Reason and revelation: The educational philosophy of Dr. Timothy Dwight (1752--1817)

Date of Completion

January 1997


Biography|Education, History of|Education, Philosophy of




This study is an intellectual biography of Timothy Dwight (1752-1817), eighth President of Yale College. It seeks to understand the educational philosophy of this influential preacher, poet, educator and thinker who lived at the apex of one of the great philosophical paradigm shifts of world history. While Dwight is most widely known for his theological views, he was also a significant contributor in the field of education. Very little has been written concerning Dwight's philosophy of education, even though he established two schools in New England (one at Northampton, Massachusetts, and the other at Greenfield Hill, Connecticut), was instrumental in the founding of Andover Theological Seminary and was the President of Yale College for almost twenty-two years.^ Dwight was from a long line of Puritan ministers. His grandfather was Jonathan Edwards and his great-great-grandfather was Solomon Stoddard. Dwight embraced both his Puritan theological heritage and the emerging paradigm of the Enlightenment. The old Reformation paradigm was ruled by the belief in revealed truth. The Enlightenment paradigm hailed the enthronement of reasoned truth. Dwight's philosophy made room for both reason and revelation.^ This study explores his educational philosophy using a narrative history method (Stone, 1984) through an examination of original, primary and secondary documents. ^