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Learning from the Other

Levinas, Psychoanalysis, and Ethical Possibilities in Education

Sharon Todd

Publication Year: 2003

Learning from the Other presents a philosophical investigation into the ethical possibilities of education, especially social justice education. In this original treatment, Sharon Todd rethinks the ethical basis of responsibility as emerging out of the everyday and complex ways we engage difference within educational settings. She works through the implications of the productive tension between the thought of Emmanuel Levinas and that of Sigmund Freud, Melanie Klein, Judith Butler, Cornelius Castoriadis, and others. Challenging the idea that knowledge about the other is the answer to questions of responsibility, she proposes that responsibility is rooted instead in a learning from the other. The author focuses on empathy, love, guilt, and listening to highlight the complex nature of learning from difference and to probe where the conditions for ethical possibility might lie.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series, Second Thoughts: New Theoretical Formations

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

This book has been written across many continents and time zones, each place having contributed something unique to my experience of writing in situated contexts. In addition to what I have learned from these experiences, my colleagues, friends, and students have had the most impact on the form and content of my ideas. First and foremost, I thank Deborah Britzman, not only for...

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INTRODUCTION: Learning from the Other: A Question of Ethics, a Question for Education

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pp. 1-16

What, or where, is ethics in relation to education? Ethics, insofar as it potentially offers us a discourse for rethinking our relations to other people, is central to any education that takes seriously issues of social justice. It seems crucial, then, that any philosophical investigation into the ethical possibilities of education—which is how I characterize this present work—cannot only not...

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ONE: “Bringing More than I Contain”: On Ethics, Curriculum, and Learning to Become

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pp. 17-41

We read Simon Wiesenthal's The Sunflower in a graduate seminar I teach on ethics and education.1 The central story consists of a grueling meeting that Wiesenthal has with a dying member of the Nazi Schutzstaffel (SS) while himself an inmate in a concentration camp.The SS man, Karl, has asked that a Jewish prisoner be brought to him so that he may be granted forgiveness...

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TWO: Being-for or Feeling-for? Empathic Demands and Disruptions

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pp. 43-63

Empathy is often invoked in social justice educational discourse and practice as an indispensable emotion for working across differences. As Megan Boler writes: “in the last fifteen years in Western ‘multiculturalism,’ empathy is promoted as a bridge between differences, the affective reason for engaging in democratic dialogue with the other.”1 The idea is that the more...

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THREE: A Risky Commitment: The Ambiguity and Ambivalence of Love

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pp. 65-89

What do love and eros1 have to offer a discussion on the ethical possibilities of education? In considering the work across differences that social justice education engages in, how might that most seemingly private of emotions, love, lend itself to such work? Does eros have anything to do with learning from and not merely about the Other? These questions are by no...

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FOUR: Strangely Innocent? Guilt, Suffering, and Responsibility

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pp. 91-115

In classrooms dealing with traumatic histories of injustice or with the troubling violence and inequities that continue to mark everyday life in this new millennium, guilt often surfaces, persistently and indelibly, as a relation between the stories of suffering being retold and those who listen to their retelling. The fact that guilt is so commonplace in accounts of...

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FIVE: Listening as an Attentiveness to “Dense Plots”

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pp. 117-139

“Sometimes I forget I have a face.” The quote comes from Maggie Cogan, the title subject of Michel Negroponte’s documentary film Jupiter’s Wife.1 The film chronicles the filmmaker’s relationship with Maggie, a homeless woman living in Central Park, over the course of two years. It is a powerful portrayal of the nature of listening in responding to the Other—a relation...

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POSTSCRIPT: Where Are Ethical Possibilities?

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pp. 141-146

This book has been a consideration of ethical possibilities as they exist as modes of relationality across difference in education. In my discussions of empathy, love, guilt, and listening, I have argued for an understanding of ethics that refuses to locate responsibility within a rational, autonomous subject but in the very forms of relationality that structure our encounters with...


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pp. 147-163


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pp. 165-171


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pp. 173-178

E-ISBN-13: 9780791486290
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791458358
Print-ISBN-10: 0791458350

Page Count: 188
Publication Year: 2003

Series Title: SUNY series, Second Thoughts: New Theoretical Formations