The second step of our thoughts begins on the assumption that Western philosophy constantly revolves around the question of the relationship between man, the world, and the absolute. We also realize that an answer to this question not only includes a particular view of the world, but must also contain a clear judgment about the place of man in or with regard to the world. It should be no surprise, then, if we identify three great answers to this central question of Western thought which will separate the three great Western world-views—the ancient, the Christian, and the modern-scientific—by distinguishing which of the three human activities they each place as the highest. Obviously at this point, we cannot go into great detail about the three world-views (particularly for reasons of balance); indeed we could not properly portray the necessary details of one of them. Therefore, we must be content to characterize them with a few broad strokes and—corresponding to the context of our purposes—to concentrate our attention on the different priorities they set with regard to human activities.

As already shown in the last chapter, the highest rung on the ladder of human activities for what we commonly call the “ancient world-view,” was granted to the contemplative gaze. In addition to those already named for this high appraisal of the theoretical type of life, further reasons will be pointed out and placed in an explanatory context. To the Greeks, the thought of a Creator God was entirely foreign, and, for them, the question of both the coming-into-being as well as that of an alteration of the cosmos remained inconceivable. Their thought, as we have seen, was directed in amazement at the eternal, unchangeable cosmos and at the working order and the lawfulness within it. As Werner Jaeger has classically phrased it, the Greeks searched everywhere for that “law,” which operates in the things themselves, and sought to direct the life and thought of man according to it.1 This fundamental attitude of the ancient Greek took on tangible form in the old Attic tragedy. Based on myth, it tried to praise and proclaim the power of an eternal cosmic law, a law which is embodied in dike (the idolization of justice) and which man must follow unconditionally.2 The educational significance of the Greek tragedy was therefore primary because over and over again it tried to point out this law to man in order to convince him of the necessity of living according to it.

The man of Greek antiquity did not consider the world from a perspective outside of the world; he had no concept (yet) of such a point of transcendence. Because of this, while his religious faith contained the notion of a highest “Father of the gods and man,” this notion belonged to the world and in the world, just as the starry heavens or as the other gods (who, as Aristotle expressed, were nothing more than “unchanging humans”). They were perhaps the ones in power, but they were certainly not morally superior; on the contrary, mythology shows just how much the gods could surpass man in cunningness and deceitfulness, in maliciousness and covetousness.

Like man, the gods love and hate, enjoy and suffer, their action is often very capricious, so that they cannot be relied upon. Therefore, the gods are not the ‘completely other’ and do not live beyond the world. Even their wills are limited by the eternal world law.3

It may well have been this humanness of the gods and the controlling power of fate that also reigned over the gods, which led both Friedrich Nietzsche as well as Jacob Burckhardt to reject inner regret and grief, and to indulge themselves in the beauty of the Greek idol and the Greek view.

Aptly and concisely, Romano Guardini has described the religion and the world-view of ancient man:

He knows the power of fate which commands all, even the highest gods, and of a prevailing justice and rational order which regulates and directs everything that happens. This all powerful, however, does not stand apart from the world, but constitutes its final order.4

Where Antigone refers to the principles of her actions, Sophocles unmistakably described them as an unshakable point of reference: the unalterable, unwritten laws of the heavens, which were not born today nor yesterday; they never die and no one knows their origin. In “Oedipus the King,” the Poet of the chorus, in order to reveal this basic religious conviction with powerful words and in solemn declaration stated:

May I never falter in the aspiration to dedicate myself to reverent purity in word and deed, fulfill the law, which coincides forever in the consecrated regions of ether. It is the native daughter of the heavens, not of man’s mortal powers. It never forgets, it never sleeps.5

Man himself is torn by inner conflict and contradictions; like the gods, he is subject to Nemesis, the compulsion of fate. He is not more than “a breath and a shadow,”6 a plaything of his tragic fortune, for not only “dike,” but also “tyche,” pure accident, rules over him. For just as soon as man, in arrogant over-estimation of his own abilities, believed he could raise himself above the all-prevailing law or even be allowed to choose chance to be his divine ruler, he would meet the inescapable vengeance of the gods or he would experience his own nothingness or find himself plunged from the presumed highest height of his existence to the deepest misery—King Oedipus himself serves as a most unsettling example of this. For just like the gods who could not (re)arrange the cosmos according to their whims, so also man dared not presume to be the forger of his own happiness or master of his own fate.

In order to portray the ancient view of the world even more vividly, and also to be more fully able to assess the radical shift which Christianity brought to this world-view, another aspect should be examined. In the ancient view, as it has been illustrated, for example, by Aristotle in his writing De coelo or as Ptolemy has richly sketched it, the sphere shape lay at the basis. The earth stood in the middle of a well-defined creation: the world sphere. This view placed the fixed starry heavens in an outer ring or shell to which the various rings of the spheres of the planets were considered to be inferior. Within this picture of the world, the decisive and enduring concept was that the heavens which enclosed the earth were divine; in his Genesis, Sextus Empiricus expressed this concept: the same way the sun is moved in the day, the well-ordered army of stars is moved at night; from this they should have concluded that the divine must have been the author of this well-ordered movement.7

In contrast to the views of primitive religions, where the residence of the gods was usually distinguished through its geographically elevated location (e.g., a mountain),8 here, the heavens themselves were divine and thereby furnished the motive for studying astronomy as a higher order which could be observed in heavenly bodies. Thus it was Ptolemy, then, who gave justification to the idea that we must not form our judgment according to earthly events, but rather according to the peculiar nature taking place in the heavens and according to the unalterable course of the celestial movements.

Antiquity saw the beginnings of an atomistic explanation of the cosmos. This position saw the world as a purely mechanical sequence of events and as the play of soullessly moved atoms—Democrites and Lucretius were strong advocates of this position. But in spite of these beginnings, for centuries the aristotelian-ptolemaic world-view remained dominant. This has been of highest significance in a fundamental respect. In his world-view, Aristotle distinguished between two types of movement: the circular movement of heavenly bodies and the linear movement of earthly events. While linear movement, with its forwards and backwards, was always crossing from one opposite to another and thereby causing changes, the circular movement knew no forward nor backward and so moved; it underwent no “changes” whatsoever. The circular moving world of heavenly bodies was therefore unchangeable; it showed neither becoming nor passing away; in it was no growth nor decay; it was not stained by all our suffering nor disturbed by all our hardships.

As we know, this position endured until 1572, when Tycho Brahe proved the changeability of the heavens; but as he discovered the appearance of a new star, at first he did not believe his own eyes. Galileo Galilei, with the help of the telescope, observed sun spots, recorded the phases of Venus, identified the nine moons of Jupiter and by doing this demonstrated ad oculus not only that something new occurred, but that changes actually took place in well-known heavenly bodies. Because of this, his scholastic opponents typically objected to him: certainly, pious fear and religious reverence for the divine world order should keep one far away from such a disrespectful inquiry of the heavenly vaults. In the face of this well-ordered cosmos, the only appropriate behavior of the human creature would be amazed contemplation and detached gazing.

In this process, however, the scholastic objection clothed itself only outwardly with the attitude of Greek religion. The contemplative reflection of the world during the Middle Ages was based on totally different grounds than the sacred theoria of the Greeks, and most importantly within the Christian world-view, an entirely different order of values was set than was found in Greek antiquity.

Today, because we often somewhat simplistically characterize ancient Greece as the roots of European-Western culture, we could easily overlook what radical and revolutionary changes a Christian world-view brought with it. These changes are shown especially in how Christian thought removed the ancient primacy of theoretical gazing and shifted doing to the highest rung of human activities.

In order to understand how doing was so basic to Christianity, we can portray the Christian world-view with only a few broad strokes. To do so, we must first refer to their new concept of God and to their view of the world as a creation of God. The God of Christianity was a personal Creator who created the heavens and the earth. Adopted from Judaism, this doctrine about the creation of the world by God was irrefutably held in the New Testament, and how radical it was could scarcely have been expressed more provocatively than by the (Greek) Apostle Paul in his famous address on Mars Hill (Areopagus).

Claude Tresmontant reminds us of a point that should be made clear: “The visible world was created. This sentence, though common to us, meant a complete revolution as seen from the basis of Greek metaphysics: and it means this still for modern philosophies based upon the principles of the ancient metaphysics.”9 The absolutely personal God of Christianity is not bound to the world; he does not belong to it, but he is enthroned entirely independent of it. He is sovereign “over” this world which he, without any necessity, had created in free omnipotence and from his own unfathomable will out of nothing. Christianity thereby recognized a twofold revelation made by this God: first, one which was proclaimed indirectly through the great order and structure of his creation and, second, one of the directly spoken and recorded word of God. The Christian was to trust this twofold self-revelation of God on faith and to base his own life on it.

