•  93
    Is Knowledge What It Claims to Be? Bernard Williams and the Absolute Conception
    Educational Philosophy and Theory 45 (8): 860-873. 2013.
    As a response to what I see as the challenge posed by constructivist and narrative pedagogies, this paper seeks to sympathetically reconstruct Bernard Williams’ Absolute Conception from the scattered texts in which he briefly sketched it While ultimately defending the Absolute Conception or something close enough to it, the paper criticizes and distances itself from some aspects of Williams’ version, notably his conception of philosophy as insurmountably perspectival. Williams’ understanding of …Read more
  •  82
    Is it distinctively wrong to simulate doing wrong?
    Ethics and Information Technology 20 (3): 205-217. 2018.
    This paper is concerned with whether there is a moral difference between simulating wrongdoing and consuming non-simulatory representations of wrongdoing. I argue that simulating wrongdoing is (as such) a pro tanto wrong whose wrongness does not tarnish other cases of consuming representations of wrongdoing. While simulating wrongdoing (as such) constitutes a disrespectful act, consuming representations of wrongdoing (as such) does not. I aim to motivate this view in part by bringing a number of…Read more
  •  64
    Wrongful Influence in Educational Contexts
    In Kathryn Hytten (ed.), Oxford Encyclopedia of Philosophy of Education, Oxford University Press. forthcoming.
    When and why are coercion, indoctrination, manipulation, deception, and bullshit morally wrongful modes of influence in the context of educating children? Answering this question requires identifying what valid claims different parties have against one another regarding how children are influenced. Most prominently among these, it requires discerning what claims children have regarding whether and how they and their peers are influenced, and against whom they have these claims. The claims they h…Read more
  •  52
    In Children, Religion and the Ethics of Influence, John Tillson develops a theory concerning which kinds of formative influence are morally permissible, impermissible or obligatory. Applying this theory to the case of religion, he argues that religious initiation in childhood is morally impermissible whether conducted by parents, teachers or others. Tillson addresses questions such as: how we come to have the ethical responsibilities we do, how we understand religion, how ethical and religious c…Read more
  •  51
    In Favour of Ethics Education, Against Religious Education
    Journal of Philosophy of Education 45 (4): 675-688. 2011.
    The questions that I address are: ‘What ought to become of Religious Education (RE)?’ and ‘To what extent do non-religious beliefs belong in RE?’ I will argue that there are compelling reasons for studying religious and non-religious views alongside each other, but that there are serious objections to doing this in the context of any subject called ‘religious education’ and that a new compulsory, national curriculum subject called Ethics would be an appropriate context for such study
  •  42
    Assessment, Truth and Religious Studies
    Studies in Philosophy and Education (2): 195-210. 2019.
    This paper addresses the question of what should determine whether students’ answers to closed questions are marked as correct or incorrect in the context of formal religious education, and when their answers to open ended questions should be given more or less credit. Drawing on insights from Craig Bourne, Emily Caddick Bourne and Clare Jarmy, I argue that a combination of judged truth, and a range of well-argued cases about what ought to be believed given certain premises should constrain thes…Read more
  •  33
    Modify Your Body!
    Philosophy Now 91 53-54. 2012.
    Fiction. John Tillson watches a world going mad.
  •  27
    Is all formative influence immoral?
    Ethics and Education 13 (2): 208-220. 2018.
    Is it true that all formative influence is unethical, and that we ought to avoid influencing children (and indeed anyone at all)? There are more or less defensible versions of this doctrine, and we shall follow some of the strands of argument that lead to this conclusion. It seems that in maintaining that all influence is immoral, one commits oneself to the idea that children have innate teleologies, that these may be frustrated, and that to frustrate a child’s innate teleology would be to wrong…Read more
  •  24
    In this paper I defend a pairing of the “Epistemic Criterion” and of the “Momentousness Criterion” from a critique in Clayton and Stevens’s advocacy of the “Acceptability Requirement.” I argue that where it is valuable for people to set their own ends, they can only fully meaningfully do this in light of facts and free of misinformation. It is the duty of educators to put them in this position; it is then students' prerogative to fail to live meaningfully. While children have no duty to perfect …Read more
  •  22
    The sense of religious education under discussion in this chapter will be the formative influence of children, with respect to religions. Such influence could be anti-religious, pro-religious, or neutral about the value of religion. What I will call ‘the Basic Question’ asks ‘how ought children to be influenced with respect to religions?’ In this chapter we will assess a range of forms that question can take in different kinds of societies. We will distinguish and explore questions regarding the…Read more
  •  18
    Towards a Theory of Propositional Curriculum Content
    Journal of Philosophy of Education 48 (1): 137-148. 2014.
