chapter  8
Thinking the Other—The Other Thinking: Remarks on the Relevance of the Philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas for the Philosophy of Education
ByMICHAEL WIMMER
Pages 22

But if all justice begins with speech, all speech is not just. Rhetoric may amount to the violence of theory, which reduces the other when it leads the other, whether through psychology, demagogy, or even pedagogy. (Derrida 1978, 106; italics in the original)

The question of the pedagogical relevance of Levinas’s philosophy is captious in several ways. First, one might be reminded of the traditional division of labor between pedagogy and philosophy, according to which philosophy is responsible for the determination and rationalization of ethical goals, and where the task of pedagogy is to justify the means used to fulfi ll these goals with recourse to psychology, and thus guide their practical realization with a theory of action (Herbart 1984). Aside from the fact that such a teleological determination from outside pedagogy has long been the subject of criticism, and that it is therefore almost impossible today to formulate a universally valid ethics which could identify goals for pedagogy, such a proceeding would essentially miss the point of Levinas’s philosophy, contradicting its innermost intentions, as he neither suggests a new ethics in the classical sense or even a new morality, nor does he present a new educational ideal which could be achieved through practical pedagogical initiatives. The respect for the autonomous Other and the response to the call of responsibility can by no means be generated or effected through knowledge, will, or skill. Levinas does not give new purpose to action but rather fundamentally calls into question such a model of action based on intentional control. The question of how and where, as a pedagogue, one would have to be mindful of the respect for the Other-how one might even have to practice it, or how one could teach children or students the respect for the Other and for the stranger-viewed against the background of Levinas’s philosophy, is not only unfounded but absurd, and would turn it into its very opposite.