Event, experience and agapē, transforming education with Badiou, Dewey and Saint Paul

Year: 2016

Author: Victory, Michael

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Biesta’s educational theory and philosophy (2006 & 2013) presents the challenge of ‘subjectification’. How do we bring students as subjects ‘into presence’? This challenge is grounded in the work of contemporary philosophers who have sought to define a meaningful life within the social, moral, ethical & physical conflicts that characterise human existence, and so Arendt (1958) and Freire (1972) but also Honneth (1996), who draws on early Hegel and on Mead’s intersubjectivity. This paper invites the audience to consider Paul of Tarsus or Saint Paul as a unique educator who succeeded in bringing subjects into a new presence, and transformed existence, through fidelity to the event, in an education encounter.Badiou (2003) along with Žižek (2003) and Agamben (2005) have found relevance for the modern world in Paul’s letters, though none identify with his Christianity. Central to Badiou’s thesis is Paul‘s response to the event, the resurrection. Paul claims new knowledge has entered the world; knowledge that cannot be incorporated into known paradigms of living and therefore changes how we should act and be. Paul accepts the challenge of bringing people into fidelity with this new knowledge, and in doing so lays the foundation for Badiou’s universalism. Paul comes to describe this new way of experiencing the world as love (or agapē).Learning to live in relationship with the other and for the good of the other is the experience of agapē. Paul lives with many communities, modelling the desired life and this becomes the shared language between Paul and the people. The event in practice becomes the practice and language of agapē (Kruger 2015). This dimension of Paul’s work can be understood through the lens of Dewey (1938) and his pragmatist colleagues as an educational encounter located in the intersubjective experience. Learning about belief and social practice occurs in relationship with others. Paul leads people to change their fundamental beliefs and social practices, (against their short term better interests). What Paul’s letters also reveal is how the teacher, as subject, is also transformed by the education encounter. In the study from which this paper is extracted, Paul’s authentic letters have been subjected to narrative analysis using Clandinin and Connelly’s (2000) narrative inquiry framework and the question: ‘How did Paul transform the beliefs, the values and the life-world orientation of first century Mediterranean communities? This paper builds on earlier findings from a paper presented at the AARE Conference in 2015.