Philosophy of Herbart:
Herbart was essentially a philosopher. His thoughts on education had their grounding in his philosophical view. Given below is the outline of his philosophy under various heads-
Herbart’s Views in regard to “Soul” or “Spirit”:
According to Herbart, the soul is the “Truth” and the body is nothing but a collection of truths. According to him, from the point of view of qualities, the soul is another name of the mind. He has also accepted that the normal qualities of the soul are unknown. What is a real soul is not actually known to us, but the thing that we call a soul is a collection of various mental situations? He has himself said, “The simple nature of the soul is totally unknown. It is as little speculation as empirical psychology. In so far, however, as the soul is endowed with the power presentation, it may be regarded as mind”.
It is the soul that comes in contact with the objects as well as truth. Thoughts grow out of our sensations. These thoughts remain organized in the soul and determine its form and shape. That world of the truth is unchangeable and that is why, even after the destruction of the body, the soul remains alive. Here Herbart too, like Plato, is very much near the Indian Philosophy propounded in Gita. In Indian Philosophy also, the soul has been called immortal and eternal while the body fades away.
Herbart’s Views in regard to “Will”:
Herbart has not accepted that there is anything like freedom of the Will and Will itself. Before him, it was accepted that there is a Will power in the man which helps him to determine what is acceptable and what is not. This power of decision was said to be under the control of the Will power. Herbart has replaced this power with another power which he has termed as Inner Freedom. In other words that is the virtue of inner freedom. He has added that inner freedom can grow in man when he has the following things in him:
- Efficiency of Will.
- Good Will.
Herbart was of the view that these virtues can be generated in the child by making him practice virtuous and good acts. When the child tries to establish unity and organization in the constant flowing ideas, the Will-power or Will-generates. Before that, there is nothing like Will.
Herbart’s Views in regard to this “World”:
Herbart may be termed more of a materialist in the terminology of philosophy. He believed that this material world is the basis of the spiritual world. He also said that through the agency of the sense organization the material world provided us with the world of the ideas and when, due to constant development and generation of the ideas, of course, with the help of the existent ideas, a whirlpool of the ideas is formed, interest comes into being. This interest is also of two types. It may be individual as well as collective. The collective interest is more helpful for the formation of the character and welfare of the society. Later on, after making certain progress, this interest is converted into Will. It is the interest that is the guiding factor of various activities of life. These activities of life depend on our ideas. The sum total of these activities is the conduct. Thus we see that it is the material world that throws light into the spiritual world. He has himself said, “The study of the physical world was only a means for the understanding of the spiritual world”.
Basing his views on his philosophy, Herbart has said that only that education can be termed as proper education which does not only bring about good conduct and religious best in the educands. According to him, “The term ‘Virtue’ expresses the whole purpose of education”.
It is also accepted that the moral virtues or moral qualities of a man cannot develop without education. Education creates qualities and helps a man to distinguish between good qualities and bad ones. Man gets knowledge by education and it is the knowledge that generates ideas. As already stated, the ideas give rise to Will-power and this Will-power guides various activities of man’s life. It is, therefore said that education should guide a man to take up proper education and they will help him to have morality.
According to Herbart, “The aim of education that includes all minor aims is the production of a good man”.