ERIC Number: EJ786753
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Jan
Beyond Rational Autonomy: Levinas and the Incomparable Worth of the Student as Singular Other
Joldersma, Clarence W.
Interchange: A Quarterly Review of Education, v39 n1 p21-47 Jan 2008
This article explores the question: Why are students of worth? Educationally, an answer often involves a Kantian response: They are of worth because they are always ends and never means. This response is usually connected to a notion of autonomy interpreted as individual, rational self-determination. The article argues for a different answer. The essay begins with a recent educational example of construing worth as rational autonomy. Meira Levinson, in her book "The Demands of Liberal Education" (1999), argues for a version of rational autonomy which is taken in the essay as a Kantian response to the question. The essay then turns to Kant's own understanding of intrinsic human worth as ends. Although the essay agrees in general with the notion of end, it criticizes Kant's version of rational autonomy. Instead, it argues for a notion of worth as irreplaceable singularity. Both the critique of the Kantian answer and the essay's alternative are shaped by the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas. Here technical notions of "the other," proximity and singularity are brought to bear on the question of human worth. The Levinasian alternative, so the essay argues, better answers the question of student worth by highlighting the incomparability of the student as a singular other.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A