In order to gain an idea of the basis of Christianity, it would be sufficient to point out that one of this faith must have an active faith (i.e., a faith, in which the believer believes based on his own resolution10—in the Middle Ages, philosophy called this fides, qua creditur). This concept holds that man forms his own life through personal decision. But this fundamentally “active” characteristic of man is strengthened many times over by the conviction that, according to the Bible, God distinguished man in a completely unique manner from the rest of creation by creating him in his own image. Because by his own essence, God is seen as the Creator, the Old Testament expression that he created man in his image, meant that he called man to be a creator as well, at least to be a co-creator with him. For the Old Testament exegeses states that:

Man is characterized as the representative and agent of God in this world. Through him, God will appear and exercise his governing power. Therefore, through God’s word, the dominion over everything created and over the entire earth is expressly conferred to man.11

This distinction of man over the rest of creation is given vivid form in the scene of Genesis oft portrayed throughout the course of history, where the various animals were presented to Adam who then assigned them their names.12 By making the creation intellectually concrete, the naming process expresses in a certain way the assignment of man to “create” and order the animal world through his direct participation. This picture also revealed, what we will later have to consider in detail, that the Christian view of the creation is not to be restricted to one single creative act of God at the beginning of the world. Rather, it is seen much more as a continuous creation—a creatio continua—which is throughout history and which occurs anew in each moment. Claude Tresmontant has expressed this thought—admittedly dressed in Bergson’s categories of thought—with particular emphasis. The creation is perpetually at work, it is in us and around us. We are not yet at the seventh day of creation: “The Genesis is constantly underway.”13 Building on the Thomist explanation of the mystery of creation, Alfons Auer has clearly expressed this basic theological conviction of Christianity:

Mere causal relationships exhaust themselves, when something is caused by something else. By contrast, however, in the relationship of the creation, being is shared with someone else, and in the process, the self becomes real. Of course, the rational creature, in a particular way, is able to participate in the divine guidance of the world, because, to a certain degree, he can recognize the rationality of the creative being. Thus man can join in with that which God does; based on his understanding of the divine plans, he can direct things according to the purpose of their essence, and bring upon them the order decreed by God. The divine honor of man consists therein, that he was called to be a coworker with the creator, an implementor of divine providence.14

Because the Christian concept of God is thoroughly personal, the idea that man was created in the image of God also means that man is a person, which in turn, means at least two things. First, man as a finite person can enter into a dialogue with the infinite person (God)—Augustine dealt with this thought in depth in attempting to form the basis of a peculiarly Christian philosophy15—but he can seek this dialogue as an autonomous person, accepting or rejecting it. Second, as a person, man has the autonomous control in forming his own life: he decides whether he will live this life according to the revealed order of creation or whether he will rebel against it. Where ancient man was entangled with his fate, and was seen as a plaything of the gods—especially between the conflicting dike (the all prevailing cosmic law of justice) and tyche (chance)—the Christian person is called specifically to take the history of his life into his own hands and to write it himself. Where ancient man in his rebelliousness could “violate” the law, the Christian person in his free choice was able to “sin” against the order of the divine Creator. Where in former times human guilt consisted of objectively offending the law, which must be recompensed through the retaliating intervention of the gods, in the latter, it became a subjective crime and a personal transgression for which man himself carried the responsibility and for which he alone would have to give account. However else man may have been distinguished, his greatness and that which allowed him to tower above the rest of creation lay in this capacity for free decision.

Of course, when we previously applied the adjective “autonomous” to characterize the human person, it must not be misunderstood. Autonomy of the human person does not mean lawlessness, that man could arbitrarily frolic in his own subjectivity without any limitations. That would mean little more than an anarchistic individualism. According to the biblical position, man does not receive and recognize his true essence in that which he seeks for himself or by striving only to “fulfill” himself in a narcissistic manner. He finds his true essence when he loses himself, that is, when he entrusts himself to another and submits himself to one greater than he: “God is a partner with his humanity whom first he frees to true ‘humanness.’”16

This apparent paradox in the Christian view of human identity,17 whereby whoever would selfishly try to protect his (own) existence will, in the authentic sense, lose it, is expressed concisely in a verse from the Gospel of Matthew: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”18 Rudolf Schnackenburg explains this verse—laying out both the theological concept that man is in the image of God as well as the position that, through dialogue, man is in partnership with God:

In the Bible, man is placed before God, speaks with him as the great, absolute, and transcendent, and yet who is devoted to him and discloses himself to him in the familiar (‘Du’). In this way, his true self is found with all the heights and depths of his humanity.19

Along with the sovereign independence of man, which places his life in his own hands according to his capacity to create and which allows him to form it autonomously, the Bible states that the distinct relationship between God and man’s action is—as is expressed very clearly in many verses—a wandering before God, a continuous striving toward perfection20 under the demands of moral responsibility. Dilthey has appropriately characterized this principle of personality which came into the world through Christianity as “a sphere lying beyond society, in which alone the individual faces the Godhead as personality.”21

We must clarify this concept somewhat more in order to assess fully the extent to which action (doing) was given primacy in Christianity and to be able to understand completely the reasons for it. In the process, there are two particular aspects of the new understanding of the world and of human understanding, toward which we should direct our attention: first, a different concept of time and history; second, the commandment to love as the highest guiding principle for Christian action. The Christian conception of the world as the creation of God included the idea that God created time simultaneously with the world; for it would have been entirely inconceivable that something which was temporal, in motion and changing, existed before this creation out of nothing, except the timeless Creator himself. The creation story necessarily implied a temporal world which had a beginning.22 Augustine, who may well have been the first to formulate a Christian conception of history and who has for centuries decisively influenced Western thought by his writings about the City of God, brightly unfolded this thought: “One distinguishes eternity and time rightly by this, that time does not exist without continuous change and variability, while in eternity there is no change.” Referring to the Biblical creation story, after Augustine had ruled out the possibility that God could have created something else before the world, he argued further:

Therefore, without doubt, the world was made, not in time, but simultaneously with time. For that which is made in time is made both after and before some time—after that which is past, before that which is future. But none could then be past, for there was no creature by whose movements its duration could be measured. But simultaneously with time the world was made, if in the world’s creation, change and motion were created, as seems evident from the order of the first six or seven days .... What kind of days these were it is extremely difficult, or perhaps impossible for us to conceive, and how much more to say!23

No matter how this narration of the days of creation may be laid out—as, for example, in Bonaventura’s exposition on the six days of labor—the point was always to establish an interpretation of history in time periods which contradicted the cyclical conception of antiquity: the entire history of the world began with the creation, culminated when the Son of God became man in the “fullness of time,” which was made necessary because of the fall of Adam, and history unceasingly moved toward the collision with the destruction of the world and the last judgment as its eschaton. From this eschatological perspective, decades and centuries were found wanting—for Augustine, the historical succession of kingdoms was little more than the working out of an “endless variety of silly amusements.” What counted was the actuality of the created being and of change; what jumped out was the dynamic ambiguity of history: in the “fullness of time” it was already fulfilled, but it was yet to be brought to its completion. And these dynamics applied also to each individual human life: it was not conception and birth, not the individuality, not one’s position in the change of the generations that was significant; what was important in the short space of time allocated to human existence, was to gain eternal salvation or to gamble it away and thereby fall to eternal damnation.

To this first ambiguity was added a second, and it is once again Augustine, who, in his City of God, discussed this in all its breadth. Augustine fully realized that the Christian world-view and conception of history could not be cosmologically or theoretically proven, but at the same time, neither could Christian faith theoretically refute Greek cosmology. Ancient theoria, as the contemplative gaze of the visible, was something very different from faith in a creator and the self-involvement of an eschatological view of history. Augustine also expressed it most succinctly: “But that the world is, we see; that God is, we believe.”24 Karl Löwith summarized this classic formulation of the Christian standpoint in a succinct phrase: “Believing cannot be recognized theoretically, it must declare itself practically.”25 In fact, the Christian line of reasoning amounted to a practical and moral declaration and the three cardinal Christian virtues—faith, hope, and charity—could not be derived theoretically or be “proven” in any form, but must be conceived practically.

