In search of the third subject of educational process

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №6 - 2014

Author: Voznyak Vladimir, Droghobych Ivan Franko State Pedagogical University, Ukraine

The idea of necessity of conducting pedagogical cooperation as a type of subject-subject relationships have already asserted in philosophical, educational and pedagogical literature. But if the content of education is directed at the notorious “knowledge-skills-practices” interrelations, the logic of realization of pedagogical process anyhow remains old. If the students and the teacher communicate only about the “material” of teaching and learning the education cannot stay at a height of subject-subject relationships and is inevitably reduced to a simple subject-object model. So, we need to find “the third subject”.

To my mind the essence of humanitarization of education lies in decisive passage from a subject-object (S-O) model of pedagogical communication to a fundamental subject-subject (S-S) model. The necessity to provide overriding priority of the latter is not just the vain wishes. The thing is that subject-subject relationships have undoubted ontological priority as well as existential authenticity. The man (phylogenetically) does not start from S-O relationships. Any kinds of people-nature relations are mediated by their relationships with each other and they are realized in a certain social form (K.Marx). F.T. Mikhailov claims that: “what has always defined, defines and will define and preserve human relationships is the attitude to the subjectivity of other people, searching for commiseration, co-thinking (co-knowledge) and concord in cooperation with them that is forming their motivation and behavior and is able to provide expanded reproduction of means of life and its main conditions: self organized group of people, creative and cognitive, spiritual and spiritually practical productivity” [8, p. 500].

The man ontogenetically does not start from subject-object relationships. This idea is fundamentally elaborated in the context of communicational paradigm (M. Buber, S.L. Frank, E.V. Ilyenkov, G.S. Batyshchev, E. Levinas etc.). According to S.L. Frank there is no ready existing-in-oneself “I” before the meeting with “You” [10, p. 356]. The meeting with “You”, “I-You” relationships as distinct from the “I-It” relation (M. Buber) by any stretch of imagination cannot be represented as subject-object. Genrikh Batishchev convincingly showed that the S-O relationship, even at its empirical predominance and dominance in the modern European period as a special form of aloof sociality and featuring relationships of man to his like and to nature, actually exists within the S-S relations and, then, the complete model can be presented as a S-O-S scheme [1, p. 112-117].

There exists a real temptation to take this triodical model as a basis for pedagogical process that is decisively humanitarized, i.e. the process in which the attitude to the student as an object of influence (training and education) is inadmissible. But not everything is so simple; it is, rather, not simple at all. If the subjects of communication are rightful subjects of education (students and teachers) and knowledge is only an object, learning “material” that must be studied in certain succession, then the subject-subject relationships tend to be reduced to habitual objectiveness. But it happens this way; it is our traditional system of education! The results of cognitive, creative and other kinds of activities of the previous generations get into the structure of pedagogical process in a reduced object-thing form. It is done by “cookers of didactics” (as it was nimbly and ironically said by F.T. Mikhailov): they seem to be “adapted” for some age taking into account the abilities of students and processed for convenient learning. It should be remembered and then understood: an object-thing form is not meant for thoughtful, creative, independent and at the same time interesting absorption, filling and development of students’ subjectivity. It is useful only for application, memorization, and adaptation. Knowledge as an object (material) and only as an object is alienated from the alive subjectivity of its creator and from the subjectivity of the one who “consumes” it. It is hard to disagree with Nikolay Berdyayev: “We cannot sense the individual, we can only sense something general and that’s why there is always some aloofness present. Objective being is not just being as it is dissected by the subject for perception. The aloofness from the subject turns to be the most relevant to its cognitive nature” [2, p. 245]. In other words: the aloofness of the material taught in institutions of learning (secondary and high schools) from the subject of education is in complete accord with the structure of cognition (=learning) imminent to the present day education.

If, however, we give it a close examination: the matter of communication between the participants of pedagogical process (in other words – the content of education) – in this or other way is its culture: all this was elaborated by the mankind and presented to the future generations as a gift (in the truest sense of the word – a gift) for conscious and creative continuation and development – and, above all, the development into subjectivity, into the subjectivity of everyone, into the individuality, and subject uniqueness. The transformation of the content of education into its culture in the full and true sense of the word (or rather - the concept) - that's the essence of my idea of the "third subject". This is the essence of the process of humanization of education, and not just a simple increase in the proportion of subjects of social and humanitarian cycle. Culture (as the content and content-richness of the educational process) is the third subject, and the most difficult and the most important task of the teacher is "to give the floor" to "the third subject", activate the subjectivity of culture in a way that the culture was the means of teaching and developing a student – a means of feeding soul, heart and mind of each of its students.

