Chapter 12 Humanities Education in the Age of AI

Reflections from Deweyan and Confucian Perspectives

In: John Dewey and Chinese Education
Sor-hoon TAN
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Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming our world: today machines not only can mimic human actions but out-perform human agents in many activities, including learning and thinking. AI offers revolutionary solutions and new possibilities in transportation, business, communication, medicine, law, and other domains. While some welcome this brave new world, others fear the threats AI pose to people’s livelihoods, social relations, individuality, freedom, and perhaps even the very survival of the human species. No doubt some of this existential angst is exaggerated, but AI does raise questions for our understanding of the world and ourselves that require serious reflection, including questions about adequacy of education in various aspects.

This chapter offers, from the perspectives of John Dewey’s Pragmatism as well as Confucianism, some reflections on the role of the humanities in education in response to the opportunities and challenges of the development and widespread use of AI. It shows that Dewey and Confucius share similar views regarding the humanistic purpose of education and their philosophies of education offer arguments for why humanities education will be relevant, if not more important, when many jobs we are familiar with become obsolete. Their attitudes toward the economic motive in education will help us rethink the meaning of work in a “world without work.” At the same time, they offer a critical evaluation of contemporary humanities education, which have failed to realize their visions of personal cultivation and growth. Among its failings is the continued dichotomy between the humanities and the sciences. In the age of AI, it has become even more vital to integrate them to so that science and technology would not become materialistic and anti-human and the humanities not become merely literary and without any means to transform the world.

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  • Introduction A Centennial Reflection on Dewey’s Visit of China


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