UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An ethical inquiry : toward education in an infinite condition Giles, Graham


This study is a philosophical inquiry into the ethical conditions of modernity as these bear upon, and are expressed in, the educational project. In modernity, the ethical is assumed as both a juridical proceduralism (of codes of ethics for teachers, or of a broader legal context) and a moral result (of presupposed good and evil, vested in categories like humanity, liberalism, or difference). When ethics are assumed as completed in the form of codes or ideals, that is, as present and already acted upon, there remains little of an ethics of justice in the ancient sense of the pursuit of the right way to live. Supplanted by imperatives of management and morality, the ethical conditions of living are no longer vital to education. The problem is ontological. The revitalization of the ethical in education requires inquiry into the logics of being. These logics are widely implicated and thus the resources for this inquiry are necessarily historiographical, critical, and speculative. These are deployed in this study in three thematic movements: First to the question of education’s ‘emplacement’ within the modern ethos, or ‘of what’ is educational thought a consequence in the modern ethical settlement; second, how may this be seen to be expressed as ethical thought in contemporary educational discourse; and third, and on the basis of the previous two, to the question of how it may be possible to re-think education ethically. The modern ethical topography is articulated as an oscillation among the ontological forms of conceptual realism (the constructivist procedure of the adequacy of thought to being) and those of ethical idealism (the transcendental production of what cannot be thought). Expressed as ethics of phronesis (practical wisdom) and alterity in educational thought, these are contested on the basis of generic ontology, or that of immanent infinite multiplicity, toward a subjective ethics in education—one that refuses the idealist corruption of the ‘object’ where ethics are concerned. To do so, I propose to educational thought a concept of truth elaborated at the intersection of mathematical formalization (à la Badiou) and comic realism (à la Zupančič).

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