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Researching Education: Perspectives from Winch’s Approach to the Social Sciences

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEthics, Society and Politics: Themes from the Philosophy of Peter Winch
EditorsMichael Campbell, Lynette Reid
Place of PublicationLondon
ISBN (Electronic)9783030407421
ISBN (Print) 9783030407414
Published22 Jun 2020

Publication series

NameNordic Wittgenstein Studies
ISSN (Print)2520-1514
ISSN (Electronic)2520-1522

King's Authors


Peter Winch’s claim that the province of social science is one of philosophical as well as empirical enquiry is examined using education as an extended example. On Winch’s view, understanding a social institution or practice involves a grasp of its conceptual structure and this itself should be the subject of empirical investigation. Winch’s own criticism of his earlier position is compared with Rush Rhees’s critique of the Builders example in Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations (1958/1967). Language games are not to be considered in isolation but as part of a society consisting of interconnected practices that taken together make sense. Education as a family of preparatory human practices is considered as an integral part of a society and, drawing on Vico, the complexity of education’s role in society is considered. The implications of this complexity for a conceptual investigation of education is outlined and a distinction is drawn between the concept of education and various operative conceptions which are the province of the empirical as well as the normative researcher. This approach to the study of education is illustrated through an extended example and the possibilities for an empirical investigation of education are considered.

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