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Existential Philosophy and the Promise of Education

Learning from Myths and Metaphors

Mordechai Gordon

Myths and metaphors share not only an ability to call our attention to aspects of our world of which we were previously unaware, but also a propensity toward symbolic meanings and interpretations. In Existential Philosophy and the Promise of Education: Learning from Myths and Metaphors, Professor Gordon draws on some well-known myths and metaphors of various Existentialist thinkers and writers as a lens and an interpretative framework with which to explore a variety of issues in philosophy of education. His book argues that symbolic or metaphorical interpretations can offer us representations of problems in education that go beyond what we can gain when we consider them only in their literal sense. Existential Philosophy and the Promise of Education is an excellent classroom text for a variety of foundations courses, including the Philosophy of Education.

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Part I

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· 1 · teachers as absurd heroes: camus’ sisyphus and the promise of rebellion1 Introduction Albert Camus’ essay The Myth of Sisyphus portrays the mortal Sisyphus who was condemned by the Greek gods to perpetually roll a boulder to the top of a mountain, upon which the rock would roll all the way back down the slope of its own weight. Sisyphus was forced to repeat this process indefinitely, which the gods viewed as the most futile and dreadful of all punishments. Camus considered Sisyphus the absurd hero and noted that: He is, as much through his passions as through his torture. His scorn of the gods, his hatred of death, and his passion for life won him that unspeakable penalty in which the whole being is exerted toward accomplishing nothing. This is the price that must be paid for the passions of the earth.2 Camus insisted that myths such as Sisyphus are metaphors and are designed to stimulate the imagination. In this case, the reader is encouraged to identify with the labor, sweat, and suffering of Sisyphus, which seem to be exerted all in vain. Yet, for Camus, this myth was also about the plight of the ordinary worker in modern society who toils every day in oppressive con- ditions repeating the same mundane tasks with no apparent purpose. In his 14 existential philosophy and the promise of education view, the predicament and desperation of many workers who are condemned to work in inhumane conditions and perform senseless tasks is no...

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