Studies in Philosophy and Education

, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 415–430

Willed Forgetfulness: The Arts, Education and the Case for Unlearning



Established scholarship in arts education is invariably related to theories of development founded on notions of multiple intelligence and experiential learning. Yet when contemporary arts practice is retraced on a philosophical horizon, one begins to engage with other cases for learning. This state of affairs reveals art’s inherent paradox where the expectation of learning is substituted by forms of unlearning. This paper begins to approach unlearning through the tension between art and education, and more specifically through the dialectical relationship between education’s dialogic agonism and art’s negative antagonism. What is here being proposed as unlearning reflects a critique of the moral-pedagogical outlooks that are imposed on art where artworks are expected to tell stories of truth through their propensity towards the beautiful and the good. In re-reading experiential anticipation as a form of anamnesis (recollection) through a process of negation and contradiction, unlearning is also located in forms of mimetic scoping by which art’s assumed pedagogical trajectory turns into the opposite of recollection: as an act of willed forgetfulness. This peculiar ‘movement’ from a state of learning to that of unlearning constitutes the basis for a special kind of pedagogical aesthetics where the challenges of criticality and laterality articulate a special ‘world’ where learning may well work backwards.


Unlearning Art Aesthetics Anamnesis Contingency Pedagogy 


  1. Adorno, T. W. (1993). Hegel. Three studies. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  2. Baldacchino, J. (2008). The praxis of art’s deschooled practice. International Journal of Art & Design Education, 27(3), 241–250.Google Scholar
  3. Baldacchino, J. (2009a). Education beyond education: Self and the imaginary in Maxine Greene’s philosophy. New York: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  4. Baldacchino, J. (2009b). Learning with art, outwith the school: Stumbling upon Adami’s lines, inside Serra’s sequence. In H. Varenne, E. W. Gordon, & L. Lin (Eds.), Theoretical perspectives on comprehensive education: The way forward. Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press.Google Scholar
  5. Baldacchino, J. (2010). Makings of the sea. Journey, doubt and nostalgia. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias.Google Scholar
  6. Baldacchino, J. (2012). Art’s way out. Exit pedagogy and the cultural condition. Rotterdam: Sense.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Balibar, É. (2002). Politics and the other scene. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  8. Biesta, G. J. J. (2006). Beyond learning. Democratic education for a human future. Boulder, CO: Paradigm.Google Scholar
  9. Dewey, J. (1966). Democracy and education. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  10. Dewey, J. (1981). The experimental theory of knowledge. In J. McDermott (Ed.), The philosophy of John Dewey. Two volumes in one. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  11. Dewey, J. (1997). Experience and education. New York: Touchstone.Google Scholar
  12. Gilson, E. (2000). The arts of the beautiful. Champaign, IL: Dalkey Archive Press.Google Scholar
  13. Gramsci, A. (1964). Uomini o macchine? In 2000 Pagine Di Gramsci. Vol. 1. Milano: Il Saggiatore.Google Scholar
  14. Gramsci, A. (1975). Gli Intellettuali. Torino: Editori Riuniti.Google Scholar
  15. Gramsci, A. (1977). Selections from political writings 1910-1920 (Q. Hoare, Ed., J. Mathews, Trans.). London: Lawrence & Wishart.Google Scholar
  16. Hegel, F. (1975). Logic. Hegel’s logic being part one of the encyclopaedia for the philosophical sciences (W. Wallace, Trans.). Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  17. Heller, A. (1984). Everyday life (G. L. Campbell, Trans.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  18. Mead, G.H. (1997). The Mechanism of Social Consciousness. In Menand, L (Ed.) Pragmatism. A Reader. New York: Vintage.Google Scholar
  19. Schutz, A. (1970). On phenomenology and social relations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  20. Searle, J. (1999). Mind, language and society. London: Weinfeld & Nicolson.Google Scholar
  21. Serra R (2007) Richard Serra, sculpture: Forty Years. Museum of Modern Art New York. Accessed on Sunday, 19 February 2012.
  22. Wollheim, R. (1980). Art and its object. With six supplementary essays. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Falmouth UniversityFalmouthUK

Personalised recommendations