Knowing, not knowing and teaching

Will Snippets Leave a Comment

I’ve just been sending off the edits for a paper that I’ve been writing for China Media Research, who are running a special issue on communication and Chinese philosophy. The paper is about education as a matter of communicating not just knowing, but also not-knowing, something that I’m arguing through a reading of the Laozi and the Zhuangzi.

In talking about not-knowing, I am not, I think, advocating anything particularly mysterious or mystical. Instead I am more interested in the fact that most of our lives are lived in what I am calling epistemological chaos, in which knowing and not-knowing exist alongside each other, and in which we don’t always know what we know, what we don’t know, or what the boundary is between the two (unlike Socrates, who always seems mightily—one might say ‘improbably‘—certain of his lack of knowledge). I’ll post here again when the paper is published, but here is a very short extract.

a rich educational context is one in which knowing and not-knowing, assurance and non-assurance swirl around each other chaotically; and teaching is as much about communicating not-knowing, tentativeness, uncertainty, flights of fancy, hypotheses, puzzles, conundrums, bafflements and confusions, as it is about communicating knowing, assurance, certainty, well-mapped paths, proofs, solutions, clarifications, illuminations and clarities.

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