Welcoming Opposition: Havruta Learning and Montaigne’s The Art of Discussion

Feb 6, 2015

Source: Journal of Moral Education


Michel de Montaigne’s L’art de Conférer offers a moral groundwork for students’ learning of havruta, a traditional Jewish form of studying in pairs, based on collaborative critical text-based learning, that can be applied to students everywhere. The article attends to the nature of havruta learning and to cultural norms that make it difficult for students to become open to their partners’ opposing ideas. Students’ critical discussion of Montaigne’s essay is then conceptualized as a pedagogical tool for cultivating the welcoming of opposing viewpoints and opening their own ideas to critical scrutiny in text- and discussion-based learning.


I draw on Wolfgang Iser’s theory of reading as bringing the reader into deeper self-consciousness and calling into question implicit beliefs about the role of opposing ideas. The article provides an analysis of Montaigne’s ideas and includes study questions to help students adopt a more constructive attitude toward opposing views and expand their understanding of the role of the confrontation of ideas in learning discussions.

Updated: Feb. 19, 2015