Beginning from the confused and misunderstood use of the words theory and practice, the path of our thoughts has led us to search out the origins of these concepts and to clarify them from their philosophical heritage. We then made it clear, that theory, praxis, and the complimentary concept necessary for understanding either, poiesis, represent three different forms of human life style. At any given time, these three concepts correspond to three fundamental activities of man: theory—contemplative gazing; praxis—responsible doing; and poiesis—productive making. In a broad and quickly covered segment of our thoughts, we strolled through the three great views of the Western world and saw thereby, that in each of them one of the three human activities is given priority: theory, in the cosmos-centered world-view of classical antiquity; praxis, in the theo-centered view of Christianity; and finally poiesis, in the anthropocentric view of the modern age.

The question yet to be posed is: To which of the three areas does education belong? To theory, practice, or poiesis? Is education pondering contemplation, responsible acting, or productive making? And in addition to this first question, a second unavoidably arises: Of which type is educational knowledge? Is it theoretical, practical, or poietic?

It goes almost without saying that we will also begin our answer to this double question where it was first raised and where it also can find a cogent reply: in the thought of Greek antiquity. In any case, it will become obvious that contemporary educational thought has added very little to the answers already found in Hellenism. In the end, all of the answers which have followed represent only more or less imaginative variations of the themes played out there.

But before we turn to the solution to this multi-faceted problem, an explanation of the double character of our question is needed. In formulating our inquiry we have distinguished, on one side, “education as activity” and, on the other side, “pedagogy as knowledge.” It is necessary to see this distinction clearly because the thoughts which follow can be understood only within the background of this distinction.

While, for example, the Italian language makes such a sharp division and usually lets the word educazione characterize the “educating” events, that is “doing,” and on the other hand, as a rule, the word pedagogia characterizes the reflection about this doing and the knowledge derived from it; the German use of the words is much less precise. The germanized foreign word Pädagogik is ambiguous and encompasses “the reality of educational doing” (including its resulting moral concepts, its aims, procedures, its acting persons, its historical basis, and its institutional-organizational frame) as well as the “reflection about this doing” (from the lower level of collected experiences and instructions up to the highest peak of a polished theory of education); even the “metatheory of education” (that is, the reflecting on how a theory of education comes about, i.e., about the principles of its construction) is included in this concept.1 Perhaps it should be noted that the terms “education” and “pedagogy” are even more ambiguous in the United States. Quite often, pedagogy, rather than representing the theoretical aspects of educational thought, is used almost exclusively to refer to the methods and techniques of instruction. In German, this aspect is assigned to a completely different term Methodik. Later we will see that the complexity of the concept pedagogy is not due to linguistic poverty or intellectual negligence, but finds a completely substantiated justification. For our thoughts, however, it is advisable first to draw a careful boundary between education and pedagogy. Therefore, in our following discussion, we will denote with the term “education,” the educational “doing” that takes place in a concrete (educational) situation, and on the other hand, “pedagogy” will denote critical observation (including projective forethought), reflection, and the knowledge available about this “doing.”

It would make little sense to imagine educational doing, which, regardless of the level, is not accompanied by pedagogical knowledge—such thoughtless doing would be blind busyness. On the other hand, who would wish for pedagogical knowledge which remained pure knowledge, never to be carried over into educational “doing”? Such knowledge would be lame. Therefore, we must begin by recognizing the close and indissoluble relationship between education and pedagogy. This close relationship between education and pedagogy is well expressed by applying the well-worn sentence: practice without theory is blind, and theory without practice is lame. It, then, is the purpose of our necessarily double-inquiry to raise more precisely this problem of the relationship between education and pedagogy: to distinguish between educational doing and pedagogical knowing.

If we next remind ourselves, what theory means, according to the ancient, classical relationship of the three concepts under discussion, i.e., a pondering gaze, and what the “object of theory” in this sense can be, i.e., the eternal and unchangeable (or that which necessarily is what it is), then it easily becomes clear that education can never fall into the realm of theory nor can pedagogical knowledge be a type of that theoretical knowledge. First, education does not represent a mere gazing or contemplation, its most inner core lies in doing. Second, the “object” of pedagogical knowing—man as educandus—should not be seen to be necessarily what he is, and certainly not to be unalterable or unchangeable. To the contrary, more than anything else, educational doing and pedagogical knowing necessarily depend upon man’s ability to alter and change.

Even though it may be said with great firmness that, according to the classical-ancient understanding, education and pedagogy clearly “do not fall in the area of theory,” heavy opposition may immediately be raised against this opinion. In his fight against the sophists and the “mere rhetoricians,” hadn’t Plato established the “ideal of the paideia” precisely because the highest aim of man and therewith also his education consisted in an understanding of the true, in a pure knowledge?2 Hadn’t Plato understood the education of man to be precisely the “path to truth”;3 didn’t he see the procedures of a dialectical science, according to the model of mathematics, to be the preferred vehicle for this educational path,4 and didn’t he even want to make the philosophers, that is, those to whom the theoretical knowledge had been given, the appointed leaders of the state?5 According to Plato, wasn’t it the highest task and final aim of education that “man may see the true essence of things in ideas”?6 And isn’t it rightly held about Plato that he had “primarily a philosophy of education,”7 and even one fitting and also one of “world historical” proportion?8

Several aspects stand out regarding this well-grounded concern. First, regardless of the philosophical and world historical significance of Plato, one must take note of the competent judgment of Marrou, whereby Isocrates not Plato is considered to be the true educator of Greece and then of the Hellenic and late Roman world. From his school the educators and authors emerged, “to whom classical antiquity owed both the qualities and defects of its main cultural tradition.”9 Isocrates, however, was a rhetorician.

Our purpose is not to straighten out the historical picture; but, theoretically, it also makes a considerable difference whether one sees Plato’s pedagogy and theory of education as a subspecie of his “doctrine of the forms” and perhaps even interprets them only as a result of it or whether one reconstructs them out of the context of their historical-social-political origin. In the first case, in fact, one may be inclined to place the education of man close to theory and want to establish pedagogical knowledge according to the pattern of theoretical knowledge. From this, one may then view the ideal way of the paideia actually in the dialectical procedures of theoretical science. However, understood in this way, pedagogy would be threatened by the danger of becoming rationalistic to such an extreme extent and so far removed from the world that it could no longer capture the variety of human situations, the uncertainty of opportunity and choice, the changing colorfulness of the circumstances of life, and instead of this, would falsely strive to measure the actions of man alone “according to the straight-edged ruler of the intellect which is fixed.” But as Vico formulated it, such ill-advised scholars who “go straight from the universally true to the particular, fall through the complex patterns of (real) life.”10 And such a pedagogy must respond to the question which Isocrates directed to Plato and which was certainly not meant only ironically: Of what good then is a pedagogy or an education which is aimed at pure knowledge of the true or the clear vision of ideas, but which at the same time is aware that this vision could never be reached entirely or at best could only be attained sometime after death? If Plato’s ideal citizen only fits in an ideal state which does not exist in reality and if the existing states don’t know what to do with the graduate of Plato’s academy, then the external results of this education were indeed most sobering: “These people must be supported by others.”11 Callicles, brashly and bluntly opposed those who spent their lives philosophizing, Socrates included, i.e., whoever devoted themselves too long and excessively to theory alone and one-sidedly endeavored toward a theoretical life, would be:

...necessarily ignorant of all those things which a gentleman and a person of honor ought to know; he is inexperienced in the laws of the State, and in the language which ought to be used in the dealings of man with man, whether private or public, and utterly ignorant of the pleasures and desires of mankind and of human character in general.12

One then, who in old age still subscribed to theory and did not free himself from it, did not deserve to be praised, but to be beaten.13

In the second case, where Plato’s pedagogy is interpreted and understood from the context of its social-political origin, it also appears in an entirely different light: not closely attached to theory, but rather found formed in the image of poiesis. Without entering into the endless and controversial discussion about the true and false, correct and erroneous interpretation of Plato (therefore avoiding even Popper’s dubious claim that Plato should be included as one of the enemies of an open society),14 at least some notable views regarding this question should be cited.

For one so competent an author as Giuseppe Flores d’Arcais, there isn’t the slightest doubt that Plato became an educator for the sake of politics and that his pedagogy, therefore, must be read and interpreted from the basis of his political objectives.15 By comparing platonic thought to the entire field of the development of Greek science,16 Benjamin Farrington, one recognized for his capacities in the area of ancient philosophy, reached the conclusion that Plato had diverted the pre-socratic interest in nature and natural research to a rigorous study of mathematics, even a mathematics idealized, pure, metaphysical, and far removed from reality. And even if this orientation of Plato’s philosophy may appear to be entirely dominant, according to Farrington, the philosophy of Plato is a thoroughly political philosophy:

...and the aim, which dominated his entire life and emerged in the course of his work with ever greater clarity, was the construction of a framework of beliefs and of a system of education, which would guarantee the welfare of the state by imposing political authority.

Farrington further explains: “Summarized in one sentence, the problem of the state was the basis of the platonic movement, just as the problem of nature was the basis of the ionian movement.”17

Robin Barrow in his investigation of Plato comes to an even more pointed conclusion. With reference to the aim of platonic education, he summarizes:

The aim of education is to produce sociable and happy citizens. Education is...the development of virtuous character in the sense of a character that exhibits socially desirable attitudes and behavioral tendencies.18

For children, this means that “all the children should therefore be trained from an early age to adopt the norms of society.”19 And at its most extreme point he further states: “The precise nature of the education a child undergoes at a later stage should be decided, in so far as it is possible, by reference to his aptitude and the demands and needs of the society.”20

Another informed author, who approaches the works of Plato from the position of his theory of education, also places it in the historical-political context and interprets the paideia as the core of platonic philosophy. José Ortega Esteban, though formulating it more cautiously and in softer tones than Barrow, for instance, reaches a very similar conclusion. For him, the philosophy and entire work of Plato is “from its very basis, political.” “Through Plato the peri physeos has been transformed into the peri poleos, or better, into a peri physeos poleos.“21 And Ortega Esteban even goes so far as to reject the notion of a transcendent idea for Plato, because transcendence was (still) for the Greek completely unthinkable. In contrast, he views the idea as a construct which Plato devised to enable an ordered knowledge in the chaotic fullness of appearances and at the same time to establish values and aims for the business of politics.

As a politician as well as an educator, Plato was a practical man who realized his political and educational ideas or sought to translate them into reality; this is proven by his travels to Sicily, the rounding of the academy and his written works.22

And in a footnote in this citation Ortega Esteban refers to Plato’s letters, particularly to the seventh letter, which testifies to the uninterrupted “poietical” activity of Plato.

Hannah Arendt’s interpretation is even more clear: In her profound distinction between practical doing and productive making, she points out that production is always directed by a model after which the produced thing is made. This model, which guides the production, lies outside of the manufacturing and precedes the production process. For our purposes it is interesting that Hannah Arendt closely relates this preformulated model in all production with Plato’s forms. In its necessary detail, she writes:

It is of great importance to the role fabrication came to play within the hierarchy of the vita activa that the image or model whose shape guides the fabrication process not only precedes it, but does not disappear with the finished product, which it survives intact, present, as it were, to lend itself to an infinite continuation of fabrication. This potential multiplication, inherent in work, is different in principle from the repetition which is the mark of labor. This repetition is urged upon and remains subject to the biological cycle; the needs and wants of the human body come and go, and though they reappear again and again at regular intervals, they never remain for any length of time. Multiplication, in distinction from mere repetition, multiplies something that already possesses a relatively stable, relatively permanent existence in the world. This quality of permanence in the model or image, of being there before fabrication starts and remaining after it has come to an end, surviving all the possible use objects it continues to help into exist, had a powerful influence on Plato’s doctrine of eternal ideas. In so far as his teaching was inspired by the word idea or eidos (shape or form), which he used for the first time in a philosophical context, it rested on experiences in poiesis or fabrication, and although Plato used his theory to express quite different and perhaps much more ‘philosophical’ experiences, he never failed to draw his examples from the field of making when he wanted to demonstrate the plausibility of what he was saying. The one eternal idea presiding over a multitude of perishable things derives its plausibility in Plato’s teachings from the permanence and oneness of the model according to which many and perishable objects can be made.23

From this detailed citation, it follows, with all clarity, how strongly Hannah Arendt describes Plato’s doctrine of the forms, not out of a notion of transcendence which was entirely alien to the ancient-Greek view, but how closely she binds its origin to the poietic thought of the productive artisan. Later, we will pursue this thought in even greater detail.

