Studies in Philosophy and Education

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 61-68

First online:

Learning from Levinas: A Response

  • Gert BiestaAffiliated withSchool of Education, University of Exeter

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In this paper I explore the question of how toapproach the writings of Emmanuel Levinas fromthe point of view of education. I argue thatLevinas has challenged the modern conception ofsubjectivity which underpins modern education.Instead of providing a new conception ofsubjectivity, his work should be understood asan attempt to account for the awakening of theuniqueness of the subject in ethical terms. Thecentral idea is that we come into presencethrough responding, through taking up – or notdenying – the undeniable responsibility whichprecedes our subjectivity. Levinas not onlyprovides us with a new way to `understand'subjectivity. `Responding' also suggests a wayto approach Levinas's writings that goes beyondthe simple application of his `truths' toeducational practice. Levinas's writingschallenge their reader to articulate a unique,unprecedented response. It is argued that thepapers to which this paper is a response alldisplay this approach to Levinas's writings. Itis further argued that `responding' is not onlya way to read Levinas, but ultimately a way tothink about education itself. To learn (fromLevinas) is to respond (to Levinas).

education justice Levinas responding singularity subjectivity