University of Oulu

Hanna-Maija Huhtala & Katariina Holma (2019) Education of moral beings: the distortion of Habermas’ empirical sources, Ethics and Education, 14:2, 171-183, DOI: 10.1080/17449642.2019.1587684

Education of moral beings : the distortion of Habermas’ empirical sources

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Author: Huhtala, Hanna-Maija1; Holma, Katariina1
Organizations: 1Faculty of Education, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.3 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Informa, 2019
Publish Date: 2020-09-12


This article scrutinises one of the mainstream views of how one grows into responsible membership of society; the view based on Jürgen Habermas’, Lawrence Kohlberg’s and Jean Piaget’s theories. Habermas praises Kohlberg’s and Piaget’s psychological theories and uses them as empirical sources crucial for his theoretical work. We argue that this view should be revised in light of new empirical findings as Habermas’ Kohlberg’s and Piaget’s view is based on a false understanding of the development and functioning of human reason and morality. We do not, however, defend a view that reduces normative questions to empirical facts. In contrast, we agree with Habermas that in an adequate (educational) theory, both philosophical and empirical dimensions have to be taken into account but argue that the empirical research results he has utilized are fallacious in light of current research findings. Finally, we discuss the relevance of our argument for educational theorisation.

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Series: Ethics and education
ISSN: 1744-9642
ISSN-E: 1744-9650
ISSN-L: 1744-9642
Volume: 14
Issue: 2
Pages: 171 - 183
DOI: 10.1080/17449642.2019.1587684
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 515 Psychology
516 Educational sciences
611 Philosophy
Funding: This research was supported financially by the Eudaimonia Institute of the University of Oulu and is part of the project Citizenship in Change: Constructing a Novel Theoretical Framework for Education. This research was also supported financially by the Kone Foundation.
Copyright information: Copyright © 2018 Informa UK Limited. This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Ethics and Education on 12 Mar 2019, available online: