Date of Award

December 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Cultural Foundations of Education


Emily Robertson

Second Advisor

Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn


Autopoiesis, Education, Embodied mind, Mindfulness, Neuropragmatism, Process philosophy

Subject Categories



Mindfulness-based interventions are becoming an increasingly popular means for helpingstudents deal with the multidimensional challenges they face in contemporary educational settings. While potentially helpful, an uncritical employment of mindfulness in education can paradoxically function to reify the very neoliberal social conditions leading to the need for mindfulness in the first place. I assess this trend in educational theory and practice through John Dewey’s pragmatic philosophy. I show that the potential for both mindfulness and Dewey’s theory of mind and inquiry to support critical, sustainable social change is truncated by an uncritical retaining of the modern paradigm of mind that defines mind and cognition as private mental events internal to individual subjects. Following Dewey, I critique this view of mind as dubious according to the ontological assumptions underlying this paradigm. By presenting an original reading of Dewey’s theory of mind, life, and inquiry based on an autopoietic process ontology and the life-mind continuity thesis, I show that the sciences of mind are currently in the midst of a revolutionary period of science, shifting from a paradigm rooted in the substance metaphysical tradition to a new, transdisciplinary paradigm animated by process metaphysics and radically different theories of mind, life, and cognition, heuristically captured by the life- mind continuity thesis. On this view, life and mind are of a piece; where there is life there is mind. Showing that Dewey developed one of the first and most complete theories of this thesis, I integrate Dewey’s theories of mind and inquiry with the contemporary mindfulness movement and discuss how they can work together to enable a critical, socially engaged yet compassionate and uniqueness-respecting framework for a somatic-based holistic social inquiry in education. I call this mindful inquiry.


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