Responsibility, complexity science and education: Dilemmas and uncertain responses



Fenwick T (2009) Responsibility, complexity science and education: Dilemmas and uncertain responses. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 28 (2), pp. 101-118.

While complexity science is gaining interest among educational theorists, its constructs do not speak to educational responsibility or related core issues in education of power and ethics. Yet certain themes of complexity, as taken up in educational theory, can help unsettle the more controlling and problematic discourses of educational responsibility such as the potential to limit learning and subjectivity or to prescribe social justice. The purpose of this article is to critically examine complexity science against notions of responsibility in terms of implications for education. First, themes of complexity science prominent in contemporary educational writing are explained. Then dilemmas of responsibility in complexity are explored, such as what forms and meanings responsibility can have in a ‘complexified’ perspective of education, how care for others is mobilised, and how desire can be understood. Analyses of ethical action grounded in complexity science are then examined, as well as theories of the ethical subject and participatory responsibility that are congruent with certain tenets of a complexity ontology. Finally, the possibility of an educational vision of responsibility animated by complexity theories is considered, drawing from related writings of Bai, Biesta, Derrida, Levinas and Varela.

complexity science; educational responsibility; Education Philosophy

Studies in Philosophy and Education: Volume 28, Issue 2

Publication date31/03/2009
PublisherSpringer Verlag

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Professor Tara Fenwick
Professor Tara Fenwick

Emeritus Professor, Education