Alain Badiou, John Dewey and Saint Paul, a trinity of unlikely travellers reframing education as an act of Love

Year: 2015

Author: Victory, Michael

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

One of the most significant disruptions in the evolution of Western society was heralded by Paul of Tarsus (St Paul), in the first century CE, with his conversion of members of Hellenic and Judaic societies into Christian communities. Paul has been a subject for historians, theologians, New Testament scholars, feminists, Marxists and continental philosophers; yet, his story is under-represented in education theory.

Badiou (2003) and his contemporaries (c.f. Žižek 2003) have shown that Paul’s letters deal with universality, identity, separateness and the ontology of event, being and subject, making them accessible to all, not just those who profess a Christian faith. Beginning with this new understanding of Paul and in concert with the philosopher’s materialism, Paul’s letters are analysed through the question: ‘How did Paul transform the beliefs, the values and the life-world orientation of first century European communities?

In the paper, this researcher is suggesting that Paul’s letters also provide a universal model for educational practice. Evident in Paul’s letters is a societistic approach to education where followers are encouraged to learn with and through their relationships with each other and with Paul as teacher. Paul’s education contributes to increased agency in the individual promoting a more fulfilled emancipated life; principles of practice that are evident in the work of John Dewey (c.f. 1938) and the American pragmatists but which can also be found in more contemporary educators such as Biesta (2013). In Paul’s letters we see evidence of education as dialogue, education with an ontological dimension, education as continuity between past, present and future and most importantly in terms of responding to the question of how Paul generated the transformation, education as an act of love.

What this paper suggests is that a study of how Paul succeeded in transforming the lives of individuals and communities in 1st century Europe and Asia-Minor may well lead us to reframing our approach to education and exploring just how we can practice education as an act of love.

Badiou, A 2003, Saint Paul: the foundation of universalism, Stanford University Press, Stanford.

Biesta, GJJ 2013, The Beautiful Risk of Education, Paradigm Publishers, Boulder.

Dewey, J 1938, Experience and education, Collier Books Edition edn, Collier Books, New York.

Žižek, S 2003, The puppet and the dwarf: the perverse core of Christianity, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.