposes of education these disciplines may

be assigned to six basic logical classes, or realms of

meaning. The realms of meaning indicate the general kinds
of understanding one must have if one is to function well
within the civilized community. The purpose of the present
text is to explicate these ways of knowing and to show how
they may be used in the curriculum of general education.


1. Why is it important for a teacher to understand

human nature?
2. Many scholars have written books and articles that
have contributed to building and strengthening a solid
knowledge base. How does a teacher draw content
from this knowledge base?
3. What distinguishes humankind from other animals?
4. Explain meaning of life.
5. Why should the proper aim of education be to
promote the growth of meaning?
6. How does a teacher establish meaning for living?
7. As an educator, how does a teacher help students
establish a personal definition of "the meaning of life?"