Presentation on theme: "1 Authoritative Knowledge & the Public Role of the University How complexity challenges our assumptions & opens alternate possibilities Dr Deborah Osberg."— Presentation transcript:
1 Authoritative Knowledge & the Public Role of the University How complexity challenges our assumptions & opens alternate possibilities Dr Deborah Osberg University of Exeter, UK AERA, April 9 th, 2011
2 Invited by Katholieke Universiteit of Leuven to: present some of your latest thinking on how the emergentist logic underlying complexity theory calls forth inventionalistic and experimenting education serving democratic participation in the face of uncertain and multi-dimensional matters of public concern. Authoritative knowledge defines what is worth striving for and the university has a part to play in this Leuven, March 4 th 2011
3 In defining what is worth struggling for, the University has, since the1700s, been seen as an important guiding light for society: a public good. Academics removed from humdrum of everyday world to contemplate broader issues and question everyday truths including all forms of authority. Its habit of critically questioning the authority of the everyday world is what gave it the authority to lead the way in defining what was worth struggling for in society (and why ).
4 Globalisation and postmodernisation have exposed the colonising impetus of Western claims to authority through critical reason (Usher & Edwards, 1994) Shifts in the production and legitimation of knowledge (see Gibbons et al, 1994, Lyotard, 1984) have brought about a situation in which the boundaries between the university and the rest of society are becoming increasingly blurred (Webster, 2009). Leuven, March 4 th 2011
5 FOR EXAMPLE: The university is no longer the only (or even main) source of the production of knowledge (Edgerton 1996) Traditional disciplinary forms of knowledge challenged by performative knowledge (Gibbons et al, 1994). Many forms of HE now brought into fold as universities putting an end to the common purposes of the university (Bridges 2000). Criteria for & means of validating knowledge claims are widening as knowledge becomes more of a commodity (Gewertz). Knowledge with a capital K has given way to knowledges (Barnett, 2000).
6 Simons, Haverhals & Biesta The University Revisited (2007, p. 400, in Studies in Philosophy & Education) … [the university is] no longer regarded as an institution that offers an orientation for society; rather... it is society and its needs that... orient the university. Should the university (merely) serve the economic needs and demands of society? Or should it have some other public or civic role that exceeds or complements its socio-economic role in contemporary society?
7 Simons, Haverhals & Biesta The University Revisited (2007, p. 400) it is not only... that universities have thoroughly changed when compared to their traditional predecessors. Also, the conditions under which they are supposed to... fulfill their traditional public role appear to be very different than how they were in the past... (p. 400). we [therefore] cannot simply rely on authoritative ideas or principles, which are vaguely reminiscent of our university traditions. Instead, we need... [to] take account of the fact that our background (horizon) has thoroughly changed in comparison to traditions that still implicitly inform our judgement about what universities can do, should do or should not do. (p. 402).
8 Ron Barnett University Knowledge in an Age of Supercomplexity (2000, p. 415) Supercomplexity: arises under conditions of conceptual overload... The outcome of a multiplicity of frameworks... Forms of right knowing no longer clear... Rival forms of knowing claiming legitimacy. (the postmodern position... the pluralisation of authority) Complexity: that state of affairs in which the demands before one exceed the resources to meet them (in principle manageable if only one had the resources to meet them).
9 Immanuel Kant What is Enlightenment? (1784, online) argued that to be enlightened was to have the resolve and courage to question authority or, in his words: … to use one's understanding without guidance from another.
10 Stephen Hopgood Moral Authority, Modernity and the Politics of the Sacred (2009, p. 232) … the very idea of the possibility of a totalizing authority is in doubt. This is one of modernitys prime achievements challenging the authority claims of those who urge us to pile the cadavers even higher. Authority per se is now contested. And this contest is permanent. (p. 232)
11 Hannah Arendt What is Authority? (1969) the very term [authority] has become clouded by controversy and confusion... [the modern world has entered] a constant, ever-widening, and deepening crisis of authority.... a CRISIS of authority
12 Bill Readings The University in Ruins (1996) Frank Webster Social Sciences at the Crossroads: The Postmodern University (2009, online) I have no doubt that universities will continue to survive, but I do fear that maybe they will go on, at least in part, as zombie institutions (the living dead) since it is unclear what their distinguishing features will be
13 IF the notion of the university as the fount of authoritative knowledge has been seriously unsettled [by supercomplexity etc]...... then what is its new public role? When framed in this way, the debate founders on the question of whether, in the face of the pluralisation of authority, it is even possible to authorise a new role for the university in contemporary Democratic societies.....who decides?
