Knowing authentic learning experiences

Evidence is one truth condition. There are at least three others. These give us a way of knowing authentic learning experiences and provide indicators of engagement, participation and outcomes. They are, also unsurprisingly, aligned with conceptions of authority and power.

Badiou (2014) recognises four truth conditions: four ways that truths or a truth may be known or experienced: 1) desire, 2) maths, 3) poetry and 4) politics. These may be re-expressed as: love, science, art and action. I have observed, drawing on Scheffler (1965) and more recent work on reliablism (Smith 2016, Riedel 2009), that a contemporary epistemology might also recognise four conditions for truth: 1) rational, 2) empirical, 3) poetic and 4) pragmatic. I suggest these systems are perhaps unsurprisingly also closely aligned around conceptions of authenticity – true to (Kreber et al. 2007) – and engagement in learning and teaching.

Each of these conditions has different orientations to authority, knowing, theory and time. As teachers, I suggest this is our “toolbox”, and may be recognisable in collections of intended learning outcomes and evaluation (marking) criteria (rubrics), which may be set and aligned.

authority condition knowing logic theory time
desire love, force, power rational deductive predictive future
science maths, physics empirical inductive explanatory past
subjective imagination art, faith poetic affective falsifiable eternity
political action, business, direction pragmatic effective generative now

Badiou suggests that it is not necessary for more than one condition to be active for a truth to be known, but that when a truth is known, other conditions, too are likely to be stimulated.


Kreber, C., Klampfleitner, M., McCune, V., Bayne, S., & Knottenbelt, M. (2007). What do you mean by “authentic”? A comparative review of the literature on conceptions of authenticity in teaching. Adult Education Quarterly, 58(1), 22–43.

Riedel, E. (2009). Fundamentalism and the Quest for the Grail: The Parzival Myth as a Postmodern Redemption Story. Psychological Perspectives, 52(4), 456–481.

Scheffler, I. (1965). Conditions of Knowledge: an Introduction to Epistemology and Education (Phoenix Edition). Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Smith, R. (2016). The Virtues of Unknowing. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 50(2), 272–284.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.