I was very glad when I came across such thoughts in a recent publication of G.V. Lobastov: "To make the culture subject function as a characteristic defining the individual, the individual must update subjective potency of his cultural life with his activity. In other words, the process of defining the individual with his historical culture is a process of self-determination through the culture. Yet in other words: an individual with his individual activity is not opposed to outer being with its natural and historical definitions, but just the opposite - brings the subjectivity of this culture into the active motion, matching and identifying with it. The potencies of being immediately and directly become the potency of an individual" [5, p. 88]. Everything was said here, or almost everything. In accordance with this logic (which is the ontology and theory of cognition, i.e. the dialectic) a normal educational process should be organized.

In the "abnormal" training (and education), in the traditional, current, perverted and disgusted training everything happens in a different way. Richness of the culture is thoroughly reduced to objectivity, to the "material" - it loses its ideal nature as its truth and becomes a simple matter – the content. Let’s remember Plato who was the first to introduce the term “hyle” (in latin – “substance”) and by “substance” – hyle we understand the material for any formation (or, rather, according to A.F. Lossev the formation itself as a material) and “foster-mother” of all things. The aloof pedagogics concentrated its full attention on the “material” (what must be taught to the students and what the students must learn, as well as the pace of learning by which the teachers’ performance is evaluated) and completely cut off the “foster-mother”… The culture in this deformed (adapted[1]) form does not nourish, educate, impregnate or give guidance to children’s souls that turned into subjectivity. It is not a foster-mother but a cruel step-mother (like that in Cinderella’s story) who forces to repeat and memorize. Evald Vassilyevich Ilyenkov had a reason to say that repetition is not the mother but the step-mother of learning. We must repeat things that are alien, foreign, and unnecessary. The same content that was mastered by the student at once with the help of active ability does not need repetition as it has been mastered. The most expressive demonstration of destructive influence of didactics is dividing education into disciplines (artificial disintegration) and the way educational programs are designed (it was well studied and described by V.V. Davydov), the texts and the language of manuals. Consequently we must agree with Felix Mikhailov who said: “… for 300 years the logics of theorification[2] well-entrenched in natural studies got us accustomed to normative, descriptively-directive texts that are similar to manuals for household devices. Not without a reason almost all textbooks are written in such language” [8, p. 471]. In such situation the subjectivity of culture is not activated; the culture is reduced to object-thing that is to be consumed; and the man cannot resuscitate the mortified culture with the symptoms of decay. That’s why students are sick of such “content” that is tightly constrained with the rational chain and the rational (outer) goal.

Introducing the child to subject-subject relationships (bringing him to school), teaching him to treat knowledge as object-material and force-feeding him with this material strictly “by science”, we accustom (i.e. train) him to act by object-thing logic, accustom him to thing thinking, thing attitude, in other words we accustom him to consumerism which we try to fight with “educational work”. Treating education as a thing (from understanding of Marks and interpretation of Batishchev to further development of this category) is a reality of educational process. And here, in a paradoxical (and pretty immanent) way objective subjectivism and unrestrained activism are bounded together with constructivism.

We always complain of excessive formalization and bureaucratization of educational space not trying to understand the logic of such phenomena. That’s why we are doomed to their total, systemic reproduction due to our own efforts (and still we always complain of someone from the director’s office or from the department of education or the ministry). We ourselves, no matter how strange it sounds, bureaucratize educational (and upbringing) process. F.T. Mikhailov writes: “The domination of bureaucracy that serves some individual interests in the educational sphere and in culture, fixes standard means and methods (the didactics of education in particular) of interpretation of present, continuously aging knowledge and skills as its main component. It extinguishes individual creative motivation of all the participants of educational process, thereby transforming the culture of education into the standard reproductive structure” [9].

