Long Line: Taking on Subjects and Objects

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

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Taking on Subjects and Objects

Another one of the set-in-stone polarities that Rorty grinds to sand is object and subject. I am unsure as to whether he labels it as such, but the idea is there. (He likes to dissolve everything else, so why not all the biggies?) I think this is where Serres comes in for me; if we look at a problem, or challenge, or research inquiry, and we simply lay down (again, I love the language) the subject/object concept, what remains? What was the subject/object frame concealing? What was useful about the subject/object idea? I have spent some time in Serres’ Angels text in the past few weeks and this calls to mind his understandings (ruminations? reflections?) of angels as messengers and our modern day technologies as iterations of these angelic messengers. Also, there is Serres’ philosophy of the preposition, the in-between-ness. When I had my first “official” meeting with Ann at the beginning of the term, I drafted an agenda of things to talk about. Habit from working with a poor advisor in my Masters. One of the first things I wrote was: “I want to do more with philosophy AND education rather than philosophy OF education.” Here is Serres’ in-between-ness. The AND and the OF are constitutive of a particular relationship between philosophy and education. A swap of the preposition creates an entirely different context to work in.

There is a sense that most modern day Continental traditionalists still hold firm to the assumption that there is an absolute something out there somewhere.* It is less an outright statement and rather an unspoken, in-between-the-lines presupposition that there is a “thing” “out there” that “is”: being, morality, ethics, phenomena. These things are treated as objects, they can be described, named, modified, written about, and regardless of their relationship to the subject, they exist. They are. Here we bring in the Truth/truth distinction with its absolute/relativist baggage. What would we be giving up, letting go of, if we laid down these (common sense?) understandings? Instead of inspiring dread, I think this breathes life into our human being-ness. It gives us power, a new way of seeing - being - with ourselves, others, and the environment.

Returning to curriculum integration/fragmentation within these thoughts about subject/object. In the same way we lay down the subject/object language, we can lay down the curriculum integration/fragmentation language. Laying down the words of a fragmented curriculum does not necessarily change our experience of the curriculum as being fragmented, but it does demonstrate quite simply that it is just words, just language. How would we talk, walk, be if the curriculum was whole and complete? What words would we use then? In the language of transformative learning theory, if we lay down the assumption that curriculum is fragmented (and, yes, that is an assumption) and “try on” the assumption that the curriculum was never fragmented and is whole and complete, what do we have then? What is now possible with this assumption? Would another assumption work better, give us greater clarity and access to power?

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* I cannot claim to know this by myself, thank you Rorty.

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