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The Critique of Institutions September 18, 2010

Posted by Andy in Foucault, pedagogics, philosophy.
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The popular, textbook version of Kant’s ethical thought often goes as follows: morality is doing one’s duty, and doing one’s duty amounts to following good rules of behaviour. Good moral rules are not the same as good prudent rules in that they are not slave to some other function, they are good in themselves. Good rules are also good for everyone. So to solve a moral problem, you have to make up a good rule, see if it can be universalised and retain its logic, and then follow it. (more…)

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Describing the Person June 15, 2009

Posted by Andy in pedagogics.
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There has been a fair amount of activity around the question of describing the human situation through the person of Christ of late, and my position has largely been that the whole project of describing who we are is all wrong. I started off my PhD being naively suspicious of the disciplines of sociology and anthropology, and this caution has cropped up again in the wake of my teacher training. So I thought I’d just justify this fear by sketching out something I’m working on at the moment.

Educational studies are full of wonderful words about the human being. The good teacher should give space to his/her students so that their inborn talents may have free reign to develop unhindered; students love to discover if left to their own devices; it’s important to have a positive view of the person. The classic expression of all these beautiful thoughts is in the general part of the national curriculum in Norway (isn’t it pretty?). In addition to ensuring that students can follow the normal development of the human species, teachers should address all parts of the student.

This document is divided up into a series of sections called “the x human being” – where x stands for spiritual, creative, working, liberally-educated, social, environmentally aware and integrated. The grammar of each chapter basically states that children are x anyway, and so the teacher needs to accommodate and direct that x-ness so that it is conducive to learning and being together. Children are creative, so let their creativity find expression in the classroom for everyone’s good.

OK. So this is clearly a move away from a kind of academic cerebral classroom towards a more holistic education no doubt. But the argument employs a familiar move. Why should we all be utilitarians? Because everyone wants to be happy anyway! This insight is at least as old as Aristotle (Nich. I.iv). Why does it become so important in Mill’s time? Well, I think the answer lies in the concerns common to Mill and the writers of national curricula. It is important for the art of governing.

If you are disillusioned with exclusionary tactics like exile, the death penalty, and seclusion (or in school, expulsion, selection and failure), and you want to find ways of being together that compensate for everyone’s different tastes and peculiarities, you need to find some common ground in the population. Utilitarianism was a way of building a society based on everyone’s common need to be happy. As long as everyone is trying to be happy – which is to say, as long as everyone is being human – then utilitarian government works. Similarly, as long as every child is trying to be creative, social, integrated, etc. then Norwegian pedagogical theory works. The teacher uses those human characteristics in constructing learning contexts for classroom activities.

The dark side of this is perhaps that those who do not pursue happiness, attempt to be creative, etc. are thereby labelled subhuman rather than just in the wrong, and that has certain consequences. But they don’t have to be serious consequences: as long as human sciences can develop, you can keep them in the system by re-interpreting what you mean by the pursuit of happiness, being creative, etc.

The point is that the model of current class leadership is based on compensation rather than discipline. It’s about allowing for weirdness whilst appropriating the universal. The human sciences allow the leader to calculate the levels of dissidence, transgression and lawlessness whilst finding a human common denominator that can give them a handle on the classroom population. It’s a kind of intervention through human independence (and this model is largely worked out in Foucault’s Security, Territory, Population).

As soon as we know what is essential to the human being, we can compensate for it. The current political model is not the disciplinary prison, but the indulgent uncle. I allow my daughter to run away as far as she likes because I know she doesn’t like to run away further than is good for her. And by letting her run off, I don’t have to discipline her movements or teach her to walk independently. I use her own independent desire for my company (whilst it lasts!) in order to control her movement.

And that’s why I think describing humanity is complicit with government.

Christian Philosophy of Education April 8, 2009

Posted by Andy in Foucault, pedagogics.
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Whilst writing about Negative Theology and Foucault’s take on asceticism, I’m currently doing a teacher training course, and whilst reading up on this, I’ve come across a curiosity and a problem. (more…)

Le Courage de la Vérité 4: Plato’s Laches March 11, 2009

Posted by Andy in Le Courage de la Vérité.
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Foucault’s fourth lecture on the Courage of truth is a reading of the Plato’s Laches. He says that no self-respecting professor of philosophy can avoid giving a course on Socrates and his death at some point in his life, and so this is it (“Salvate animam meam” he adds). This lecture sketches out a few more details concerning Socratic parrhesia before he leaves the period and goes on to talk about the Cynics. This is also the only lecture he gave this year without a break. I don’t think that’s significant… (more…)

A cock for life: Foucault’s third lecture March 10, 2009

Posted by Andy in Foucault, Le Courage de la Vérité.
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The third lecture of 1984 (the 15th February) examines Socrates’ appropriation of parrhesia. The transition I think he’s getting at is from the kind of truth-telling that opposes the powerful for the good of the collective towards the kind of truth-telling that opposes vanity for the sake of the good life (and this is where life is inserted into philosophical practice). But the main locus for this history is the last words of Socrates. (more…)

Screencast lectures November 28, 2008

Posted by Andy in Idea History, pedagogics, philosophy, theology.
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Ok, so here comes my first attempt at screencasting a lecture. I hope to record shortened versions of all my ethics lectures (but none of my NT stuff, which is a smaller class, so it’s more discussion based). This will all be in Norwegian, but it’s useful to take a look anyway, if you’re interested in student resources: it’s basically a combination of a powerpoint with a lecture. Let me know how you think it works, whether you are a student or a teacher!

Introduction to Ethics (13th November):

Mill and Biblical Ethics (19th November):

The ethics of proximity (20th November):

Mill and Biblical Ethics November 18, 2008

Posted by Andy in Idea History, pedagogics, philosophy, theology.
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Ok, here comes my powerpoint presentation for Wednesday the 19th November, both in powerpoint and in pdf formats. Of course, it’s all in Norwegian…

Screencasting lectures November 18, 2008

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Well, I’m now at a class on how to screencast. Screencasting is basically a video of your computerscreen, and is easy to produce through free software like Windows Media Encoder.

I’ve tried one lecture so far, and the sound was dreadful, so I’m going to have to be a lot clearer in my speech and use a better microphone. But once it’s done, you can play it on a usual Windows media player. This is definitely the way forward.

After the first lecture November 14, 2008

Posted by Andy in Idea History, pedagogics, philosophy.
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So the first lecture is now over and I was fairly happy with it. I used this document as my powerpoint (I’ve converted it to a pdf) and lectured from 0915-1200, with two 15 minute breaks. (more…)

Pedagogical timetable November 3, 2008

Posted by Andy in pedagogics.
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I’ve now started putting together matierals for teaching, and am about to attach the learning outcomes. I’m creating a document for each lecture, and each time I finish a book, I record the references and ideas in these documents. Then when I prepare the lecture, I select and fit these resources into the learning outcomes, and then go in search of what I don’t yet have.

I’ve also done a reading and lecturing timetable. Preparation will just continue throughout this period, which you can follow the practice-timetable link to. Isn’t that pretty? Now I have to get to work, as I want to get ahead and fit a couple more things into this (no space for Badiou as yet!)