Theses Doctoral

Ignorance and Irony: The Role of Not-Knowing in Becoming a Person

Hori, Saori

This study examines the role of not-knowing, particularly ignorance and irony, in our project of becoming persons. First, I draw upon Jean-Jacques Rousseau to articulate the concept of becoming a person. Considering Emile’s education as well as Sophie’s in Emile, I interpret becoming a person as cultivating the masculine (autonomy) and feminine (relationality), which enable us to live for ourselves and for others in a society. I then argue that ignorance and irony play a key role in our continuous project of becoming persons in childhood and adulthood, respectively. I draw upon Rousseau to discuss ignorance. Ignorance refers to the complete ignorance of things that do not originate from the child’s immediate experience. I focus on Rousseau’s notion that ignorance secures an open mind, which enables a child to begin a relationship with nature, things, and others. I draw upon Jonathan Lear to discuss irony. Irony refers to the loss of one’s routine understanding of her practical identity (social role), which inspires her aspirational understanding of the identity. I focus on Lear’s idea that irony allows an adult to keep an open mind, which enables her to be a subject in a social role, who continues to constitute herself via the role. Thus, I propose a model of becoming a person, in which ignorance and irony play the key role in forming and transforming a person, respectively, by securing an open mind as a person in childhood and adulthood, respectively. Lastly, I explore the application of this model to higher education today. I argue that ignorance and irony can be discussed not only as the two stages of life (childhood and adulthood) but also as the two phases of growth (formation and transformation) which can be concurrent in (young) adulthood. I then propose a pedagogy centered around ignorance and irony, which allows students to learn to become persons in formative and transformative ways. I suggest that this can be a model of moral education in higher education, which not only responds to the current mental health crisis but also revives the tradition of liberal education.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Philosophy and Education
Thesis Advisors
Laverty, Megan
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
September 21, 2022