Le Perfectionnisme (philosophique)
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Emerson and Bildung : Self-Cultivation, Social Critique, Democracy

Dr Viktor Johansson

samedi 15 mars 2014, par JohnDoe

The notion of Bildung has long been a central, if often contested point of reference in discussions about education – not only in the German context. The manifold characteristics ascribed to the idea can make it difficult to pinpoint its meaning, and it has been suggested to abandon the idea because of the impossibility to operationalise it for scientific purposes in education sciences and pedagogy (e.g. Lenzen 1997). In spite of attempts like these, the notion of Bildung remains influential, and shapes not only the disciplinary discourse, but also public debates in the media and in politics. It is notoriously hard to translate Bildung into other languages. For example, even if the English term “liberal education” might come close to rendering some of the typical associations, especially in its non-instrumentalist focus, it is not able to capture other important dimensions of the notion’s meaning, which is why many non-German authors still decide to maintain the notion in the original form (e.g. McDowell 1994 ; Nordenbo/ Lovlie 2003). With regard to Emerson’s educational thought, I believe there is also good reason to try to understand him through a lens which connects him to the Bildung tradition, without losing sight, however, of his specifically American inflections of it.

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