Faith, according to the Gospel of John, was concerned with the Logos which came into the world and had a critical power. This power was in the authentic sense of the word critical, because it differentiated and divided. By this Word (Logos) and by this Truth, each person was given the choice, whether to believe and follow the revelator, or to persist in disbelief and reject the Messiah.26 By this “either-or” choice, the members of mankind were to distinguish themselves to civitas dei or to civitas terrena, that is, to that life style of “being”—typified by sacrifice, devotion, obedience, and humility—or to that life style of “having”—dominated by selfishness, egotism, ambition, and pride.27 What Augustine argued against the ancient heathen position also applied to the concept of hope: the doctrine of the “Cyclical Recurrence of the Same” was fundamentally hopeless, because past and future were principally equivalent. This hopeless doctrine which paralyzed both faith and love stood in contrast to the Christian promise of the new—of redemption—of an eternal salvation. And this confident hope could not be shaken, even by hard “fact” experience, for it is trusted fundamentally and remains above discredit.28

With fine psychological sensitivity, Karl Löwith has clearly portrayed the characteristic of confident, unconditional hope, which is found in the Christian conception of self and world, by forming it in the picture of a mother:

A mother who has unconditional trust in her son, cannot be in the wrong, even if, in the opinion of other observers, the ‘facts’ of her confidence do not appear to be justified. Much more, it is the son who would be in the wrong, if he betrays the faith of his mother.29

The hope which swells out of the faith in an all—powerful and all-good creator, however, could not be betrayed in this way. And this hope would be the basis which, according to Augustine, would lead us out of the completely intolerable, unbelievable, unbearable, and deeply godless relinquishment into which we must fall if our fate were actually nothing other than the “eternal recurrence of the same” and without prospect of redemption and joy. The idea of the cycle of time enabled us to believe only a false and deceptive salvation:

And thus our expectation of unhappiness is happy, but of happiness unhappy. And therefore, as we here suffer present ills, and hereafter fear ills that are imminent, it were truer to say that we shall always be miserable than that we can some time be happy.30

Contemporary thought does not allow us easily to pursue this Augustinian way of seeking truth and self assurity31 because it is based on the presupposition that only to those, to whom Christian faith is incomprehensible, could truth itself be seen to be a personal God. Thus Augustine’s epistemological imperative, “believe, in order to see,” connected human knowledge in the end to faith. On the other hand, it is important to remember that, in his efforts to show that the way to knowledge through faith was not unreasonable and certainly not in opposition to reason, Augustine presented an observation which seems especially modern. Augustine observed that all philosophizing is based on some unscientific conviction. If, however, this were so, then he could rightly question why, when one is trying to acquire knowledge,32 “vain curiosity” (curiositas), which applies equally to any opinion, should be more reasonable than placing full confidence and faith in that God, who had said about himself that he was the way, the truth, and the life.

Finally, love not only constitutes the actual heart of Christianity, it is also the characteristic which most clearly distinguishes the world of the ancients from that of Christianity. It is not to be said that the elements of charity were not found prior to Christian thought; however, the new aspect the doctrines of Christianity brought was—according to Franco Lombardi’s brilliant formulation:

The element of giving up oneself to God and in the process to give God’s love to others and out of love for him—in other words: to do one’s duty which is first religious and then moral, the duty to love others in God.33

On one hand, this love is the sharpest protest against the ancient preeminence of theory, and on the other hand, it is the most lively testimony for the preeminence of doing, therefore of practice.

Hans Blumenberg, in his interpretation of the so-called third allegory of the cave (that of Arnobius recited at the beginning of the fourth century A.D.—the first being platonic and the second aristotelian), has made clear that what mattered to the author was precisely to push ad absurdum this thesis on which ancient-anthropology was based: that of the natural disposition of man toward theory and toward truth. And as the quintessential confrontation of this third allegory of the cave with the platonic and aristotelian version, Blumenberg in summary emphasized:

The less the ancient concept of man is confirmed, the more clearly the contribution of Christian love becomes for the actualization of man.34

The status formerly given (theoretical) truth, was replaced by faith, hope, and above all, (practical) love. Indeed, this was what was crucial in the new approach: action (doing) based on Christian love for God and neighbor became the highest form of human perfection, the ideal way to human self-actualization.

Paul sang the praises of this love and, especially in the first epistle to the Corinthians, he explained with unbeatable clarity that knowledge only puffs up, whereas love edifies. From the same letter, Paul wrote: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”35 John, the beloved, equates “being in the new light” with love of one’s neighbor: “He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.”36 And Christ himself unmistakably declared the commandment to love one’s neighbor to be most important and stressed it equally with the love of God. With it the law of the Old Testament would not be abolished, but greatly increased or fulfilled by a principle.37 In the discussion with the rich young ruler, recorded by Matthew, this thought was well formulated. Above and beyond the possibility of a mere legalistic compliance to the commandments, Christ required of his partner in the discussion that he must renounce himself and all his possessions and to act according to the principle of the love of God and neighbor. In order to become perfect, according to Schnackenburg’s commentary on this verse, “he must radically act, in this case by separating himself from his wealth and by joining the ministry of Christ.”38 And in this connection, if commandments were spoken of at all, it was not a discussion of imperatives imposed outwardly, but of guidelines which, as from oneself, accompanied love and which flowed naturally out of it: the commandments were to be understood here as nothing less than “articulated love.”39

At this point, we cannot sketch out how the principle of active love within the developing Christian world-view gradually predominated (particularly against the preeminence of meditative contemplation of the neo-platonic, Hellenic belief). However, if we are permitted here to present Augustine as the thinker who has given this picture sharp contours and who has placed it in a solid framework, then in spite of the danger of over-generalization, it could be said, that at least by his time, the high estimation of the theoretical over the practical life had met its downfall. In exactly the same way, the ancient view disappeared (one closely connected to a society which approved of slavery) that all routine necessities performed were beneath the freedom and dignity of a perfect life; with it the neo-platonic assessment of practical doing as a mere prerequisite for something higher was conquered. For Augustine and for the Christian world-view which developed from his design, life was practice (praxis), that is, to perform Christian action was for its own end and not a mere means. And because acts of Christian love also applied to a world which was not the permanent home of man, they must be carried out and taken very seriously as if they were the only thing that really counted.40

To feed the hungry, shelter the weary, clothe the naked, teach the ignorant, correct the errant, lead the arrogant back to modesty, visit the sick, liberate the imprisoned, uplift the despairing, bury the dead—these were the works of Christian compassion and the acid test of Christian action (doing). Were it even an exaggeration to say that these “works” characterized a Christian, it would nevertheless be true that these were the obligations of a Christian, and that in fulfilling these obligations in the world, it would not bother the Christian to get his hands a little dirty. One’s neighbor, to whom this love was to be extended, was not—as in Greece and Rome—only the citizen of the polis or empire; not—as in Judaism—only the fellow member of the chosen people; not only those who were close to me through blood, friendship, suffering, or sympathy, confidant or ally, but was also—or most especially—those alien to me, the unattractive, the depraved, the repulsive, even the hated. Matthew referred to the final judgment; there one day each one will be judged according to his works of love and in particular according to those deeds done to the least of those who could be called brothers. A love which claimed to be a love of God, without proving itself in works toward fellowmen was expressly rejected.41

The parable of the Good Samaritan which is recounted in the Bible is instructive for this outlook; for above and beyond its kerygmatic content, it made clear once again what essentially distinguished Christian action or practical doing (praxis) from poietic making. To love one’s neighbor required one to be prepared to render help to him who is in need and the help rendered is a good work even if the assistance were in vain, because it could not change the affliction. The quality of Christian action was not to be determined by the factual or the effectively produced; it was distinguished instead by the spirit and character of mind from which the action followed. Augustine may well have had this in mind when he formulated the highly misunderstood sentence: “Love and do what you want!”

In modern times, the priority in human activities radically changed once again: today man is not distinguished by theoretical gazing nor by practical doing, but by his capacity to conquer nature and the world and by his productive making, therefore poiesis.

It is a daring venture to sketch the Christian world-view so roughly in a few strokes, and this depiction could be paid for dearly in that all of the fine shades may have been overlooked—for example at least the four great types of Christian anthropology of the Middle Ages must be included in such a sketch: that of Augustine, of Thomas Aquinas, of Francis of Assisi, and of Joachim of Flores.42 Likewise, it appears completely hopeless with a few strokes to bring to paper what one might call the modern scientific world-view. Nevertheless, if we here undertake this foolhardy attempt, then it will not be our purpose to portray this world-view in its entirety, but only to make visible a single—albeit a very characteristic—aspect of it. Of course, one should ask whether there really is one such unified modern world-view and whether the end of the modern age has already passed. To the same extent, these questions can be directed at both of the other world-views. Especially with regard to the Christian, the question can scarcely be suppressed whether there is one such unified Christian world-view, and, similarly, to ask whether we are not living in a post-Christian secularized world.

