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Education: Four Discourses

Lecturer: A.J. Bartlett

Originally Taught: Summer School 2014

Oriented by the work of Alain Badiou the course looks anew at the work of Plato, Saint Paul, Karl Marx and Jacques Lacan from the perspective of their educational effect. Three theoretical innovations of Badiou serve this orientation: his reconfiguration of the distinction between ‘truth’ and ‘knowledge’, his formal typology of change and his theory of the subject.The argument of the course is that the works Plato, Paul, Marx and Lacan, correspond primarily to what can be identified as the four component parts of education: Plato’s dialogues are concerned with the question of knowledge, Paul’s with love and welfare as social bond, Marx with universal emancipation or justice and Lacan with the subject’s psychological orientation to their world; thus epistemology, pastoralism, politics, psychology.Each emerges in their time as an innovative and critical form of transmission in contest and struggle with other, already established forms of knowledge, other conceptions of change, discourse and subjectivity. The course will explore how these four provide a specific example, traceable by conceptual, philosophical analysis, of how transformation is a key educational feature and effect, and of how these four educational questions influence and merge with each other as the basic tenets of education. The course investigates how each of these distinct discourses each in its own way and with reference to its own conditions and concerns nevertheless elaborates a form, method, style and effect which we can mark as truly educational. The aim of the course is to elaborate via these investigations a conception of education which is both generically demonstrable and puts into relief current pedagogical presumptions.

Course Schedule

Session 1 will introduce the question of education and then proceed to introduce those aspects of Alain Badiou's work relevant to the investigation of these four discourses.

Sessions 2-5 will be an interrogation of each the four discourses relative to this distinction and the concept of education under construction.

The following epithets situate the orientation of each session:

  1. Alain Badiou: 'Thought is nothing other that the desire to have done with the interminable excess of the state’
  2. Plato: 'I am an orator, yes, but not after their pattern…'
  3. Saint Paul: '…the law was our pedagogue until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a pedagogue.’
  4. Marx 'The materialist doctrine concerning the changing of circumstances and upbringing forgets that circumstances are changed by men and that it is essential to educate the educator himself.'
  5. Lacan: 'For centuries, knowledge has been pursued as a defense against truth.' 'Obviously, we are always a little cretinized because there is no escaping secondary school … psychoanalysis gives us a chance, a chance to start again.'

Recommended Reading


  • Interview with Sedofsky, Lauren, ‘Being by numbers’, Artforum, October 1994,
  • Interview with Sedofsky, Lauren, ‘Matters of appearance: an interview with Alain Badiou’, Artforum, vol. 45, no. 3, 2006, pp. 246–53/322.


  • Apology
  • A. J. Bartlett, 'Plato,' in Bartlett, A and Clemens, Justin (ed.), Badiou: Key Concepts. London: Acumen, 2010.

Saint Paul

  • Epistles
  • Gunter Bornkamm, Paul, trans, D.G.M. Stalker, Minneapolis, Forrest Press, 1995
  • Stanislav Breton, A Radical Philosophy of Saint Paul, trans. Joseph N. Ballan, New York, Columbia University Press, 2011,



  • 'The Purloined Letter', &‘The Freudian Thing or the Meaning of the Return to Freud in Psychoanalysis,' in Ecrits: The First Complete Edition in English, trans. Bruce Fink with Heloise Fink and Russell Grigg, New York, W. W. Norton, 2006.
  • My Teaching, trans. David Macey, London, Verso 2009.

Level of Difficulty: Intermediate