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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Un Petit Mort: The Pain of Learning

Peter Murphy.

"Learning is not child's play; we cannot learn without pain"

This paper explores the idea that the pain that Aristotle speaks of here is the pain of grief, of loss - loss of self - an unrealised self that is lost to us forever whenever we learn. There is significance in the fact that 'to learn' has no antonym. We cannot unlearn. To learn means to close off, to shut down; there is a loss of potential and possibility. Learning involves 'un petit mort'.

While superficially this might be considered depressing, this paper celebrates the idea that to embrace this 'little death' is ultimately an act of liberation for the learner; an act of liberation and freedom that enables learning of a much deeper, more profound nature to take place.


Peter Murphy  (Australia)
Dept Access & Prep Studies
RMIT University

Peter Murphy teaches at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. "Peter Murphy teaches EAP at RMIT University in Melbourne. He also teaches in the areas of cross-cultural communication, professional communication and public speaking."

  • Pain
  • Learning

(30 min Conference Paper, English)