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Learning is remembering: Meno's paradox as a problem for religious education

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To learn we must learn to ask questions, not only of our own favoured answers, but even of our own forgotten questions. The most forgotten questions of religious education are those of theology. Theology asks the greatest questions of the fundamental possibility of all of the arts, sciences, and even of education. It may ask: how is it possible to learn? To learn is to come to know that which is not yet known. Yet, as Socrates had hinted, there appears to be a paradox in the possibility of learning: for if a thing is known, then learning is not necessary; yet if a thing is not known, then learning is not possible. The Meno Paradox thus presents what we may consider to be the essential problematic of education. It ostensibly seems to stifle learning. Yet, at its aperture, the questions of education also open up again to those of theology. For, if as Plato suggests, learning is recollection, and recollection requires a primitive knowledge of the ideas, then learning ultimately requires a recollection of all of the ideas – and, supremely, of the highest ideas that are named in theology. To learn is to recollect that which is never not known; of that which is always already known; of the most primordial and present knowledge – that is, of the stories with which we yet may learn of the first beginning and final end of any education. Theology is, for this reason, central to the task, not only of religious education, but, as I shall suggest, and religious education may uniquely teach us, of any education.

This talk is part of the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain Cambridge Branch series.

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