This somewhat circuitous excursion through various interpretations of the platonic paideia was not undertaken for the sake of Plato’s position in the history of education, but it should only serve to corroborate what we set out in the beginning of this chapter: that education and pedagogy do not fall within the realm of theory (in the authentic sense) and that pedagogical knowledge cannot be a type of theoretical knowledge.

In fact, for classical thought, education formed a part of politics, and without question was assigned, as politics was, to the realm of practice. Just as it was with politics, education, for classical thought, represented an extension of ethics and was understood, again as politics was, as teaching for the good and just life in the polis (city-state), or as Isocrates stated it in his classical definition of the educated individual: as teaching to fall into the right solution in any given time (i.e., in any situation).24 For ancient thought, this “falling into the right solution” and this “good and just life in the polis”25 was neither derivable with logical necessity nor was it producible with technical skillfulness. Because of this, pedagogy and politics, which in the end are always directed to the building of character and to the awakening of moral conscience, could not be assisted by technical or strictly scientific/theoretical knowledge. Just as it is with the instance of logical derivation where only necessary conclusions must follow from particular premises, so it is in the case of technical production, where a particular behavior would be externally induced. In either, freedom and the possibility as well as the responsibility for choice would be excluded from political action. In education, the possibility of accepting, rejecting, or deciding against the educational treatment would be barred—possibilities which, if eliminated, would legitimately prohibit one from speaking of either political action or of education. Politics, therefore, muddled along pedagogically and not “technically”; and pedagogy muddled along politically and not “dialectically.”26

The classical author did not believe that the mere experiential knowledge of the productive artisan was sufficient for coping with the challenges of politics or education. Therefore, the statement applied (and still does) that in politics and pedagogy nothing is learned through mere experience. On the other hand, however, a necessary knowledge with regard to these challenges, after a type of theoretical science of principles, was also not attainable. Thus the method of politics and pedagogy which strove for or led to that wisdom to do the right in any given situation, could not be empirical nor could it be the strictly rational dialectic, but only “rhetorical” as the “practical” art of argumentation and persuasion.27

The lively and unbroken tradition of the political-pedagogical method of rhetoric, understood according to Aristotle as a practical discipline, reached from Isocrates to Cicero and Augustine to Vico and the Italian humanists. It did not aim to bring forth a product, but to convince an audience, i.e., a listener. The purpose of rhetorical activity was not to captivate a passive audience, but to move them to correct and just action or at least to awaken a disposition to such action. When Isocrates, for example, indicated in his speeches that the political affairs in Greek cities appeared to be just, when in reality they were not, he wanted to awaken in his audience the insight of the need for a political change, thereby leading them to just action.28

When Cicero discussed the pedagogical function of the orator, he stressed that human knowledge is always bound with interest and that human judgments are determined more by love, hate, desires, anger, joy, fear, mistakes, and by excitement of feelings (or by whatever motive) than by the pure truth, instruction, legal regulations, procedural formulas, laws, or even a system of logical rules.29

When Augustine outlined the character of the religious orator, he rightly asked whether it was seriously believed that the preacher ascends the pulpit in order to make empty words, which, when well formulated, delighted the congregation. Didn’t he instead preach practical truth to them in order to convince his listeners of the need for Christian action?30 When Mark Anthony, in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, began to present a eulogizing burial address, he knew how to move the masses so that soon they all gave sympathy to Caesar (and to himself). The wretched murderers, however, especially Brutus, were forced to escape, even though it was precisely this innocent acting chump who had granted Anthony the permission to give the funeral address; for it was the aim of this address—and with this it paradigmatically stands for that which rhetoric means—to intensify the commitment to particular lasting values, to awaken a disposition to action and finally to move the listener to practical doing.31

When Giambattista Vico, at the educational height of the humanistic/rhetorical tradition, formulated the pedagogical significance of rhetoric in a classical way, he argued that those who had an eye focused only on the true (in the strictly rational sense) had great difficulty understanding any of the things of man which are always under the control of opportunity and choice. To the contrary, that which was to be done in life was “to judge according to the weight of the thing and the appendages we call circumstances,” even though these may possibly appear strange and inconsistent, topsy-turvy and sometimes even opposed to the goal.32 In his appropriate distinction between the actions of dialectical science and those of rhetorical wisdom, Vico emphasized that (theoretical) science distinguished itself by seeking a single cause from which the diversity of natural phenomena could then be traced. What counted more in practical wisdom, on the other hand, was that which could draw into consideration the greatest possible number of causes in any single fact, in order then to test which would be true. Through the correct and appropriate implementation of these actions, the truly wise were distinguished from the silly fools, the uncultured ignorant, and the imprudent scholar.33

