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Durham University

School of Education

Staff Profile

Publication details for Dr Andrew Davis

A.J. Davis (2005). Learning and the Social Nature of Mental Powers. Educational Philosophy and Theory 37(5): 635-647.

Author(s) from Durham


Over the last two decades the traditional conception of intelligence and other mental powers as stable individual assets has been challenged by approaches in psychology emphasising context and 'situated cognition'. This paper argues that the debate should not be seen as an empirical dispute, and relates it to discussions in philosophy of mind between methodological solipsists and varieties of externalists. In the light of this I argue that attempts to conceptualise the identity over time of mental powers qua individual assets run into intractable difficulties. Hence 'individual asset' views of many abilities should be abandoned. Implications for education policy particularly in regard to assessment are explored.


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