Panel Presentation at “1968 Revisited” Conference

The East-West Psychology department is hosting a conference at CIIS on September 28-30, 2018. You can read more about it and register here:

I’ll be presenting on a panel called “Pedagogy and Experimental Philosophy” on Saturday, September 29th at 10am. Other panelists include Joshua Ramey and Jacob Sherman.

My presentation title is “From Final Knowledge to Infinite Learning: Re-imagining Pedagogy with Whitehead and Deleuze”

Abstract: Taking its cues from A. N. Whitehead and Gilles Deleuze, my contribution to this panel on Pedagogy and Experimental Philosophy will examine the crucial philosophical importance of imagination as a potent source of both deep and broad learning. Whitehead warned university educators in the early 20th century that the increasing specialization of academic disciplines, particularly in mathematics and the natural sciences, would produce disintegrated human beings and a fragmented society. Imagination, he argued, should be placed at the center of the learning experience, allowing those with expert knowledge in one field to protect themselves from indoctrination by inert ideas by connecting them with broader cultural trends in art and philosophy. In the second half of the 20th century, Deleuze transformed Kant’s transcendental method, which had claimed to provide apodictic knowledge of all possible experience, into a creative approach to open-ended learning emerging from actual experiences. For Deleuze, “it is from ‘learning,’ not from knowledge, that the transcendental conditions of thought must be drawn” (Difference and Repetition, 166). My presentation will integrate pedagogical insights from Whitehead and Deleuze in an effort to articulate an experimental approach to philosophy as a process of infinite learning rather than a search for final knowledge.


  1. so few university students take much (and even fewer are taught to really grasp the thinking behind such disciplines, most are found not to even retain their instruction the year after they have taken it) in the way of math or science that this
    “Whitehead warned university educators in the early 20th century that the increasing specialization of academic disciplines, particularly in mathematics and the natural sciences, would produce disintegrated human beings and a fragmented society” seems as wrong as the fears of the 19th& 20th C about the coming (Not!) of the secularization/disenchantment of the masses (or even their leaders), but that aside what is the tension between specialization and “imagination”, what disciplines (not science) are calling for final knowledge, and what is “infinite” learning as opposed to just work in progress as limited as the critters who are doing it?
    what could anything be for human-beings that isn’t from/of actual experiences?

    1. I didn’t know it was controversial to point out training in the special sciences often comes at the cost of lack of exposure to what used to be called humanities. Most who complete undergraduate or graduate training in chemistry or astronomy or whatever special science focus only on the most recently published textbooks and often are not even required to take courses in the history of their discipline or in philosophy of science, much less in literature or art history, etc. See for eg Harvard’s chemistry curriculum: Getting up to speed with the normal science of the current paradigm is obviously of central importance, but is it sufficient?

      1. the claim, as I understand it was not that they aren’t exposed to the academic humanities (also highly specialized by the way) but that it caused social division and alienation, no?

    2. In regard to final knowledge and infinite learning, I’m drawing on Deleuze here, mostly ‘Difference and Repetition’ but also ‘What Is Philosophy?’ He is thinking of the Kantian project, the pursuit of certain knowledge of at least the formal conditions of experience. I am using these two, final knowledge v. infinite learning, as ideal types to contrast. No one today calls for final knowledge with a straight face, but the idea is often implied in our educational practices. E.g., teaching chemistry majors their subject using nothing but the most recent textbook (as though it were the final word) without any sense for its historical origins or paradigmatic shifts.

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