This assignment of education and pedagogy to the realm of praxis applied continuously, until it came to that “methodological ignorance with regard to the distinction between possession and action on which technically oriented science concentrates,”34 therefore, until that transformation of the meaning of theory and practice which was discussed in the second chapter.

Let’s briefly review this once again. At least since Aristotle a conceptual distinction was made between poiesis, as productive work with objects and praxis as free, responsible, intersubjectively oriented action. While productive making had its aim in the produced object and thereby outside of itself (that is in the product), responsible doing as some good and right action always carried its meaning in itself and fulfilled itself in its own completion (in the act itself). Poietic production could (and must) therefore be “evaluated” from its products; responsible action, on the other hand, may not be judged, i.e., “valued” alone by its measurable results, but particularly by its intention and orientation, i.e., from its guiding values. Joining with Aristotle, we could also say that human action never comes to an objective, i.e., to an outwardly determined end but stretches itself throughout the entire length of human life; in this sense human life is completely praxis, and the works (as the “engaging in,” not as the product) of practical doing is the active self-realization of man as a reasonable being.

When we indicated that theory was transformed in the modern technical/scientific view into an applicable specialized knowledge, we noted, at the same time, that authentic “practice” was also transformed into a scientifically directed “poiesis.” In fact, as must now be expanded, only product-oriented making permits the precise and reliable guidance and review of a technically applied know-how. Without precisely destroying the practical nature of action and then inescapably reducing it to poiesis, such an external control in the realm of human action is completely impossible. What Rüdiger Bubner has so strikingly formulated applies here:

The lack of objective certainty through a product denies every theory of dominion and control which would be clearly delimited, theoretically secured within its boundaries, and specialistically perfected. The possibility of practical guidance through theoretical knowledge is limited by the very factors which are to be sought in the peculiar structure of practice.35

Practice, according to its nature, is object of a sovereign all-knowing making. It must be ever newly carried out in the awareness that it attains its purpose only in concrete operation. This means that every act must be risked and answered for by the individual. There is no correct knowledge, which could remove this burden from the subject. Practice is not technical production, it does not permit the application of the principles of theoretical knowledge even in its universalization as ‘political science.’36

Or in other words: “Because of its structure, a discrepancy stands between scientific theory which is concerned with technological application and the practice of citizens who negotiate and act.”37

Karl-Otto Apel rightly points out that the model of an “open society” of responsibly acting citizens is not the ideal premise of any social/technological (it might be analogously added: also any educational/technological) view. Rather, it lies “in a society which on the basis of a stable, quasi-archaic power structure decays into the informed and uninformed, the manipulators and the manipulated, the subjects and the objects of science and technology.”38 Scientific theory and its results cannot, without problems, guide the means of social (and educational) technology; at the very outset it makes the subjects of these means into the objects of an empirical/analytical explanation of behavior.39 Further, such a view and the technological civilization built upon it, threatens “to split consciousness and to divide mankind into two classes: the social engineers and inmates of closed institutions”40 or carried over into education, into the technologists of education and the marionettes manipulated by them.

