Friday 20 November 2015

Siby K. George's reading of the Preventive System


Wonderful paper by prof. Siby K. George of IIT Powai, "The Preventive System and Subject Formation," at the International Conference on the Life and Works of Don Bosco organized by the Philosophy Dept. of St Anthony's College, Shillong. 'Subject formation' has of course little to do with teaching, but everything with the formation of the subject and subjects, or persons. I found the paper a great reading of Don Bosco and the Preventive System against the background of modern and postmodern Western philosophy (Siby specializes in the latter). He begins by noting the disincarnate isolated subject in Descartes, the subject as impartial spectator in Adam Smith, the similar transcendental subject of Kant, before going on to Dasein as being-in-the-world (that makes enormous sense against the Cartesian subject as faced with the problem of how to get to the world), the thick subject enmeshed in history, in a world of cares, and, we must add, embodied, enfleshed, sexed, in relation.

Siby goes on to read Don Bosco in the light of Foucault's theorem of the ubiquity of power-knowledge. Inevitably, all systems of education, including the Preventive, are systems of power-knowledge. But Foucault does distinguish between benevolent and violent, dominating, oppressive systems, and the basic intuition of Don Bosco is of course benevolent, though, as we all know, the Preventive System can so easily slip into being Repressive.

The last part of the paper questions what he calls the 'mainstream interpretation' (he cites my paper) that regards religion as the foundation of the Preventive System, and suggests that the system can be practised even in a secular humanist context. "[I]t is not straightforwardly clear how exactly religion could become a culturally acceptable educational strategy except in a mono-religious culture as Italy was in Don Bosco's time." He proposes that we understand religion, in a pluralistic context like that of India, as "a principled ethics of love and reason." He points out also that religion itself need not be theistic. He adds that he does not want to deny "the religious force of the principle of selfless love," citing Charles Taylor who suggests that perhaps only God, "and to some extent those who connect themselves to God, can love human beings when they are utterly abject."

Some thoughts that swim into my mind.

The distinguishing mark of Christianity is not grace / love, but the mediation of grace in Christ Jesus (Lonergan). The mission of the Spirit reaches all. Grace-love - religion in this sense (what Crowe calls the universalist understanding of religion) - is available to all. The transcendental foundation, if you wish to speak that way, is available to all. Which is why anyone can be moral, and such being moral need not be purely 'natural.'

The subject grows, develops and is constructed in interaction with divine and human subjects. The subject is being-in-the-world, not an isolated Cartesian subject. Mutual self-mediation within a tradition.

Perhaps also on the contrast between Heidegger's Angst and Stein's joy, and gift.

So a reflection on the philosophical foundations of the Preventive System would need a section on religion and the religions.

Draw also from Lonergan, Topics in Education, and "Questionnaire."

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