Here we should turn to K. Marks’s characteristic of voluntary, “spiritualistic” character of bureaucracy that “wants to create everything, i.e. … it raises the volition to causa prima (source – ed.), because its existence finds its expression only in activity, the content of which bureaucracy gets from outside; consequently only through its content and its restrictions bureaucracy can prove its existence. For the bureaucrat the world is just the object of his activity” [7, p. 273]. – “Artistic activity” of education officials, immoderately zealous so to say innovative, bureaucrats from education is just what Marks once described. But if for the teacher his students are just the objects of pedagogical cooperation (object, material for study) and if the teacher’s activity is the form of external formatting of this “content” (he does not cooperate, co-think, co-learns with his students who are not enlightened and there won’t be any mutual serious learning), then what is the definition of such a teacher?... What do they turn him into by having destroyed the educational system? Of course talented, clever teachers who are devotedly in love with their students, who can make education a common goal, treat everything differently, in a true, as a matter of fact manner (which is not foreign to Goodness and Beauty).

A few more words about subjectivity concerning educational process. In the space of predomination of rational forms of activity any subjectivity comes in the form of object, thing and, as Hegel thinks, “the thing is something abstract and outer and I am something abstract and outer by myself” [3, p. 329]. And the student really feels as something abstract and foreign to such process, as a kind of statistical unit, and no declarations concerning the "individual approach" will help as well as no declarations can save education. That’s why it is not interesting for children to learn in such environment and by such scheme. Why so? Why is the real student’s interest on the other side of educational process and pretty often on the other side of good and bad, on the other side of content-rich, true artistic forms?

The pedagogics, castrated by a ruthless judgment, cannot generate anything alive. The birth, as development and as the continuation of the development of the culture into alive subjectivity of student, is not subject to homebrew logic of judgment; this is a completely dialectic process. Hegel in his “Phenomenology of spirit” states that the essence of dialectic movement “in oneself is the subject from the beginning to the end” [4, p.36]. In other words if we consider this thought in the philosophic and pedagogic context then the education (learning and training) if it wishes to be a development (self-establishing) process of every participant of pedagogical communication (including the teacher) should be organized as a dialectic process, it must be subjective “from the beginning till the end” at any important point of its existence. It means that not the material for learning but the culture is subjective in its nature since there is no human outside the culture and the man is self-defined in culture and with culture. If it is true apodictically then organize, create the pedagogical communication in such way! The spiritual potential of culture (and culture according to N.A.Berdyayev is a culture of spirit) is induced, activated and energetically comes to meet us (depending on our readiness to this meeting which, according to M.Buber, is the true being of a human) only when it is understood as the “subject” and not an indifferent object, material. Yes, culture is a material for developing all human abilities, subjective characteristics and features, but human qualities in a human are not “built” in an outer-object manner; it is rather destroyed this way. But are the pedagogical practitioners really worried about the development of human characteristics in a human? Everything we have learned to do is to place students (and teachers) under control for the sake of some external goal and "put on air"… For the culture to stand as the real “construction material” of the spirituality – the spiritual world of every student, we must decisively deny the construction - engineering character of modern “pedagogical thinking” and consider culture not just the “material” but the “foster-mother” of all souls including that of the teacher. Such radical turn is possible with the establishment of domination of subject-subject relationships in pedagogical process and especially when it comes to the participants of pedagogical communication and their attitude towards the content of education. The content of education must be considered in such a way that its subjective nature should be manifested obviously and continually. This is the “third subject” of educational process, not an empirical but transcendent subject that is invisible on the surface but the absence of which sooner rather than later will transform the educational process and training into the chain of boring procedures from which we’d like to escape as from plague (let’s recall the characteristics of alienated work given by Marks). By the way, it is the “third subject” that has a true power to educate. And the main task of a clever pedagogue is to make everything: to organize the process of education in such a way that to give word, space and time to this – pretty strange – subject so that it was not “my will” (the teacher’s) but “your will”, the will of the “third subject” as the deep content-richness of culture.

