Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Education

Document Type



This dissertation reimagines the teacher-student relationship through a philosophical approach that draws on Laozi, Karen Barad, Deleuze & Guattari, and Emmanuel Levinas. The teacher-student relationship is normally considered a relationship of the knower (teacher) and the unknower (student) based on the modern western tradition of episteme. This dissertation interrogates the modern binary of the teacher/student, subject/object relationship by bringing ontology and ethics into educational discourse. The problematic practices of modern schooling include the reduction of teaching to knowledge transmission, and the rigid dichotomy of a subject/object relation between teacher and student. Following a Taoist Way of philosophical thinking, this work re-imagines the teacher-student relationship by shifting the understanding of “knowing,” “being” and “child” from a modern perspective to an “ethico-onto-epistemological” perspective. Re-thinking the modern concept of knowing into the entanglement of knowing, being, and ethics does not mean we depreciate the value of knowing; rather we adhere to a fundamental break in a privileging of the discursive and a thinking of knowledge as the sole domain of epistemology. Laozi’s philosophy of “wu-wei”, Barad’s concepts of “intra-actions,” “ethico-onto-epistemology,” Deleuze & Guattari’s concepts of “rhizome” and “becoming,” and Levinas’ ethics of the “Other” propose a “pedagogy of unknowing”, where both teachers and students partake in an intra-active process of “becoming.” Based on the pedagogy of unknowing, I argue that it is not knowledge or the knowledge of the Other that is important, rather, our orientation to the Other’s unknowability as a starting point for learning from the Other. Ultimately, in responding to the rational dualism and the crisis of representation in language and theories, the last chapter turns to silence as the end/beginning of the conversation.



Committee Chair

Hendry, Petra