We can only touch upon these questions here and must limit our focus to the predominance of poiesis where it was manifested in all its might for the first time in modern times: in Francis Bacon. Therefore, we will point out the essential features of modern thought which appear most informative for our purposes and which is usually described as secularization. Finally, we will turn to an interpretation of the development of modern thought which might be least expected at this point: namely, a psychoanalytic. What this interpretation attempts is one model of explanation out of many others, and we will utilize it here not because it can give a definitive answer, but because it does what a model of interpretation should do: open perspectives and unlock the further formulation of questions. To get an understanding of the secularization process of modern scientific world-view would mean that one would want to say more than to remember the essential features and to make it more concrete than that based on only a few well defined instances. Finally, we will examine what Francis Bacon began; though as the Bacon-research has made adequately clear, his influence on the development of modern natural science was much smaller than is generally assumed. Of course, his role as propagandist and ideologist of natural science by no means exhausts his significance; however, there can be no doubt that his effect on the future consisted in his enthusiastic and persuasive representation of the idea of a new science. Instead of further insisting upon speculations, as lofty as they were useless, his new science would finally produce fruits which resulted in practical effectiveness. It should be “practical,” that is, applicable and usable for technological-industrial progress; and all men, especially those of science, should join together out of “holy duty” in order to improve the living conditions and to serve the general welfare of mankind.43 A little later, in just as concise and in a most clear manner, Bacon’s meaning and intent is found characterized in Descartes’ epoch making Discourse on the Method of the Proper Use of the Reason.44 Descartes explained that the reasons for publishing his own writings were

to attain a knowledge which is very useful in life, and that, instead of that speculative philosophy which is taught in the Schools, we may find a practical philosophy by means of which, knowing the force and the action of fire, water, air, the stars, heavens and all other bodies that environ us, as distinctly as we know the different crafts of our artisans, we can in the same way employ them in all those uses to which they are adapted, and thus render ourselves the masters and possessors of nature.45

Using the word “practical” in this context is most suspicious. Doesn’t it actually pertain to the preeminence of poiesis, and didn’t Bacon himself (as did Descartes) speak of “practicality” and of science becoming practical? In fact, this confusion hits the crucial point: Bacon’s intended reinterpretation of the concepts “theory” and “practice.” Petitioning to depose the logic of Aristotle’s writings, it is not by accident that Bacon presented this transformation of these concepts in a work, which he christened with the ambitious title, Novum Organon.46

With this change then, what does “practical” now mean, and what is the significance that the knowledge of nature and industry have been joined together? The answer to this question results indirectly from the critique of the previous science: the type of searching for truth handed down to us from the Greeks, because of its a priori way of thinking, was far removed from things. Seeking the truth only in the “cells of the human mind,” it had turned away from nature and was in the end experienceless. For centuries, the old science had not brought a single work which had really simplified or improved the situation of man.47 Poor on works but rich on words, it was purely the sophistication of the professor, which while it could conjure up endless and heady disputations, it was entirely incapable of producing the knowledge (or more particularly of producing the control) of nature. All it actually brought was a chain of teachers and pupils, but of them not one was an inventor.48 It is quite a different story with the mechanical skills of the craftsmen. In their realm, discoveries had indeed been made which had changed the face of the earth—Bacon repeatedly raised as examples the art of printing, gun powder, and the compass. In their realm, countless changes had followed these discoveries about which the world of philosophical wisdom could never have dreamed were possible. Bacon saw that the reason for this success was that the mechanical arts began from the certainty of things, “are founded on nature and the light of experience,”49 and never lose contact with things themselves as they operate in nature.

By strictly limiting the focus of philosophy and theology (not pursued here), Bacon reduced the world to the physical universe and to the conclusion that discovering the causal factors and basic processes of nature are the only tasks of scientific knowledge.50 This was supported by the thesis that, of course, the existing world was the creation of an all-powerful God; however, according to the principle, it demonstrated no commonality with this Creator and this has especially disguised from man the highest law and the final purpose of the creation. The task of science was no longer seen in the contemplative gaze nor in the question of the what and why of the world, but only in the knowledge of how. Bacon argued that the older theory or philosophy deteriorates rather to the “verdict of the idol” and would attach a dark illusion to human understanding.51 “To know in order to predict,” was the formula of the new science; and the “method, seizing the world in its how, will transform it into a miracle of man.”52 This entanglement of the world in its pure facticity, of instrumental thought and human control of nature was clearly illustrated in Bacon’s interpretation of the Christian doctrine of the fall of man.53 The cause of the fall was the arrogance of man, unsatisfied with the type of knowledge allocated to him, but who wanted to penetrate the mysteries of God. Henceforth, the world appeared as the creation which had become unruly by falling out of its original harmony and over which man had lost control. The restoration of the sovereignty and power of man is to be accomplished through the new science wherein its original purpose is found.

Science, therefore, cannot remain pure theory, but must be converted into an operative theory, which through improvement of the conditions of human life, through invention, and through technical works constructs the “kingdom of man.”54 The world as the “kingdom of man” then, is no longer a “divine gift,” but is created through the productive making of man. According to Bacon, the progress of this kingdom of man is hindered by two schools of thought, the rationalists and the skeptics; both prevent man from boldly taking possession and powerfully controlling nature—the one out of lethargy and carelessness, the other out of hopelessness and despair. Against them, progress is based on the scientist who is understood as an “actual interpreter of nature,” “to deduce causes and axioms from effects and experiments; and new effects and experiments from those causes and axioms.”55 His famous third aphorism of the Novum Organon states: “Knowledge and human power are synonymous, since the ignorance of the cause frustrates the effect; for nature is only subdued through submission.”56

Scientific knowledge begins with experience and experiment; it locates the causal laws operating in nature and through obedience to these laws can obtain rules for controlling nature, that is, rules for the production of technical works. The point of departure of these operational theories is the mechanical skills of the craftsman; its aim is the promotion and the systematic extension of these mechanical skills to industrial practice. In this, Dijksterhuis saw correctly that Bacon’s path from works and experiments to the causes and principles and then from these back to new experiments and works is nothing more than the systematization of the procedures of the craftsman57 and—one might add—the hour of the birth of a polytechnical science and the eve of a polytechnical education. For this new “practice” goes far beyond technical practice in that it is based not only on the experience of the craftsman, but also claims to be the “true principles” of science, combining science and mechanical skills.

In this process, the new concept of theory is removed miles from the ancient notion of theory. Theory is no longer the disinterested gazing on the eternal and unchangeable first principles; hereafter, it was no longer for spectating or contemplating the true. In this modern sense, “theory” is now characterized as a thoroughly instrumental knowledge, a know-how. This change in the understanding of theory did not occur because interest in truth or knowledge had diminished, but because the conviction grew that truth was acquired only through active work and no longer through the contemplative gaze. Certainty could be obtained only by making sure; and in order to know, one had to do something, in particular experiment. A new concept of truth arose which accordingly held that “man can know only what is made by man or which, in principle, could also be made by him.”58

Corresponding to this new concept, on one hand, theory was closely united with practice, i.e., with practical effectiveness, and on the other hand, its progress was tied to the production, the refinement, and the development of instruments and apparatuses, with whose help one could measure nature or reconstruct its processes. In fact, the progress of modern science is inseparably connected to the development of technology, and Whitehead59 was right when he held that at least since the last century no discovery could have been made earlier, that is, before the appropriate instruments were developed. On the very day of writing this manuscript, the discovery of the sixth Quark was announced in Geneva—an impressive example to support this position. The concept “practice” suffered an even much more extensive transformation. As counter-concept to “theory” it now exclusively focuses on how and through which means and processes something is produced or how these processes can be reconstructed and imitated. From such a position, praxis in the sense of the classic-Christian understanding can no longer exist. An operative theory or an instrumental know-how do not correspond to human doing, but rather to productive making. Therefore, the preeminence in the priority of human activities shifted to those activities which the Greeks called poiesis: making, manufacturing, producing. The reason for this is obvious.

In modern inquiry theoretical interest shifted from the questions of the what and why to inquiry about how something is produced, and with this the conviction grew that man can know only what he himself has made. This meant that with regard to all those things which are not made by man, one must try to imitate and to reconstruct the processes through which they are produced. Therefore, knowledge, on the one hand, depends on the previous production of instruments and apparatuses, and, on the other hand, experimentation has become such an inherently strong element of production, that it has even come to represent a type of making itself.60 With modern science, the powerfully successful concept of experience in no way can be interpreted in a passive sense as a mere happening. From such an understanding, it is true that I can have an experience, but as such it could never be a real knowledge conveying experience for me; this would mean something thoroughly active and is well expressed in the talk of “making an experience” (which is the way it is phrased in German) just as it is in the word “er-fahren” itself (the German word for experience; if so divided, it would literally mean “he-travels”). True experience would be an active researching, exploring, and testing; and similarly, if its yield is to be more than pure accident, mere fate, and arbitrary preference, then it should be systematically arranged like scientific experimentation.61

In this process, the shift of meaning in the concept of theory is not nearly as notable as that made in the concept of practice. In the actual sense, what is now called practice is really poiesis and the confusion and misunderstanding which resulted from this shift in meaning has been considerable. If it is not going to be misunderstood or misleading, then, each time the oft heard and loudly proclaimed cry is made for educational theory which is “practice relevant,” what is meant by it should be clarified precisely. Is it like Bacon said: to combine educational thought with educational action or pedagogy as a type of applied know-how or a scientifically guaranteed, dependable process for producing and manufacturing educational “fruits and works”? And if everyone speaks of “practical application,” it should first be made clear to what the term actually applies: to the practice of human doing or to the poiesis of productive making which is only called “practice.”

Finally, what has been expressed here also applies to nature itself, which has to refer to something and if one complains of so-called “practice shock,” then it must also be clearly explained against what this complaint is actually directed: Is it against the complexity, interrelationships, and incalculability of human action or against the unsuitability, inadequacy, and the insufficiency of educational making and products? Before we pursue this question in the next chapter, we must yet examine two consequences which have followed the previously discussed “overturning of theory and practice,” (Hannah Arendt) in the modern scientific world-view.