And the secret is that this transcendent subject cannot deprive or restrict others of subjectivity; moreover it saves, preserves and revives the subjectivity of others. My signature example: the symphony concert in philharmonic hall where the true subject of all the actions is the produced and heard music (not the conductor or a musical band), which doesn’t transform us into simple “objects” of some esthetic influence but affects the depth of our human sense and penetrates into our souls and enlivens its transcendent depth. The same happens to us in the Tretyakov Gallery: when the guide professionally tells us about the artist, his manner, the theme of the picture etc. – all this is interesting and even informative but in front of us is not the picture as the creation of artistic spirit but just the object of studying. We need an integration of our subjectivity with the subjectivity of the artistic image and then everything becomes alive, animated and spiritual. The pictures of great artists talk to us only if we want to hear them[3]. Thus, subject-subject relationships evolve simultaneously in two dimensions: first of all, as absolutely and completely individual communication of the participants of educational process that involves the “third” subject; second, this “third” subject involves all the participants of pedagogical communication into oneself, into its essence, into its subjectivity.

The powerful field, the energetics of such communication transforms any “material” integrated into it into culture, into “foster-mother”. And then I, like the pedagogue, rescuing the spirit from the chains of object and at the same time rescue myself from “pedagogism”: the eternal indissoluble sludge of educational self - righteousness and false pedagogics in such situation in fact dissolves and disappears.

I cease to be an educator, sculptor, advisor and pass this hard mission to the subject in eidos of culture; and the high culture is much more clever than me. Then the culture for those involved in communication (among themselves and with the culture), for those interested in joint communication, becomes the window to another dimension of the world the organ of comprehension of contents on the other side of the present, as G.S. Batishchev said, “the object of desobjectivation”.

And in this sense the “third subject” is transcendent, it transcends the borders of our subjectivity. M.K. Mamardashvili writes about it: “The Sistine Madonna of Rafael[4] is not a culture, it is the creation of art. But it is also a cultural object to the extent to which our relationships produce or give rise to human abilities that were not present before the contact with this picture. These are the abilities of apparition, understanding, etc.: apparition and understanding of something in the world and in oneself, and not in this image” [6, p. 345].

It appears that in non-aloof educational process there are three subjects and everything is subjective, as Hegel says, “from the beginning to the end”. Are there no objects in this process? – As many as you want: these are organizational forms, structural moments, object-subject conditions etc. that provide a standard flow of the process. While in abnormal, aloof process everything is vice versa: living people are sacrificed to some abstract structures (educational plans, programs, randomly assumed concepts, “social order” etc.) that attend them. K. Marks called such situations the domination of the dead (past) work over the alive work that corresponds to the real movement and self-expansion of capital.

Awakening, activation and expansion of the content of the “third subject” as the form of the true culture allow finding harmonic conflict resolution between training and education that is insoluble under conditions of modern traditional pedagogical practices and there are no known ways of their adequate comprehension in the so called “theoretical” pedagogics that joins these elements of educational process. Of course, if we treat education as the acquirement of some doses of all possible kinds of information and understand upbringing as “inoculation” of some positive “values” then the situation is insoluble.

Famous Moscow scientist Yuriy Afanasyev ones said: “we teach math to our children while it is correct to teach our children with maths”. Why don’t we continue: teach with history, with literature, with geography, with biology… Finally all this is synthesized into one important thing: teach to be a human. And not just “teach” but involve children in the situation of learning when they cannot but study. Isn’t it an upbringing that is simultaneously a learning that deepens “transcendent subject” of every alive empiric human subjectivity?

I foresee the objections: but the teachers must put or at least formulate the “educational purposes” in their lecture notes. - I do apologize but this is just pedagogical lust, verbiage or self-righteousness. The thing is that we cannot put “educational purposes”. Education (as nourishing the soul with the spirit) is something transcendent, it does not obey logic of practicability but the logic of “whole importance”.

It is difficult to refrain from giving a long citation by M. Heidegger which, to my mind, places absolutely correct accents: “Wait, I’ll teach you what is called obedience – shouts a mother to her son who does not want to go home. Does the mother promise to give her son the definition of obedience? No. But maybe she will teach him a lesson? Still no, if she is a good mother. It is more likely that she will teach him to obey. Or better on the contrary: she will lead her son to obedience. And the more seldom she scolds her son, the more successful she will be. It will be a lot easier if she does it indirectly. And he will not just unwillingly agree but he won’t be able to deny the desire to obey. Why not? Because he has learnt to hear what makes him obedient by understanding where he belongs” [11, p.69]. – Let’s pay attention: M.Heidegger does not like the word “inculcate” which is so common for our pedagogical thought (= thoughtlessness). He corrects himself and says – “better on the contrary”: not to inculcate but to lead her son to obedience and to lead in such a way that it belonged to his being.

