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Faculty Profile - Mark Jonas

Mark E. Jonas

Associate Professor of Education and Associate Professor of Philosophy (by courtesy)

On Faculty since 2013

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Dr. Jonas’s goal in teaching future teachers is not to provide a single authorized method of teaching, but to encourage students to cultivate just lives and a liberating, authentic, and dynamic classroom practice. Dr. Jonas uses philosophical texts and discussions to cultivate certain attitudes and habits of mind in students, which open the possibility for right living and powerful teaching. By placing students in dialectical relationship with texts, with ideas, and with one another, students learn how to dialogue with themselves, while simultaneously learning how best to develop, evaluate, and deploy effective classroom practices. Dr. Jonas’ research functions similarly. By examining the ideas of philosophers who intended to transform their readers through their writings—like Plato, Rousseau and Nietzsche, for example—Dr. Jonas draws his readers into dialogue with these thinkers, encouraging his readers to rethink their own conceptions of justice, virtue, beauty, education, and so on.

Columbia University
Ph.D., Philosophy and Education, 2009

University of Portland
M.A., Teaching, 2002

University of Chicago
B.A., Philosophy, 1999

  • History of Philosophy of Education
  • The Philosophy of Plato
  • The Philosophy of Nietzsche
  • The Philosophy of Rousseau

Advancing Equality and Individual Excellence: The Case of Nietzsche's Schopenhauer as Educator, History of Philosophy Quarterly
Mark Jonas, 2016
The received view among Anglo-American interpreters of Nietzsche’s early works is to regard it as elitist in the highest degree. According to the received view, Nietzsche believes that the health and value of a culture should be measured by the lives of individual great men found within that culture, and that the masses should therefore spend their lives working for the production of great men, even if it means sacrificing their own interests, livelihood and happiness. If one takes a closer look at Nietzsche’s early philosophy, especially Schopenhauer as Educator, this view cannot be maintained. A close examination of relevant passages in that text reveals a much more nuanced political and ethical agenda—namely, one that promotes the wellbeing of the few and the many.

Three Misunderstandings of Plato's Theory of Moral Education, Educational Theory
Mark Jonas, 2016
In this essay, Mark Jonas argues that there are three broadly held misconceptions of Plato’s philosophy that work against his relevance for contemporary moral education. The first is that he is an intellectualist who is concerned only with the cognitive aspect of moral development and does not sufficiently emphasize the affective and conative aspects; the second is that he is an elitist who believes that only philosopher-kings can attain true knowledge of virtue and it is they who should govern society; the third is that he affirms the realm of the Forms as a literal metaphysical reality and believes that for individuals to attain virtue they must access this realm through contemplation. The goal of this essay is to correct these misconceptions. The rehabilitation of Plato’s reputation may enable future researchers in moral education to discover in his philosophy new avenues for exploring how best to cultivate virtues in students.

Rousseau on Sex-Roles, Education and Happiness, Studies in Philosophy and Education
Mark Jonas, 2016
Over the last decade, philosophers of education have begun taking a renewed interest in Rousseau’s educational thought. This is a welcome development as his ideas are rich with educational insights. His philosophy is not without its flaws, however. One significant flaw is his educational project for females, which is sexist in the highest degree. Rousseau argues that females should be taught to ‘‘please men...and make [men’s] lives agreeable and sweet.’’ The question becomes how could Rousseau make such strident claims, especially in light of his far more insightful ideas concerning the education of males. This paper attempts to make sense of Rousseau’s ideas on the education of females. While I maintain that Rousseau’s project for Sophie ought to be rejected, I argue that we should try to understand how this otherwise insightful thinker could make such surprising claims. Is it a bizarre inconsistency in his philosophical reasoning or an expression of his unabashed misogyny, as so many have claimed? I argue that it is neither. Rather, it is a product of his conception of human happiness and his belief in the irreducible role human sexual relations has in achieving and prolonging that happiness. For Rousseau, sex, love and happiness are inextricably connected, and he believes that men and women will be happiest when they inhabit certain sex roles—not because sex roles are valuable in themselves, but because only through them can either men or women hope to be happy.

Plato's Anti-Kohlbergian Program for Moral Education, Journal of Philosophy of Education
Mark Jonas, 2016
Following Lawrence Kohlberg it has been commonplace to regard Plato’s moral theory as ‘intellectualist’, where Plato supposedly believes that becoming virtuous requires nothing other than ‘philosophical knowledge or intuition of the ideal form of the good’. This is a radical misunderstanding of Plato’s educational programme, however. While Plato claims that knowledge is extremely important in the initial stages of the moral development of young adults, he also claims that knowledge must be followed by a rigorous process of imitation and habituation. Like Aristotle, Plato believes that it is not possible to become virtuous if one does not practice the virtues under the guidance of virtuous role models. This paper seeks to illuminate this little recognised aspect of Plato’s educational programme. When properly understood, Plato’s theory offers educators important insights into how best to encourage the moral development of young adults.

Education for Epiphany: The Case of Plato's Lysis, Educational Theory
Mark Jonas, 2015
While a great deal has been written on Plato’s Lysis in philosophy and philology journals over the last thirty years, nothing has been published on Lysis in the major Anglo-American philosophy of education journals during that time. Nevertheless, it deserves attention from educators. I argue that Lysis can serve as a model to educators who want to move their students beyond mere aporia, but also do not want to dictate answers to students. Although the dialogue ends in Socrates’s affirmation of aporia, his affirmation is actually meant to persuade his interlocutors to reflect on an epiphany they had previously experienced. In what follows, I offer a close reading of relevant passages of the Lysis, demonstrating the way Socrates leads his interlocutors to an epiphany without forcing his answers upon them.

Fichte, Freedom and Dogmatism, Journal of Idealistic Studies
Mark Jonas, 2013
In the first introduction of The Science of Knowledge, Fichte claims that there are two legitimate philosophical systems: dogmatism and idealism. He then asserts that only idealism allows individuals to retain their concept of personal freedom, whereas dogmatism requires that individuals give up that concept. I argue that on his own grounds Fichte is incorrect on this point. After a close examination of his theory, I attempt to demonstrate the possibility of a non-idealistic libertarian using Fichte’s explanation of self-positing as the foundation for her libertarianism. I hope to show that Fichte’s defense for the necessarily free act of self-positing is legitimate not only for his idealist system, but also for at least one non-idealistic system as well. The act of self-positing is indeed the only legitimate foundation for freedom, but that does not entail that freedom can only be found in idealism.

Overcoming Ressentiment: Nietzsche’s Education for an Aesthetic Aristocracy, History of Political Thought
Mark Jonas, 2013

Appetite, Reason, and Education in Socrates’ ‘City of Pigs.’, Phronesis: A Journal for Ancient Philosophy
Mark Jonas, Yoshiaki M. Nakazawa and James Braun, 2012

Gratitude, Ressentiment, and Citizenship Education, Studies in Philosophy and Education
Mark Jonas, 2012

The Social Significance of Egoism and Perfectionism: Nietzsche's Education for the Public Good, The Relevance of Higher Education
Mark Jonas, 2013