Pedagogy and the second person

David Simpson

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Over the past two decades, there has been gathering interest in the
second-person perspective. It has been applied in ethics, philosophy of language, epistemology, and studies of social cognition. One source of this approach is Strawson, and another is Davidson, but I suggest that the seeds lie in Wittgenstein. A significant benefit of this approach is that it offers a way of avoiding the sceptical difficulties that arise when we limit our explication of human cognition and interaction to first- and third-person perspectives. There has been little discussion of the significance of the second-person perspective for educational theory, and I hope to address that in this paper. I will do so by reflecting on Wittgenstein’s references to teaching, training, and learning in his later work, especially in his attack on mentalism and individualism. It can seem that Wittgenstein’s way of introducing pedagogical moments treats those practices as cases of disciplining or forming an other—a first-to-third person interaction. But I argue that these cases are examples of shared, cooperative, and normative activities into which the child or novice is being welcomed. I thus seek to show that in his mentions of pedagogy, Wittgenstein ought to be seen as invoking and insisting on a second-person relation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Companion to Wittgenstein on Education
Subtitle of host publicationPedagogical Investigations
EditorsMichael A. Peters, Jeff Stickney
Place of PublicationSingapore
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9789811031366
ISBN (Print)9789811031342
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Second person
  • Interaction
  • Cognitivism
  • Davidson
  • Luntley

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