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A Pedagogy of Unknowing: Witnessing Unknowability in Teaching and Learning

Abstract

Using insights from the tradition of via negativa and the work of Emmanuel Levinas, this paper proposes that unknowability can occupy an important place in teaching and learning, a place that embraces the unknowable in general, as well as the unknowable Other, in particular. It is argued that turning toward both via negativa and Levinas offers us an alternative to conceptualizing the roles of the ethical and the unknowable in educational praxis. This analysis can open possibilities to transform how educators think about the goals of education in two important ways. First, creating spaces for embracing unknowing in educational settings is an act of ethical responsibility that recovers a sense of the Other and his/her uniqueness. Second, rethinking the value of unknowing in the classroom may inspire in students and teachers a sense of vigilance, responsibility and witnessing. Unknowing is an act of embracing otherness and presents a curious element of redemption; in the lack of knowledge, the meaning of its absence is found.

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Correspondence to Michalinos Zembylas.

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Zembylas, M. A Pedagogy of Unknowing: Witnessing Unknowability in Teaching and Learning. Stud Philos Educ 24, 139–160 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11217-005-1287-3

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11217-005-1287-3

Keywords

  • education
  • ethics
  • knowing
  • learning
  • Levinas
  • Other
  • unknowing
  • via negativa