    This article addresses two questions. The first question is this: ‘when ought teachers to encourage or discourage students’ belief of a given proposition on the one hand (call this ‘directive teaching’), and when ought teachers to simply facilitate students’ understanding of that proposition, on the other (call this ‘non-directive teaching’) (cf. the work of Michael Hand)? The second question is this: ‘which propositional content should curricula address?’ An answer to these questions would amou…Read more
  •  18
    Michael Hand has defended the “epistemic criterion” for “directive and nondirective teaching” in his 2008 Educational Theory article, “What Should We Teach as Controversial? A Defense of the Epistemic Criterion,” as well as subsequent pieces. Here, John Tillson defends use of the epistemic criterion in the case of what he calls “momentous propositions,” but he rejects two of Hand's key arguments in support of the criterion. This rethinking comes in light of important contributions to the debate …Read more
  •  14
    Children, religion and the ethics of influence
    Dissertation, Dublin City University. 2015.
    This thesis investigates how children ought to be influenced with respect to religion. To answer this question, I develop a theory of cognitive curriculum content and apply it to the teaching of religious beliefs and beliefs about religions. By ‘a theory of cognitive curriculum content,’ I mean a theory that determines which truth-claims belong on the curriculum, and whether or not teachers ought to promote students’ belief of those claims. I extend this theory to help educators to decide which …Read more
  •  13
    Is Knowledge Insertion Desirable?
    Educational Theory 70 (4): 483-505. 2020.
    In this article, John Tillson discusses the conditions under which what he calls “knowledge insertion” would be desirable for the one who has knowledge inserted. He argues that making use of knowledge insertion would not be cost free; in particular, it would come at the price of relationship goods realized through teacher–learner relationships, and of the achievement of learning, at least for the knowledge inserted. Despite these costs, though, Tillson concludes that knowledge insertion would mo…Read more
  •  12
    Deciding for Others
    Journal of Philosophy of Education 54 (5): 1349-1355. 2020.
    Journal of Philosophy of Education, EarlyView.
  •  6
    Pedagogies of Punishment: The Ethics of Discipline in Education (edited book)
    with Winston C. Thompson
    Bloomsbury. 2023.
    Written by interdisciplinary authors from the fields of educational policy, early childhood education, history, political philosophy, law, and moral philosophy, this volume addresses the use of disciplinary action across varied educational contexts. Much of the punishment of children occurs in non-criminal contexts, in educational and social settings, and schools are institutions where young people are subject to disciplinary practices and justifications that are quite unlike those found elsewhe…Read more
  •  6
    Children’s moral rights and UK school exclusions
    with Laura Oxley
    Theory and Research in Education 18 (4). 2020.
    This article argues that uses of exclusion by schools in the United Kingdom (UK) often violate children’s moral rights. It contends that while exclusion is not inherently incompatible with children’s moral rights, current practice must be reformed to align with them. It concludes that as a non-punitive preventive measure, there may be certain circumstances in schools where it is necessary to exclude a child in order to safeguard the weighty interests of others in the school community. However, r…Read more
  •  5
    Children, Religion and the Ethics of Influence: An Overview
    Studies in Philosophy and Education 41 (1): 111-112. 2021.
  •  5
    On Deciding The Aims and Content of Public Schooling
    Educational Theory 73 (1): 90-115. 2023.
    In this paper, John Tillson defends an approach to deciding the aims and content of public schooling from the critique of Public Reason Liberalism. The approach that he defends is an unrestricted pairing of the Epistemic Criterion and of the Momentousness Criterion. On the Epistemic Criterion, public schooling should align students' credence with credibility. On the Momentousness Criterion, public schooling ought to include content that it is costly for children to lack the correct view about, w…Read more
  •  5
    The Problem of Rational Moral Enlistment
    Theory and Research in Education 15 (2): 165-181. 2017.
    How can one bring children to recognize the requirements of morality without resorting only to non-rational means of persuasion (i.e. what rational ground can be offered to children for their moral enlistment)? Michael Hand has recently defended a foundationalist approach to answering this question and John White has responded by a) criticizing Hand’s solution to the Problem of Rational Moral Enlistment, and b) attempting to circumvent the problem by suggesting a Humean route which understands m…Read more
  •  4
    Elmer Thiessen and the Ethics of Evangelism
    Journal of Education and Christian Belief 17 (2): 243-258. 2013.
    IN THIS PAPER I provide a critical commentary of Elmer Thiessen's The Ethics of Evangelism. Following an overview of the book's project and strategies, I discuss two stages of the project in detail. The first is Thiessen's analysis of ‘religious proselytism’; the second is Thiessen's arguments that evangelizing can be a good thing to do in itself. Finally, I summarize what I think are the chief merits of the book and suggest for whom it will be of particular interest.
  •  4
    Respect, Concern, and the Wrongness of Manipulation in Education
    Philosophy of Education 77 (2): 81-85. 2021.
  •  4
    In a candid autobiographical chapter (Hirst 2010), which numbers among his last writings, Paul Hirst subjects his upbringing within a fundamentalist Christian sect to searching moral appraisal. He concludes that his parents wronged him by religiously indoctrinating him, stifling his emotional development, and arbitrarily restricting his range of valuable morally permissible experiences. This upbringing undermined his autonomy and—more fundamentally, on his account—kept him from living the life h…Read more
  • Against a Disguised Defence of Religious Initiation
    Philosophy of Education 72 337-340. 2016.