Charlotte Mason and the Philosophy of Science

Charlotte Mason and the Philosophy of Science

What role does observational science play in your philosophy of education? John Amos Comenius (1592-1670), the “father of modern teaching,”[1] broke with tradition when he called out:

And why should we need other teachers than these our senses to learn to know the works of Nature? Why, say I, should we not, instead of these dead books, lay open the living book of Nature, in which there is much more to contemplate than any one person can ever relate, and the contemplation of which brings much more of pleasure, as well as of profit?[2]

But this bold emphasis on observational science can make some uneasy. There is a concern that scientific reductionism may challenge philosophical formalism. And there is a concern that science may somehow rise up and stand in judgement on faith. Charlotte Mason allowed neither concern to dampen her enthusiasm for science. In 2005 Stephen Kaufmann wrote:

[Mason] wrote at a time when many of the claims of faith were being challenged by the claims of science. She resolved these sometimes competing claims by appealing to the work of the Holy Spirit as the author of both faith and science. Furthermore, she based her innovative pedagogical views on the belief that children were spiritual beings capable of both intellectual and spiritual communication with the Holy Spirit.[3]

Was Mason’s philosophy of science classical or modern? Secular or Christian? And what difference does it make? These are the topics I explore in this session, recorded live at the 2021 Living Education Retreat. The slides for this presentation may be found here. Click the audio player to hear the full recording:


[1] Anderson, E. (n.d.). History of Education. Ancaster: Redeemer University College. (p. 7)
[2] Laurie, S. S. (1892). John Amos Comenius. Syracuse: C. W. Bardeen. (pp. 43–44)
[3] Kaufmann, S. (2005). “The Role of the Holy Spirit in the Educational Thought and Practice of Charlotte Mason.” In Journal of Education & Christian Belief. (p. 105)

2 Replies to “Charlotte Mason and the Philosophy of Science”

  1. Fascinating! Thank you for sharing it here. My almost 13 year old is set to read “Men, Microscopes and Living Things” this year; you have now properly encouraged me to read along with him. ?

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