Monthly Archives: July 2012

Episode 10 – Justice with Michael Sandel

Episode 10 – Justice with Michael Sandel.

Justice with Michael Sandel

Episode 06 – Justice with Michael Sandel.

I found this site whilst reading the background on Michael Sandel. I subscribe to @philosophybites podcasts on iTunes, and was listening to his discussion on what shouldn’t be sold. I am increasingly concerned with the commodification of education, trying to understand the notion of education as a commodity capable of being bought and sold. This leads me to revisiting Kant, hence the link with justice in this video. Kant claimed that people should

‘ Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end’

It seems that we break the categorical imperative (of which this quotation states the second formulation) when we buy and sell education. Those engaged in education (student/teacher) are treated as mere means to an end, the end being share dividends for the institution and economic units of production for the state.

Professor Sandel introduces Immanuel Kant as a rejection of utilitarianism and an argument for fundamental duties and rights that take precedence over maximizing utility. He explains Kant’s test for determining whether an action is morally right: to identify the principle expressed in our action and then ask whether that principle could ever become a universal law that every other human being could act on.


Yesterday I chose to join the workshop entitled Man and Machine: The relationship between Humans and Technology in Philosophy and the Arts. Speakers discussed the notion of non-work and the nostalgia for the factory. I took from this that our current neo-liberal obsession with producing economically viable units of production to serve the dominant discourse of employabilty and skills fails to take account of the nature and daily grind of work. This is illustrated by the reminiscences from GDR workers of the period before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Despite the worklessness of today’s citizens labour conditions that would appear to many to be akin to slavery are viewed with rose coloured glasses. I cannot offer a discussion arising from this paper, but it has disrupted my common-sense view of the search for work of any kind, simply to be in employment. Maybe the phenomenon of the intern, or the volunteer teacher could provide a fruitful way forward.

The next two papers, Technology and the Body, and Marinetti, Superman and Machine can be taken together as they both pointed to the human as cyborg, rather than the machine and the human being subject and object. I reflected on the observation that rather than the Internet resembling the neural connections in the brain (see Chaos theory, fractals and the mandelbrot model), it has been produced that way entirely because it has been designed by humans. We both own and become the machine. We are not in its grip as some would caution.

Today we learned about research into teaching and teacher education at the University of Cyprus. PCK surfaced again, and in a simplistic, positivist way once more, but this was countered by a deeply nuanced paper about applying contemporary psychological theories in teacher education. Curriculum evaluation was also well considered by young researchers in the department of education (see Eisner 1985).

As I write this I am way out of my depth listening (well not really as am writing this blog) to a philosophical discussion about the nature and narrative of history. I am grateful to have the words wash over me however. It reminded me of the famous quotation from The History Boys – ‘History is just one f***ing thing after another’. I want to offer this as a foil to Husserl, Kirkegaard, Hegel, Kant and the like. Stop my hand going up please. The questions after the paper helped to demonstrate that philosophers can fight with the best of us, no blood was spilt, but plenty of mano-a-mano. I was pleased that was able to connect with a discussion about narrative history, teaching, testimony and subjectivity, following Ricoeur into Bernstein and Fricker’s notion of epistemic injustice. well done me.


Today was taken up with the meeting for chairs where we learned more about the history of ISSEI and the organisation of the conference. The welcome ceremony was held in the Hilton Hotel, and we were treated to a piano recital and solo tenor. Marianna Papestephanou provided a philosophical perspective on the theme of the conference: The Ethical Challenge of Multidisciplinarity.

She cautioned against academics and researchers slipping into postmodernist relativism, or perhaps worse dogmatic entrenchment, advising philosophy, science and the Arts to seek ways of connecting through mutual respect. for an applied practitioner researcher used to working across disciplines it was surprising that this message still needed to be said, but we’ll see whether we are among the converted as the week goes on.

Tomorrow I am looking forward to attending a workshop entitled Thinking Critically about Technology. Some papers feature a theoretical device, that of pedagogic content knowledge for teachers. I have used this in my article to explore Professional Knowledge, but I am not sure of its usefulness as a classification of teacher knowledge. Knowing me I will be the gobby one at the back who asks an inane question. The afternoon workshop reminds me of the marvellous BBC series All Watched over by Machines of Loving Grace. It’s is entitle Man and Machine: The Relationship between Human and Technology in Philosophy and the Arts. A real eclectic mix of speakers from many countries. Let’s see how well I summarise the day tomorrow.

The 13th International Conference of ISSEI (International Society for the Study of European Ideas) #1

Our first day sees us in Nicosia, Cyprus, preparing for the conference which starts tomorrow. ISSEI This morning we plan to orient ourselves with the town, and its walls. I am ashamed to say that I have not done any research beforehand, but find that we are in the last divided city after the Berlin wall came down in 1989. The old town, and its walls are divided to the north by the Turkish border and the buffer zone. We may cross today to visit the Turkish side. The territory is still disputed, and only recognised by Turkey.

It is good to be back in Cyprus after my last conference here in 2010. The International conference on Professional, Vocational and Work Based Learning brought together a diverse group of researchers to Larnaca in Cyprus (see IWBL 2010 Then I presented the embryonic paper which was to become Down The Rabbit Hole: Routined Practices, Dewey and Teacher training in the Lifelong Learning Sector.

This time I am chairing a workshop about Risk taking in professional development. Four of us are presenting papers, all fairly eclectic in one sense, but brought together under the main theme of Risk Taking in Thought and Deed: Towards a New conception of the Development of Professional Knowledge and Practice. In my next post I will summarise the papers and discuss the common ground that they share, as well as highlighting the arguments.