The modern-scientific world-view has also been repeatedly called anthropocentric. On one side, this characterization withdraws from the cosmocentric world-view of Greek antiquity; on the other side, however, it also withdraws especially from the theocentric world-view of Christianity. This confrontation of a theocentric and of an anthropocentric world-view is expressed in the view that with the rise of modern science, God and a transcendental explanation of the world are left out more and more from the horizon of scientific thought. Man understands and experiences himself as the producer and manufacturer of the world; his knowledge is directed at the things which he himself has made or which he wants to be able to make. God is no longer necessary to the explanation of a world which is reduced to the physical universe; the world is explained immanently and functionally.

In a superb synthesis of aristotelian philosophy and Christian doctrine, Thomas Aquinas at the height of the Middle Ages, was able to divide everything into philosophy, natural theology, and theology. But just as the amalgamation of church and state which followed from his division made heresy and treason indistinguishable, so also the modern drifting apart of church and state and the crumbling of the scholastic tower of thought have brought numerous conflicts.

At first, the realm of philosophy yielded no conflict with the church. The leading thinkers of the Renaissance and of humanism remained firmly rooted in Christianity—one need only think of Petrarch, Vico, Shakespeare, Chaucer and many others. In the field of theology a severe conflict ripened which soon exploded in the Reformation—one thinks of Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Henry VIII, and the many others. In the realm of natural theology a similarly sharp conflict with the modern scientific view was possible and many of the pioneers of the modern science were forced to learn this swelling possibility by their own experience. But neither Galileo nor Giordano Bruno, neither Kepler nor Newton, neither Bacon nor Descartes, neither the alchemists nor the early physicians wanted to bring about such a conflict at any cost. A way out for both sides appeared when the distinction, deeply rooted in Christian tradition, between a first, natural revelation (the creation) and a second, actual revelation (the word of God) was thoroughly thought through so that these two “books” could be carefully kept separate. Thomas himself had even spoken of the two different books: the book of nature in which God shows his works and the book of revelation in which God’s words are given. Moreover, both books are written in different languages: the book of revelation in Greek and Hebrew, the book of nature in the language of mathematics.

Seen historically, although in the beginning this strict separation was more politically motivated, soon a new science could meet its own self-placed standards only if it examined and explained the natural events and phenomena independent of and free from religious doctrine and theological concepts.

Regularly referred to as the process of secularization,62 this separation of two continents, that of philosophy/religion from that of a strict science, took place in the most varied areas of human knowledge. Where formerly the question about the essence of a good law was answered by reference to its agreement with the divine commandments, Jeremy Bentham established a new (and mathematically conceived) criterion of the greatest happiness for the greatest possible number. Where previously the origin of man was explained through the “creation story,” Charles Darwin taught his evolution from lower forms of life. Where for so many years sickness had been traced back to the influence of good or evil spirits or seen as fate or punishment, physicians like Virchow and Koch traced them to the effect of bacteria and other microorganisms. Where education, to that point, had been understood as influencing a child’s growth and development, John Dewey equated education with growth and human development itself.63 Where the action of man could be seen only in connection with his soul, John Watson explained human behavior as a reaction to external stimuli from the environment. Where ethical norms were judged according to how congruent they were with the ideal of the highest good and with eternal principles, now they were measured by the yardstick of individualistic and relativistic preferences or social utility. Auguste Comte proclaimed a scientific age, which had liberated itself from the preliminary stages of the religious and metaphysical eras. Finally, for Marx, religion became an economically determined fiction and invention of the ruling class, for Sigmund Freud it was no more than a neurotic illusion of a culture; thereby, for both Marx as well as Freud, however different their anthropologies may have been, man was basically an anti-metaphysical phenomenon.64

But—and this will soon be shown—no matter how much the religious/metaphysical world-view moved away from the world-view of science in the course of this secularization process, drawing the lines of separation ever more sharply did not mean that the modern science is unconditionally atheistic. Atheism itself could not be scientifically justified; it is basically a religious and metaphysical standpoint. The relationship of the two realms is much more appropriately expressed in the picture of the two books: those who study the book of nature simply set the other book aside; as scientists they simply overlook and ignore it. Harvey Cox, in his famous book, The Secular City, has described this process very well:

The forces of secularization have no serious interest in persecuting religion. Secularization simply bypasses and undercuts religion and goes on to other things. It has relativized religious world views and thus rendered them innocuous. Religion has been privatized.65

A second observation goes hand in hand with this. No matter how thoroughly he assumes in his scientific work that God is not to be considered in an explanation of the world and though he also remains far removed from all religious/metaphysical concerns, the modern scientist himself is not required to disbelieve or to be irreligious, not to mention atheistic. He can concentrate—and here once again the picture of the two books seems to be helpful—his science on the book of nature, but orient his life thoroughly on the other book. In this way, he can be a scientist of rigorous research and at the same time a religious/metaphysical man. The problems that such a division can bring with it to the scientist will not be considered here. But whether such a strict separation of the scientific from the philosophic/existential may apply to the education and upbringing of man without problems is a question which must be addressed later.

In our context, the second consequence which arises from such a radical change in the understanding of theory and practice deserves even greater attention. In the modern scientific world-view, if theory becomes an instrumental know-how and practice is inverted into the application of these operational rules (or poiesis), what happens then with authentic praxis, i.e., with human action? Two stances can be adopted: either it will gradually, but completely, disappear from the realm of scientific discussion, or it too will be rethought according to the model of poiesis. Following the analogy the “kingdom of man” over nature, it would be directed toward an “art of man” (Thomas Hobbes), i.e., a scientifically established “kingdom of man over man.”

On one hand, we could scarcely say that the problematic nature of human action could be solved in this manner. To the contrary, through this, a void is torn open which cannot be filled by empirical science: the question of purposes and aims. For the danger of ungrounded and uncontrolled production and technical manufacturing has been only too clear and conspicuous; therefore, the question of how a thing can be made, or how something can be caused, must always be separated from the question of whether something should be made at all, or why it should be produced. In particular, it is Jürgen Habermas who, along with Hannah Arendt, points out with all clarity the political consequences which result from this. He explains: politics becomes scientifically rationalized, to the same degree to which practice is theoretically directed by technical recommendations, that remaining realm in which empirical-scientific analysis must declare its incompetence grows into a peculiar problem. By a division of labor between the empirical sciences and a norm setting which is no longer capable of truth, the leeway of pure decision grows: to a growing extent, the genuine realm of practice completely evades the discipline of methodological discussion.66

In his profound and most readable discussion of the relationship of ideology and education, Giuseppe Catalfamo has made equally clear the consequences which this brings to education.67 Catalfamo distinguishes between an education closely attached to ideology, one dialectically opposing it, and finally an education indifferent to ideology which claims exclusively to be a science of education in the modern-scientific sense. This “indifferent education” ignores the question of purposes and aims. It limits itself to a theory (in the modern sense) of the means and instruments of education and lets itself be characterized as thoroughly instrumental knowledge. It even assumes an authority which determines the aim—otherwise its means and instruments would also be aimless and pushed into emptiness—but this authority remains outside the scientific system. Because, as already mentioned, it has dwindled to a theory of means and instruments; it no longer allows any judgment about the acceptance or rejection of this authority or the aims set by it. The only refining of a so-formed indifferent pedagogy:

...concentrates on examining the processes of educational action and its technical merits. Its research and the results which come from it embrace the cause of any ideology whatsoever. In this case, the educator behaves ideologically neutral as an unbeliever (even when a firm faith lies at the base of his soul), while the teacher primarily becomes a practitioner [in the modern sense, therefore a ‘poieticer’, (added by Winfried Böhm)] and technician.

Naturally, Catalfamo adds that this trend toward a so-called indifferent pedagogy as purely instrumental-operational knowledge subordinates no ideology. “However, it is well at their mercy, inasmuch as it can be used by them as a tool,”68 and it is never out of the danger of becoming degraded to the zealous handmaid of any popular, but especially of the prevailing ideology of the times.

The other issue pertains to the attempt to transfer the procedures tested in the investigation of nature into the realm of human concerns as well, that is, to attempt to treat even ethics and politics, and eventually even education according to the model of poiesis. Deeply pervaded by Bacon’s principle, knowledge is power, and methodologically driven by Descartes’ advice, “to read in itself,” Thomas Hobbes took the analogy of the “art of nature,” whose God is capable of ruling the universe, and applied it to political philosophy. He endeavored to discover the means and procedures artificially to produce a living thing which we call the state or polity. Thus the introduction to his Leviathan programmatically began:

Nature (the art whereby God hath made and governs the world) is by the art of man, as in many other things, so in this also imitated, that it can make an artificial animal.69

With the help of the metaphor of the clock and its interlocking mechanism, together with the spring which brings this work into motion, Hobbes clearly shows his picture of this artificially constructed state: a machine, which, like a clock, moves itself by gears and springs.70

Even before Hobbes, Niccolo Machiavelli’s, The Prince, showed a view of politics which removed the character of human action (praxis in the classical sense) a great distance and transformed it into the technical instructions to gain and maintain power (in this case by the prince). Leopold von Ranke is known for his opinion of this work: “Machiavelli sought to cure Italy; but its conditions seemed so bleak to him that he was bold enough to prescribe it poison.”71 In one way this judgment is correct in that Machiavelli wrote down the political doctrines of The Prince out of his own bitter experience, and when reading it, one must take into account this political experience in order not to misunderstand the work—as regularly enough happens—as the purely monstrous invention of unscrupulous, underhanded, power politics.72 In another way, however, the judgment is incorrect in that Machiavelli did not want to prescribe poison, but a remedy for rigorous and successful politics.

