Power is an end in itself

Education - a means or an end in itself?

Education - a means or an end in itself?

Seminar on philosophy and literature

It is the "purpose of man" to "educate" writes Wilhelm von Humboldt. His activities are therefore never "means" of mere training, but lively self-development. The educational ideal of an entire epoch is expressed in such emphatic words. At the same time, however, we are talking about education in a completely different sense than it is today: If everyone is talking about "educational reforms", "educational opportunities" and "educational deficits", education here mostly means the imparting of useful skills that are necessary for the exercise of a profession or for social purposes Suitable ascent. But what exactly does "education" mean? And what is it for? Does it deepen our knowledge of the world and of ourselves? Does she make us better people? Does it enable us to be autonomous? Or does it help us to have a happy life?

Today's educational institutions concentrate primarily on training, i.e. on imparting knowledge and skills that are intended to prepare people for professional life. On the other hand, in Plato's criticism of the sophists, a concept of education emerges that distinguishes itself from purposeful upbringing, and instead elevates the free development of intellectual abilities to an end in itself: According to Plato, the teacher's task is not to bring knowledge to the pupil, Instead, like a midwife, it only serves to bring out what the midwife already carries. With such a motif, education is viewed philosophically for enlightenment.
In Germany, especially between 1770 and 1830, i.e. during the Enlightenment, Classical and Romantic eras, a similar concept of education was developed: Here, education is not only the awakening of the mind, but also the formation of taste and the heart. Unlike education, it is a self-determined and self-reflective activity, i.e. essentially self-education. The concept of education thus moves closer to the concept of art: like an artist his statue, every person should shape himself, because he not only has the possibility of education, he is also dependent on it: “Man is what he should be, only through education «(GWF Hegel).

This classic concept of education is therefore linked in several ways with the arts, especially literature. Because, starting from the Enlightenment, education itself becomes a central literary motif, as Goethe's “Wilhelm Meister” exemplifies. Novels in particular (and other narrative art genres) can make the development process of a character comprehensible; through identification and empathy, the reader or viewer takes part in the educational process himself. The experience of art thus plays a prominent role in human self-development. As Schiller emphasizes in his "Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man", art alone promotes all aspects of man, the sensual as well as the spiritual, which it connects to a harmonious unity.

The seminar aims to illuminate the concept of education from two perspectives by reading classical and contemporary texts: On the one hand, the ambiguity of the concept of education between an end in itself and a mere means is to be negotiated from a philosophical perspective; on the other hand, education is to be examined as a literary motif. The dialogue between classic positions and modern demands on education should also give the participants the tools to critically reflect on their own educational path and the educational system that characterizes this path in the transition from school to study and to shape them self-determined on this basis can. The seminar is aimed on the one hand at lovers of literature, aesthetics and philosophical pedagogy, but also on all those who want to deal with the question of what it means to be educated.

The seminar was led by the philosopher, art historian and literary scholar Simon Gabriel Neuffer and the philosopher and literary scholar Tatjana Noemi Tömmel. The question of what education is for both of them is a matter close to their hearts, not only in theoretical but also in practical terms.