14 It founders (when framed in this way) because any (authoritative) attempt to define what the university should becomewhich is effectively to argue against other (authoritative) possibilities/positionsis immediately implicated in a performative contradiction i.e., it is an attempt to solve the problem of the pluralisation of authority by putting in place one authoritative solution.
15 Performative contradiction Objectivist / relativist Modernist / postmodernist Foundationalist / antifoundationalist Polarised on the basis of warrants for authority
Ron Barnett University Knowledge in an Age of Supercomplexity (2000, p. 415) Supercomplexity: arises under conditions of conceptual overload... The outcome of a multiplicity of frameworks... Forms of right knowing no longer clear... Rival 16 EMERGENCE (more than the sum of its parts) But we cant make something out of nothing! Complexity : that state of affairs in which the demands before one exceed the resources to meet them (in principle manageable if only one had the resources to meet them).
17 Going On A different (emergentist) way of understanding change... growth... progress... hierarchy Modern/postmodern epistemological positions are polarised on the basis of holding assumptions about change, hierarchy, growth & progress (of knowledge) that are challenged by emergentist logic. This has implications for the way we understand authoritative knowledge which is underpinned by the notion of hierarchy
18 Michel Foucault Nietzsche, Genealogy, History (1984, pp. 76-100). Knowledge is not made for understanding; it is made for cutting. Cartesian growth of knowledge & understanding towards an ideal (e.g. truth) Little knowledge (deficit/deficient) Much knowledge (authority)
19 MODERN : Selection of winners through an objective and value-neutral process (efficacy). POSTMODERN : Selection of winners an effect of social processes that allow dominant members of society to dictate the terms under which knowledge is created and judged (rules of the contest). Cartesian growth of knowledge & understanding towards an ideal (e.g. truth) Little knowledge (deficit/deficient) Much knowledge (authority)
20 Michel Foucault What is Enlightenment? (1984, p. 48) How can the growth of capabilities be disconnected from the [linear] intensification of power relations?
21 Points of undecidability/crisis Ilya Prigogine Order out of Chaos (1984, p. 170) Distance from equilibrium At these crisis points the system is forced to do something unprecedented in the history of the system The system cuts into a new level of order.
22 1)Growth/progress as scalar intensification. 2)Growth/progress as unprecedented change. Cutting through to a new level of order. Knowledge is not made for [increasing / intensifying] understanding; it is made for cutting [through]. (Foucault)
23 Hannah Arendt What is Authority? (1969, online) the founding of Rome became to the Romans the central, decisive, unrepeatable beginning of their whole history, a unique event (p. 17) all authority derives from this foundation, binding every act back to the sacred beginning of Roman history, adding, as it were, to every single moment the whole weight of the past. (p. 19).
24 Hannah Arendt What is Authority? (1969, online) the open-ended augmentation of the foundation rather than something that comes about through (competitive) striving for a preconceived goal positioned in the future. Auctoritas, the property of being able to confer (legal) validity on an act, Auctor, the one who is able to confer this validity, Augere, to augment, increase, enrich or add.
25 Hannah Arendt What is Authority? (1969, online) what authority or those in authority constantly augment is the foundation (p. 18). The auctor is therefore the person who augments, increases, or adds to the foundation. As the foundation is augmented or added to, it becomes different than what it was, it is, in effect a new or enriched (augmented) foundation. The auctor is the originator or author of this new foundation.
26 Ilya Prigogine Order out of Chaos (1984, p. 170) Distance from equilibrium At these crisis points the system is forced to do something unprecedented in the history of the system At these points we find and found a new way forward, we cut into a new level of order… a new way forward is authored/authorised Points of undecidability/crisis = points of authority/authoring (or input from outside)
27 What does this have to do with the university? University as centre of enlightenment and guiding light for society
28 Conclusions (regarding the public role of the university) Knowledge monopolies into which people are encultured (into whose culture? By what or whose authority?). Educational democracies which facilitate the coming into being of radically new FORMS of knowledge (rather than only shaping existing knowledge to better serve societys needs). The university as a societal laboratory?