The essential traits of the political view, made clear in The Prince, may be grasped with few words. There is, to begin with, the conviction that an excellent activity is demonstrated only by success; whereas, on the other hand, whosoever fails only certifies his own incompetence.73 Because man is considered to be basically cowardly, hypocritical, fickle, ungrateful, and selfish, i.e., only after his own glory and wealth, a prince who continuously acts morally and honestly must perish. To survive, he must adapt himself to the circumstances: learn to play the fox with cunning and craftiness and where his success appears to be endangered, not to be afraid to act immorally. For example, if the changed circumstances advise it, he must break his word. Particularly blunt, in chapter 15 of the book it states:

...because how one lives is so far distant from how one ought to live, that he who neglects what is done for what ought to be done, sooner effects his ruin than his preservation; for a man who wishes to act entirely up to his professions of virtue soon meets with what destroys him among so much that is evil. Hence it is necessary for a prince wishing to hold his own to know how to do wrong, and to make use of it or not according to necessity.74

The second aspect is even more characteristic than to aim undeviatingly at success: the attempt to eliminate the unpredictability of chance and the stubbornness of man. For Machiavelli, successful politics depends precisely in so precalculating everything, in so controlling all eventualities, and in being so able to arrange all outward conditions that political actions are entirely removed from the influence of luck or misfortune. And thus, careful and conscientious working is less advised than a passionate grabbing: “because fortune is a woman, and if you wish to keep her under, it is necessary to beat and ill-use her.” Since fate is conquered by arduousness, it is “woman-like, a lover of young men, because they are less cautious, more violent, and with more audacity command her.”75

If one seeks to know how the modern poietical thought penetrated and became dominant in the area of education, then first and foremost one must probably refer to John Locke. He is foremost not only because he wanted to remove practice entirely from the field of probability, i.e., to remove the merely probable from the realm of moral and political ideas. He maintained that these ideas can be as certain as any in mathematics,76 but he is foremost, in particular, because he “discovered” a specific object of possible educational knowledge: the child. Through investigating this object, he claimed that the knowledge obtained would provide educational power. This gave education an entirely new form: the form of an instrument for shaping personality from earliest childhood on.77 It is, in fact, only after we distinguish childhood from the rest of human life and prepare the child to be an object of observation and research that we can transform education away from its traditional position of the paidea into a modern “science of education.”78

Locke’s belief that education could be “made” was based on the lawfulness which was seen through observation and also through experiment as well as on the rules which could be derived therefrom and applied.79 Not only did Locke believe that there was no stronger cause for the distinctions in human behavior and aptitudes than education; he even regarded the child as an empty wax tablet on which education has to engrave its mark. At the very outset of his Thoughts Concerning Education, he declared, “that of ten men, who we meet, nine are what they are, good or evil, useful or useless, through their education.” And a few lines later he added: “I see that the child’s mind can be steered as easily as water in this or that direction.”80

In the Middle Ages, as well as in antiquity, human age was determined by reverting back to an analogy of nature, e.g., to the change of the seasons or to the movement of the planets. By establishing the ages of childhood as a separate specific period of time which is measurable with a clock, Locke interpreted this “period of time” according to a linear concept of time; therefore, it arose from that world of exactness and numbers, which Koyre had identified as so fundamental to modern scientific thought.81 It was this interpretation which made it possible to think of education as a controllable “process” and to view educational action as power: “It is active power, because it essentially is the possibility ‘to produce change’ and at the same time it is passive power, because the recipient of this power shows himself capable to ‘incur’ the change.”82 Because it grounds the educational process in an “objective” knowledge of the conditions through which man passes in his natural process of becoming man, educational knowledge is transformed into a powerful instrument for changing the particular individual and the trends of society.

Because our primary interest here is not in historical knowledge, we need not pursue the historical development of modern educational science in its particulars at this point; this path is followed often enough.83 Therefore, we will limit ourselves to the final product of this thread and turn a focused glance at a particular form of present-day educational science: behaviorism. While Sigmund Freud wanted to give a scientific explanation of the human psyche by seeking out the causes of human action in the deep roots of instincts and drives, at the very outset, the behaviorists devoted themselves to the outward movements of the individual. Typically enough, they substituted the word behavior for the concept of action because its connotations refer more directly to an observable and therefore “scientific” phenomenon. According to a dictionary of psychology, the concept of behavior serves as the:

...general expression for the sum of all observable, detectable, or measurable activities of the living organism, most often understood as the reaction to a particular stimulus or combination of stimuli with which the organism is confronted in experimental or normal life situations.84

John Watson, the father of behaviorism, condemned the psychology of his time for still clinging to crypto-religious philosophies and that concepts like consciousness and soul were incompatible with a scientific psychology. In his text on behaviorism, he wrote crudely (and reminiscent of Virchow’s words) that no one had ever touched a soul, no one had ever seen one in a test tube, and no one had ever been able to enter into a similar relationship with the so-called soul of man, as it is possible with the things and objects of his surroundings.85

While psycho-analysis, in the wake of Freud, sought the causes of behavior in the “depths of the human psyche,” behaviorism held that these causes were determined by environmental conditions and genetic evolution. Therefore, instead of looking for the causes of undesirable behavior in the past, the behaviorist educators and therapists set out to modify a particular behavior by changing the environment of the individual in a particular manner.

In order to make the final results of the passage from praxis to poiesis perfectly clear and obvious, we could point to Burrhus F. Skinner, who has been most consistent in thinking through the implications of the behaviorist position for education. As early as 1953, in his book, Science and Human Behavior, he wrote with almost unbeatable clarity about the development of this science:

As more and more of the behavior of the organism has come to be explained in terms of stimuli, the territory held by inner explanations has been reduced. The ‘will’ has retreated up the spinal cord, through the lower and then the higher parts of the brain, and finally, with the conditioned reflex escaped through the front of the head. At each stage a part of the control of the organism has passed from a hypothetical inner entity to the external environment.86

The aim of this science is even more precisely characterized by Skinner: What we need is a refined technology of behavior, even a technology which is in every way equal in precision and power to that of the physical or biological technologies and which one day must reach the degree of perfection which has already been reached in today’s space exploration or nuclear technology.87 Stating his basic belief, he adds that we need this technology, because we will draw no closer to the solution of the current specific problems of mankind, whether it be that of war and peace, alcoholism and drug abuse, juvenile delinquency and unemployment, or those of energy and environmental protection, by appealing to a sense of responsibility or to the conscience of the individual or group. What alone promises solutions is a science which provides an effective technology to control and manipulate human behavior. “What must be changed is not the responsibility of autonomous man but the conditions, environmental or genetic, of which a person’s behavior is a function.”88 For, according to the unconcealed declaration, it is the environment which is responsible for an objectionable behavior, and therefore it is only this environment which must be changed, and not some attribute of the individual.89

From his behavioristic view Skinner lets no doubt arise about the distinguishing feature between a prescientific and a scientific view of man and education. This distinction lies in very different anthropologies. The prescientific view is still attached to ideas which were handed down to us from Greek philosophy and Christian tradition: ideas of free will, choice, decision, plans, initiative, creativity, conscience, responsibility; such a view assumes that man is self-determined and “autonomous,” a word which from the standpoint of behavioral science can mean at best miraculous. In contrast, the scientific view rejects the belief that human action is based on such ideas and strictly traces human behavior back to the stimuli of the environment or to genetic determinants. If education is to be understood scientifically, then, just as the natural sciences have, it must finally rid itself of the ancient traditional concept of praxis and be brought to express itself exclusively in the terms of poiesis. Because, according to Skinner’s devastating verdict:

Whereas Greek physics and biology, no matter how crude, led eventually to modern science, Greek theories of human behavior led nowhere. If they are with us today, it is not because they possessed some kind of eternal verity, but because they did not contain the seeds of anything better.90

At this point in our thoughts, we can stop once again. As the example of behaviorism has just shown, at its core, the process of making education scientific, in the modern sense, either excludes or even denies the possibility of authentic human action from the realm of scientific discussion. Education, which is guided and interwoven with science, expresses itself according to the model of poiesis. In this view then, the terms theory and practice have lost their original meaning and now characterize an operative/instrumental knowledge. Though mistakenly called practice, the technological application of these concepts has become poiesis.

