Long Line: Letting Go of Nothing

This post is part of a series of posts pulled from a piece of writing I completed in November 2012. For more information on this series, see this post.

Context | Looking Back | Transformation | Looking Back at the Looking Back | Questions | On ethics | Letting Go of Nothing | Taking on Subject and Objects | On meaning making | Why the language of causality trouble me | Conceptual versus Empirical | Futuring | Temporality and Time | Brief Note | Back to Time | What to do with the Past | Some tools to help us be | An example from my past | Avoiding Labels | The educational turn | Being and curriculum | Curriculum of Being | Curriculum Futuring | On dispositions as ways of being | Being and pedagogy | Being and technology | Being and the body | References


Letting Go of Nothing

When we look to our feet and notice that the rug is no longer connecting us to our prior assumptions, we can look up to acknowledge what is left: nothing. If assumptions give (enable, enact, create, frame) a context for living into, then no assumptions gives no context. As with responsibility, this nothing is not “nothing as emptiness” but nothing as possibility. Into the nothing is where our imaginations and creativity creates. Here I finally get to turn to some of my more recent reading to help make a few points and draw a few additional boundaries.

Take our recent conversation regarding curriculum integration. Curriculum integration presupposes that there is a thing called curriculum that is fragmented and must be put back together again. How did we get to this assumption? “Curriculum” has no mass, it is not real in a physical sense. Yes, you can point to textbooks or curriculum standards or lists of objectives and lesson plans. But these “things” are not “the curriculum.” Curriculum is a way of speaking about the what of education. There is the teacher, the student, and the “what,” the to-be-learned, the to-be-experienced. Curriculum lives in language. (Remember, it is not just language - this is not a cop-out to epistemology.) Once we recognize that curriculum is constituted in language, it is obvious that curriculum as a thing does not need to be put back together. There is not any-thing to be put back together. How do we accomplish the goals of curriculum integration? We start speaking and writing differently about curriculum. We refine and revise our assumptions about what curriculum is. In the speaking of curriculum, the what of curriculum is transformed. The being that is curriculum is transformed.

Enter Richard Rorty. I am not quite certain how I stumbled into his work but I did. And while I do not necessarily embrace his philosophy as a whole (who does these days, anyways?), I appreciate his project. Thank goodness he has passed away because I am about to butcher the long line of his work. As I see it, Rorty (in much the same way as Wittgenstein) began within the Analytic tradition and via language did an about face into the Continental. In this way Rorty resembles Serres; he does not reject the sciences and fully embrace the humanities without question. Rather, he sees the whole game, the birds-eye, and also like Serres attempts to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Now, I do not think he would agree with my analysis that he is trying to bring back together the Analytic and the Continental*, the human and the natural sciences. But what Rorty does do that Serres does not** is guide a reader through his thinking of possibilities.

One dualism that Rorty examines is realism versus idealism. He suggests that we “lay down” (I love his choice of words) the realism/idealism dichotomy and see what is left. What happens when we let go of this? What remains? Nothing. He does suggest a few ideas about how we might create something anew into the nothingness. He does the same with Absolutism/Relativism and even (blasphemy!) Analytic/Continental. By situating his analysis, put into terms so a five year old (or me) can understand it, as “they are really talking about the same things only using different words” (e.g. language game) many if not most of the points of contention are resolved (dissolved?). There is literally no ground to stand on anymore. What should we do without anything to stand on?


* To harp on a continuing theme: the Analytic-Continental dualism also exists in language. As with curriculum, philosophy does not need to be “put back together” again. It needs a new vocabulary.
** This is incorrect, Serres just remains elusive.


  1. Great Article. Thank you for sharing! Really an awesome post for every one.

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