Let’s once again consider the thoughts of Martin Heidegger: “To learn means to coordinate our deeds and actions with the things that are brought by every meeting with what important for us” [11, p.39]. So, it is about the meeting with important things. “What is learning? The man learns in so far as he coordinates his deeds and actions with the things that are truly of importance to him [11, p.35]. – Right this “turning” towards us and “true importnace” is the activation of the “third subject”, activation of the culture subjectivity. Then and only then there will be real learning, true education.


1. Batischev G. S. Vvedenie v dialektiku tvorchestva [Introduction into Dialectics of Creativity] – SPb. : RKhGI , 1997. – (Filosofy Rossii XX veka). – p. 112–113.

3. Berdyayev N. A. Ya i mir obektov: Opyt filosofii odinochestva i obscheniya [Me and the Object World: The Experience of Philosophy and Communication] – М. : AST, 2007 . – p. 230–317.

4. Hegel G.V.F. Entsiklopediya filosofskikh nauk [Encyclopedia of Philosophy] [translation from German by B. Stolpner]. – M.: Mysl, 1974. – (Akad. Nauk SSSR, Institut filosofii. Filosofskoye nasledie). – V. 1 . Nauka logiki. – 452 p.

5. Hegel G. V. F., Fenomenologiya dukha [Phenomenology of a Spirit] [translation from German by G. G. Shpet]. – М.: Sotsekgiz, 1959. – V. IV). – 440 p.

6. Lobastov G. V. Bytie i myshlenie: k nachalam dialekticheskoy logiki [Being and Thinking: to the Offset of Dialectical Logic] – М.: Rossyskaya politicheskaya entsiklopediya ( ROSPEN ), 2008. – p. 84–119.

7. Mamardashvity M. K. Nauka i kultura. Kak ya ponimayu filosofiyu [Science and Culture. The Way I understand Philosophy] – М.: Progress, 1990.

8. Marks K. K kritike gegelevskoy filosofii prava [On Criticizing Hegelian Philosophy of Law]: second edition. V. 1. – P. 207 –342.

9. Mikhailov F. T. Filosofiya obrazovaniya: ee vozmozhnosti i perspektivy [Philospphy of Education: Its Possibilities and Perspectives]/ F. T. Mikhaylov // Izbrannoe [Selected Works] – М.: Indrik, 2001. – p. 452–512 .

10. Mikhailov F. T. Predmetnost kultury obrazovaniya (tezisy) [Subjectivity of Education Culture] – Retrieved from: http:// test. eurekanet. ru/ ewww 2007 /info/ 959. html.

11. Frank S.L. Nepostizhimoe. Ontologicheskoy vvedenie v filosofiyu religii [Inconceivable. Ontological Introduction into Philosophy of Religion] – М.: Pravda, 1990. – (Appendix to journal "Voprosy filosofii " [Issues of philosophy]). – p. 183–559.

12. Heidegger M. Chto zovetsya myshleniem [What is Called Thinking], [Translation from German by E. Sagetdinov]. – М.: Akademichesky Proekt, 2007. – 351 p.

[1] Then the pedagogue that provides adapted knowledge is an “adapter”, a “mixer”, a “transformer” (because he buzzes loudly and boringly), a “translater”, rather a “retranslater” but not a pedagogue that leads the child into the world of knowledge rather into the world of human, that comes into this fantastic, magic and inviting world together with children, into the world where we can meet Truth, Goodness, Beauty and finally with oneself that is somehow true…

[2] ‘The logic of reasoning dominating in the process of defining a logical connection between the elements of some totality that was accepted by default as the unity of variety of the sides of the subject studied’ (note by F.T. Mihailov).

[3] I remembered my son saying this in the Tretyakov Gallery: “When you stand in front of Shishkin’s picture and smell the pinewood”.

[4] Certainly, this is not the Tretyakov Gallery but the Dresden gallery (Zwinger).

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №6 - 2014

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