In his study of the secularization process of the modern world-view, to which we have already referred, Alden LeGrand Richards summarized the results of his work in a manner which could also represent a summary of our thoughts to this point:

The science of education, almost by definition, must limit its focus to two areas: genetic development and environmental socialization. One area examines the biological maturation of the individual. The other examines the variables in the society which shape the characteristics of a given individual. Nearly all modern scientific educational philosophies limit their research to one or both of these natural areas.91

In the next chapters, we will further pursue and more carefully scrutinize the question of necessarily limiting a science of education to either the bio-psychological processes of maturation or to the environmental processes which determine socialization. We will also examine further the question of whether the nature of education is theoria, praxis, or poiesis. But before we do so, it seems valuable to glance at an interpretation of the drift from the medieval/theocentric to the modern anthropocentric world-view, especially because the interpretation will help us build a bridge to the entrance of our later thoughts.

In his book, The God Complex, Horst Eberhard Richter, attempts to apply a psycho-analytic model to the context of the history of ideas and with the help of this model to interpret it in an entirely original way. A commonly seen side-effect during the detachment process of children or adolescents from their parents is called, in the language of psychoanalysis, “a neurotic flight from narcissistic impotence to the illusion of narcissistic omnipotence.”92 Although still in need of parental protection, they are no longer perfectly certain of themselves; they therefore try to become the complete masters of their situation through their own power. They no longer want to let things simply happen, but instead they anxiously strive meticulously to control and master all the events in their environment and their own bodies. “Chance must never interfere. They want to predict and determine everything in advance.”93 They protest against every parental intervention, which they perceive to be almost an attempt to rape or to coerce them. The keen attention and the latent mistrust toward their environment leads them to be constantly alert and far sightedly to plan and calculate the future. Refusing to eat, sleeplessness, and unruliness are symptoms which appear in this condition of conflict.

The surroundings, which promote such disturbances, reign with a lack of understanding; at best, one detects that the child attracts attention because of his imbalance to the things and others around him, and that with his intense yearning to control and direct everything, he expects too much of and does harm to himself. Described by Richter as tragic, a contradiction takes place within the child:

The ego wants to assure itself through calculating and controlling the concrete world. But, for him, the unconscious emotional motive is unattainable through rational proof. Here, the emotional logic decides that his devastating impotence could only be averted through an over-compensating omnipotence and omniscience. And only a fundamentally different emotional relationship to the world could bring a helpful change.94

Then Richter expressed the assumption that with the transition from medieval to modern times a process similar to the child’s pattern of reaction occurred to the European. The certainty which came from the medieval assurance that man is a child of God was shaken; the feeling of childlike protection was eroded and in its place the desire had awakened to gain dominion over the world through one’s own means of knowledge and power. In this process, a cycle was set in motion: “Growing insecurity in relationship to God forced a compensation through narcissistic self-confidence.” From its beginning, this process carried the tendency to push itself too far, i.e., “by identifying itself with divine omniscience and omnipotence.”95 The invention of the mechanical clock with its constantly forward rolling mechanism symbolized that we had fallen out of the secure cycle and corresponded to the perspective opened in the causal thinking of the natural sciences of an endless linear chain of causes which found its purpose in an ever-continuing progress. In philosophy, the self-conscious ego became the central focus of a new self-confidence; the “I think” became an anchor on which all self-certainty found its footing. Man was thought of basically as an individual and, by increasingly separating himself, experienced isolation.

At this point, we will not further pursue the historical development of this theme, which the author presents with the title of a “history of the illusion of human omnipotence.” Here, it is sufficient to establish what Richter sees as the price for which modern man buys this illusion of omnipotence: the denial of suffering and the repression of death—neither of which fit into the view of a perfect, self-commanded individual. And in the context of this denial of the fragility and frailness of man, it is most notable that even three of the shrewdest diagnosticians of human imperfection—Marx, Freud, and Marcuse—promulgated utopian hopes for healing the disabled individual.

At the conclusion of this excursion, it should not be overlooked that Richter also sees behaviorism as a particularly typical form of modern thought. In behaviorism, the narcissistic longing for omnipotence turns to man himself; he can no longer see himself or his fellow man apart from the man-made environment which he has produced:

In the end, man would have the freedom and power to breed his own race anew and to control individual behavior as well as his social relationships according to his own calculations. He would then have actually reached his aim in this regard of godlike power and autonomy, admittedly in only a one dimensional, technical world. And the cost of the repression, that dreadful bondage, which all would take upon themselves, would be to view and to evaluate each other and themselves only from the outside.96

It is the problem of our age that, almost inevitably, today’s strategy of dominating nature—derived from the view of modern science and from the self-authorization of man—has not only pushed to its limits but through uncontrolled continuation, threatens to turn into the self-destruction of man and his world. A growing awareness of this problem diminishes the fondness for seeking solutions to the pressing problems of life only through technological means; above all, it becomes ever more clear that an exclusive concentration on making, runs the risk of losing sight of the aim which the making was actually supposed to serve. Along with the questions of productive work, those of human interaction gain an ever-greater weight. The discontentment with a one-dimensional world and with a one-dimensionalized man awakens the readiness when seeking a solution to the human dilemma,97 to value the creative abilities and the individual’s moral power higher than technical makeability. “This thought leads us to the conclusion that the solutions for overcoming the human dilemma and the guarantee for the future of mankind are to be sought solely within ourselves.”98



1. Werner Jaeger, Paideia. Die Formung des griechischen Menschen, vol. 1 (Berlin, 1959) 11.

2. Compare Francis Fergusson, The Idea of a Theater (Princeton, 1949).

3. Hans-Joachim Schoeps, Religionen. Wesen und Geschichte (Gütersloh, 1961) 145.

4. Romano Guardini, Das Ende der Neuzeit (Leipzig, 1956) 16.

5. Oedipus the King 870-880.

6. Sophocles, Fragment 809.

7. Cited in Ernst Goldbeck, Der Mensch und sein Weltbild (Leipzig, 1925) 33.

8. In writing this sentence, the author is reminded of the sincere earnestness exhibited by the believing Indians who were showing and describing the holy mountain and residence of their gods during a long discussion in Old Oraiby, the holy city of the Hopis.

9. Claude Tresmontant, Essai sur la pensee hebraique (Paris, 1953); and in, Biblisches Denken und Hellenische Überlieferung (Düsseldorf, 1956) 11.

10. Compare my remarks in Winfried Böhm and others’ Wer Ist der Mensch? (Freiburg, 1983) esp. 109f.

11. Josef Schreiner, “Die Gottesbildlichkeit des Menschen in der alttestamentlichen Exegese,” Das Personverständnis in der Pädagogik und ihren Nachbarwissenschaften, ed. Josef Speck (Münster, 1967) 2: 61.

12. One can admire a particularly impressive representation of this scene in the Meteora Closter.

13. Claude Tresmontant, Essai sur la pensee hebraique 29.

14. Alfons Auer, Weltoffener Christ (Düsseldorf, 1960) 84, even more detailed with regard to this question; compare also Franz Mussner, Christus, das All und die Kirche (Trier, 1955).

15. Compare Rudolph Berlinger, Augustinus’ dialogische Metaphysik (Frankfurt, 1964).

16. Rudolf Schnackenburg, Christliche Existenz nach dem Neuen Testament (Munich, 1967) 1: 11.

17. Compare Hubert Hertz, “Christliche Identität und Erziehung,” Rassegna di Pedagogia/Pädagogische Umschau 41 (1983): 85-102.

18. Matt. 16:25.

19. Schnackenburg, Christliche Existenz nach dem Neuen Testament 1: 18.

20. Schnackenburg, “Die Vollkommenheit des Christen nach den Evangelien,” Geist und Leben 32 (1959): 420-433.

21. Wilhelm Dilthey, Geschichte der Pädagogik, Gesammelte Schriften (Stuttgart: Pädagogik, 1961) 9: 93.

22. Compare Wilhelm Kamlah, Christentum und Geschichtlichkeit (Stuttgart, 1951).

23. Aurelius Augustine, The City of God, vol. 18; cited here from Marcus Dods (trs.) (Chicago: Great Books, 1952). Bk 11, chap 6, p. 325.

24. Augustine, The City of God. Bk 11, chap 4, p. 324.

25. Karl Löwith, Weltgeschichte und Heilsgeschehen (Stuttgart, 1979) 149; compare also Jean Servier Der Traum von der grossen Harmonie (1967; Munich, 1971) chapter 3.

26. Compare in detail, Josef Blank, Krisis. Untersuchungen zur johanneischen Christologie und Eschatologie (Freiburg, 1964).

27. Gabriel Marcel will later bring this early Christian contrast to the concepts of “being” and “having” and Erich Fromm will take up this topic once again in a popular manner—see Gabriel Marcel, Being and Having, trans. Katherine Farrer (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1965), and Erich Fromm, To Have or To Be (New York, 1976).

