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In Defence of the Human in Education


Isolde Woolley

The title incorporates the assumption that the ‘human’ in education is being threatened by certain processes. The guiding questions are: What are these processes and what constitutes the ‘human’ in education? Which activities characteristically performed by human beings are so central that they seem definitive of a life that is truly human and which changes or transitions in educational thinking are compatible with the continued existence of a being as a member of human kind and which are not? It is argued that the present debate on education is still dominated by the language of performance and global economic comparison. Educational practice must and will have to help the individual through a confluence of insights in his/her journey through life to form independent judgement.


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2 On Method


Hermeneutics, whose multidisciplinary character goes back to the 17th century, has long been associated with the interpretation of biblical, philosophical, judicial or literary texts. Friedrich Daniel Schleiermacher added the subjective conditions of understanding and the object-subject-relationship to the her- meneutic process and called hermeneutics ‘Kunstlehre des Verstehens’ (cf. Bernhard Dieckmann/Christoph Wulf, in: Hierdeis/Hug 1996, 590). Text, the producer of text, context and the will to understand by the subject are pre- conditional to the art of understanding. For Wilhelm Dilthey understanding is the key concept in the ‘Geisteswissenschaften’, what would be referred to as the ‘Arts’, ‘Humanities’ or ‘Human Sciences’ in English. I see the synonymous use of the ‘Arts’ and ‘Humanities’ in English resting in their common concern for essence. This holistic world view is anthropologically interesting and stands in contrast to that of some streams of the natural sciences, which can only ever be a partial one. For Betti understanding means recognizing and post-constructing meaning: ‘Hier ist also das Verstehen ein Wiedererkennen und Nachkonstruieren des Sinnes, mithin des durch die Formen seiner Objektivation erkennbaren Geistes, der zum denkenden Geist spricht als einem, der sich ihm im gemeinsamen Menschtum verwandt fühlt’ (Betti 1962, 12). The hermeneutic method I wish to adopt is triggered by the question of what it means to be human. Betti calls it ‘die Frage nach dem menschlichen als dem eigentlichen Sein’ (Betti 1962, 22). A question of this kind is philosophical in nature and is led by my own preliminary understanding of being human....

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