Towards a Philosophy of Human Learning: an Existential Perspective

The next meeting of the Philosophy Society will be held on Thursday March 11 at the Erin Serracino Inglott Hall at 7.00p.m. Professor Peter Jarvis will speak about 'A Philosophy of Human Learning: an Existential Perspective'.

Any understanding of human learning must begin with the nature of the person. The human person is body and (and at this point philosophers differ!) mind, self and soul - or some combination of them. However, human beings are not born in isolation but in relationship, so that it is false to assume that individualism per se lies at the heart of individual learning. Since ëno man is an islandí so the human person and human learning must always be understood in relationship to the wider society. It is in this relationship - in the interaction of the inner person with the outer world - that experience occurs and it is in and through experience that people learn. Experience itself is a complex phenomenon since it is both longitudinal and episodic, and the latter relates to levels of awareness, perception, and so on.

The human body is the existent but the essence of humanity lies in what emerges from the existent and the process of emerging is driven by the outcomes of that interaction between the inner and the outer. Human learning - the combination of processes whereby the human person (knowledge, skills, attitudes, emotions, values, beliefs and the senses) enters a social situation and constructs an experience which is then transformed through cognitive, emotional and practical processes, and integrated into the personís biography - is the driving force behind the emerging humanity, and this is lifelong. Human beings are, therefore, both being and becoming and these are inextricably intertwined, since growth and development in the one affects the growth and development of the other.

Learning is, therefore, existential and experiential. An experiential model of learning will be presented in this paper (based on empirical research and subsequent reflection). It will be analysed and some of the implications of this approach, including the idea of developing multiple intelligences and the hidden benefits of learning, discussed.

Peter Jarvis is Professor of Continuing Education at the University of Surrey and adjunct Professor of Adult Education at the University of Georgia, U.S.A. He has been awarded honorary degrees from the Universities of Helsinki, Fairfax and Pecs. He has written and edited about twenty five books, some of which have been translated into six languages, as well as over two hundred papers and chapters for books. He was also founding editor of the International Journal of Lifelong Education. He is member of a number of editorial boards of journals published in the U.K., Europe and U.S.A.

The discussion will be opened by Professor Peter Mayo.

Pizza and wine, at a nominal charge, will be served at the Farmhouse after the discussion. The general public is cordially invited to attend.

1st March, 2004

Mary Ann Cassar