28. Compare Augustine, The City of God. Bk 12, chap 20, p. 356.

29. Karl Löwith, Weltgeschichte und Heilsgeschehen 188.

30. Augustine, The City of God, Bk 12, chap 20, p. 356.

31. Compare in detail, Alfred Schöpf, Wahrheit und Wissen. Die Begründung der Erkenntnis bei Augustin (Munich, 1965).

32. Schöpf, “Augustinus,” Klassiker der Philosophie, ed. Otfried Höffe (Munich, 1981) 1: 154-176; with regard to this problem, compare also Helmut Kuhn, Liebe. Geschichte eines Begriffs (Munich, 1975) esp. 89ff.

33. Hans Blumenberg, Die Genesis der kopernikanischen Welt (Frankfurt, 1981) 34.

34. Franco Lombardi, Die Geburt der modernen Welt (Cologne, 1961) 60. To examine the problem of Christian love in great detail and with overwhelming richness, compare the references of Viktor Warnach, Agape. Die Liebe als Grundmotiv der neutestamentlichen Theologie (Duesseldorf, 1951).

35. I Cor. 13:2.

36. I Jn. 2:9-10.

37. Matt. 22:37-40.

38. Schnackenburg, Christliche Existenz nach dem Neuen Testament 1: 149 (italics added).

39. Johannes B. Lotz, Die Drei-Einheit der Liebe (Frankfurt, 1979) 181.

40. Nicholas Lobkowicz, Theory and Practice. History of a Concept from Aristotle to Marx (Notre Dame/London, 1967) 66.

41. Lotz, Die Drei-Einheit der Liebe 205.

42. See Bogdan Suchodolski, “Les quatre types d’anthropologie philosophique au moyen age,” Tommaso d’Aquino nel suo VII centenario (Napoli: L’uomo, 1974) 7: 182-191.

43. Compare, especially, Benjamin Farrington, Francis Bacon. Philosopher of Industrial Science (1949; New York, 1979).

44. Rene Descartes, Discourse on Method (1637), trans. Elizabeth S. Haldane and G.R.T. Ross (Chicago: Great Books, 1952) vol. 31.

45. Descartes, Discourse on Method 31: 61.

46. Francis Bacon, Novum Organon (Chicago: Great Books, 1952) vol. 30.

47. Bacon, Novum Organon, Aphorism 73: 117.

48. Bacon, Novum Organon, Aphorism 71.

49. Bacon, Novum Organon, Aphorism 74: 118.

50. In this connection, compare also Wiebke Schrader, Die Auflösung der Warumfrage (Amsterdam, 1975), and the broad, comprehensive portrayal by Fulton H. Anderson, The Philosophy of Francis Bacon (1948; New York, 1975).

51. For Bacon’s doctrine of the idols, compare Farrington, The Philosophy of Francis Bacon (1964; Liverpool, 1970).

52. Schrader, Die Auflösung der Warumfrage 35.

53. Here, I follow Dirk Schönberg’s unpublished thesis (Wurzburg, 1981) “Induktive Methode und industrielle Praxis. Ein Beitrag zur Begründungsproblematik bei Francis Bacon.”

54. Bacon, Novum Organon, Aphorism 129: 135.

55. Bacon, Novum Organon, Aphorism 117: 131.

56. Bacon, Novum Organon, Aphorism 3: 107.

57. E. J. Dijksterhuis, Die Mechanisierung des Weltbildes (Berlin, 1956).

58. Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago, 1958) 22.

59. Alfred N. Whitehead, The Concept of Nature (Cambridge, 1920) 32.

60. Arendt, The Human Condition 288.

61. When this new science finally proceeds to a method, is organized for a division of labor, and is institutionalized to survive, it extends mechanical techniques to industrial practice. In this way, it becomes the foundation of the industrial civilization and the driving force of its progress.

62. This process is lucidly portrayed in its various phases and in its consequences for education in the dissertation of Alden LeGrand Richards, The Secularization of the Academic World-view. A History of a Process and its Implications for a Science of Education (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University, 1982).

63. It was foreseeable even in Bacon that the concept of evolution would almost necessarily occupy a preeminent position; for the “objects” which the new science investigates are no longer really things, but rather processes. It does not study—strictly speaking—what things are, but rather how they have developed, i.e. evolve, into what they are. Compare Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition 287ff.

64. See Guntram Knapp, Der antimetaphysische Mensch: Darwin - Marx Freud (Stuttgart, 1973).

65. Harvey Cox, The Secular City (New York, 1968) 2.

66. Jürgen Habermas, Theorie und Praxis (Frankfurt/Main, 1978) 52.

67. Giuseppe Catalfamo, Ideologie und Erziehung (Würzburg, 1984).

68. Catalfamo, Ideologie und Erziehung.

69. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (Chicago: Great Books, 1952) 23: 47.

70. Compare the scholarly introduction which Michael Oakeshott has placed in the beginning of his edition of the Leviathan. Leviathan or the Matter, Form and Power of a Commonwealth, Ecclesiastical and Civil, by Thomas Hobbes, ed. Michael Oakeshott (Oxford O.J.) vii-lxvi. For a detailed review of Hobbes’ concept of the state, see Richard Hönigswald, Hobbes und die Staatsphilosophie (Munich, 1924).

71. Cited in the forward of Werner Bahner’s edition of Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, trans. Friedrich Blaschke (1532; Wiesbaden) 7.

72. It was against such misunderstandings that Rousseau, in the sixth chapter of the third book of his The Social Contract, decisively turned and to which he also referred to the historical conditions of the genesis of the Principe.

73. Already at this point, it becomes obvious that Machiavelli’s understanding of politics is orientated to a typical criterium of poiesis and not to the practice of human action (doing).

74. Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince (Chicago: Great Books, 1952) 23: 22.

75. Machiavelli, The Prince 36.

76. John Locke, Essays Concerning Human Understanding, vol. 35 (Chicago: Great Books, 1952). Bk 4, chap 3, 18, p. 318.

77. See Ornella de Sanctis, “Die Ursprünge des erziehungswissenschaftlichen Denkens—John Locke,” Rassegna di Pedagogia/Pädagogische Umschau 38 (1980): 74-84.

78. Compare in detail Carmela Metelli Di Lallo, Analisi del discorso pedagogico (Padova, 1966) 107-149. Also worth reading is the concise portrayal of Cesare Scurati, “J. Locke,” Nuove Ouestioni di Storia della Pedagogia (Brescia, 1977) 2: 31-76.

79. Locke, Thoughts Concerning Education (1692), Education: Ends and Means (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1982) 405-441.

80. Locke, Thoughts Concerning Education 405.

81. Compare A. Koyre, Etude d’histoire de la pensee scientifique (Paris, 1966).

82. De Sanctis, “Die Ursprünge des erziehungswissenschaftlichen Denkens—John Locke,” Rassegna di Pedagogia/Pädagogische Umschau 38 (1980): 80.

83. For the context of our thoughts, especially compare Rudolf Lochner, Deutsche Erziehungswissenschaft (Meisenheim, 1963) as well as the contributions of Clemens Menze and Lutz Rössner in Problemgeschichte der neueren Pädagogik, ed. Otto Speck (Stuttgart, 1976) vol. 1.

84. J. Drever, W. D. Fröhlich, Wörterbuch der Psychologie (Munich, 1969) 246.

85. Compare John Watson, Behaviorism (New York, 1924) 3.

86. Burrhus F. Skinner, Science and Human Behavior (New York: The MacMillan Co., 1965) 48-49.

87. Skinner, Beyond Freedom and Dignity (New York: Bantam/Vintage Books, 1972) 3, 22.

88. Skinner, Beyond Freedom and Dignity 70.

89. Skinner, Beyond Freedom and Dignity.

90. Skinner, Beyond Freedom and Dignity 4. Compare in more detail the relationship between behaviorism and pedagogy in Johannes Hachmöller, Pawlows missvertandener Hund (Bad Heilbrunn, 1977) and Hans-Walter Leonhard, Behaviorismus und Pädagogik (Bad Heilbrunn, 1978).

91. Richards, The Secularization of the Academic World-view. A History of a Process and its Implications for a Science of Education 232.

92. Horst Eberhard Richter, Der Gotteskomplex. Die Geburt und die Krise des Glaubens an die Allmacht des Menschen (Reinbek, 1979) 29.

93. Richter, Der Gotteskomplex. Die Geburt und die Krise des Glaubens an die Allmacht des Menschen 19.

94. Richter, Der Gotteskomplex. Die Geburt und die Krise des Glaubens an die Allmacht des Menschen 21.

95. Richter, Der Gotteskomplex. Die Geburt und die Krise des Glaubens an die Allmacht des Menschen 23.

96. Richter, Der Gotteskomplex. Die Geburt und die Krise des Glaubens an die Allmacht des Menschen 78.

97. James W. Botkin, Mahdi Elmandjra, Mircea Malitza, Das menschliche Dilemma (with a forward by Aurelio Peccei) (Vienna, 1979).

98. Aurelio Peccei, forward, Das menschliche Dilemma 12.