Media Courage: impossible pedagogy in an artificial community, by Fred Isseks
Abstract: The 20th World Congress of Philosophy asked, "Can philosophy lead us to a new paideia?" This dissertation begins with the same question. What does philosophy have to teach us about education in the postmodern age? How are we to understand traditional education in the world after Nietzsche and Heidegger? The first chapter takes up the ancient Greek ideal of Paideia, as described by Werner Jaeger, and contrasts it with the contemporaneous work of Martin Heidegger. The hermeneutical method of Hans Georg Gadamer is then presented as an alternative to both positivism and postmodern irony. A model of teaching emerges that practices "stupidity before the other," and a willingness to question the foundations of our understanding, including the apparatus of literacy.
The second chapter discusses what we mean by community, and whether such a thing exists now, or has ever existed. Are communities bound to specific parcels of earth, as Johann Gottfried Herder and others claimed? Multi-culturalism is seen as an outgrowth of such a view of community, and compatible with Gadamerian hermeneutics as the "fusion of horizons." The views of Slavoj Zizek are used to criticize multi-culturalism as a political dead end, a space from which activism and solidarity can not develop.
The thinking of Jean-Luc Nancy is explored next. Describing all of our politics and our interactions as part of an outmoded sense of the world, Nancy calls us singular beings who exist in isolation, but together in isolation. Japanese philosopher Tetsuro Watsuji tried to relocate community in the "social space" that Heidegger and Nancy seem to reject, ultimately raising questions about the nature of space — or chora — and how it both unites and separates. This section ends with questions about community in cyber-space, and whether or not artificial beings like ourselves need to inhabit real places anymore.
The final chapter applies these discussions about paideia and community to the American high school. What kind of education takes place here? Standardization, competition, and exclusion shape schooling as it is currently practiced. How do these positivist practices impact the students and society? Is this where our sense of community is learned? The final discussion is about imagining school differently. What if schools were receptive, open, and nurturing? What if we thought of them as chora, or playgrounds of creativity? The dissertation concludes with a description of a practice based on heuretics and electrate thinking, a possible example of an impossible pedagogy in an artificial community.
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