Even though we have stated with great firmness that, according to the classical/ancient understanding, education and pedagogy clearly fall into the realm of praxis, another objection may immediately be raised against this opinion. Didn’t the sophists represent a completely different standpoint? Didn’t these “professional traveling teachers, which gladly extolled themselves and who were soon discussed so much in Athens,”41 take a view precisely in opposition to the idea of the paideia as praxis? Didn’t they interpret education as a product “where through his own principles and knowledge, the subject expert freely shaped the student according to any objective or rational plan?”42 Didn’t they claim to have at their disposal didactical tricks, methodological rules, and educational techniques, which made it possible to so work on young people that they could be delivered to the client, i.e., to the “education buyer,” as “finished products”43—as it is commonly spoken in today’s economically tinted language. Didn’t they promise to deliver them consistent with the basic principles of the public good and utility, with life skills and guaranteed mastery? Didn’t the sophists, in comparison to the education usually given up to that time, kindle almost a pedagogical revolution, which, according to the insightful judgment of Marrou, was “determined less politically than technically?”44 Weren’t they the first to speak of the task of education as a profession and in the process also emphasize those elements of professionalism which until today have remained characteristic: they made education exclusively an independent cultural concern which is teachable in the form of a technical skill and which is learnable as a profession; directed at a particular clientele to whom—of course, for good payment— they delivered precisely transferrable knowledge, skills, and qualifications. They viewed the phenomena of education as a process whose success depends on requirements and conditions which only the expert can know well; and finally they concentrated  on  teaching and instruction as  “the first  and  most easily” isolatable area of education,45 which most readily can be made rational?46

In any case, the sophists in Athens behaved with remarkable self-certainty and enormously high self-esteem; in order to gain customers, they gave impressive public teaching auditions; they made clearly described teaching proposals, introduced a scientifically prepared curriculum, and promised to deliver useful and success-promoting qualifications. Whosoever would only pay close attention to their courses and, with the requisite learning readiness, continue through, would—as is stated in Plato’s Protagoras—learn to be wise “in affairs private as well as public, would learn to order his own house in the best manner, and would be able to speak and act for the best in the affairs of the state.”47

At any rate, the sophists did not shy away from posing as all-knowing, infallible, competent, and educationally omnipotent. Because of this, Isocrates in his writing, Against the Sophists, lashed out at the pedagogical audacity of his colleagues with biting ridicule (which appears to be very relevant again today). He believed that their public reputation would have been much better if all those in education who claimed a professional status for themselves were prepared to stick to the facts instead of making unkeepable promises.48 The negative connotation that the adjective “sophisticated” has been given, even today, which leads us to think more about shysters and incompetent lawyers than about pedagogically responsible teachers and educators,49 may have also been based on the shady endeavors of these first pedagogical professionals. Whatever it may have been, the Sophists central view of education was obviously modeled after the productive making of the artisan. It is evident that their conception of pedagogy was oriented after the model of a professional science, which makes available to the professional specialist the corresponding expertise and the requisite technical know-how with which he could produce his works, the manufactured, useful, and skillfully “educated.” It was precisely against this mechanization of education and its extensive reduction to teaching and learning toward which both Plato and Isocrates directed their criticism: that when education becomes formalized and functionalized, it forfeits its ethical substance.50

Once again, if we stop our thoughts for a moment, we can summarize the following: education and pedagogy cannot be thought of in the image of theory, i.e., of theoretical knowledge. There, where at first glance it may have seemed as though it could be interpreted according to this model, it comes to light with more careful consideration that behind this facade is hidden the framework of poiesis, the construct of technical production, the conception of a “pedagogy of making.”51 An exemplar of this process was shown in our short excursion through Plato. A critical discussion of more recent extreme attempts to formalize and, in the strict sense, to theorize pedagogy and the jargon of educational science would lead to very similar results.52

We could, on the other hand, establish that for classical thought education and pedagogy belonged to the realm of praxis. However, once again, a look at the sophists would throw doubt upon this thesis, for our short glance made clear that they had a view of education in the sense of poiesis and an interpretation of pedagogy as a technological/professional science.

Therefore, we now stand before the dilemma to see side by side two divergent models of education at the beginning and, at the same time at the first high point, of Western pedagogy—the one a model of education as praxis, the other a model of education as poiesis. And we have seen that both models also correspond to two distinct views about the purpose of education. In one instance (the model of praxis), man appears as the product of himself—a product, understood as accomplishing what man has actively to do himself. This process (in agreement with Aristotle’s formulation) never comes to an end, but continues throughout the length of human life (qua praxis). At most, this process can be excited, encouraged, and supported by education, but it could never be high-handedly caused. In the other instance (the model of poiesis), man appears as the product of education—a product, understood here as the result of a professional and scientifically guided treatment, or in the language of the industrial age, as the processing and refining of more or less unformed raw material, a product, which can be assessed at the completion of the production process and evaluated by its usefulness (one most often today speaks of “qualifications”).53

While in the first instance the process of education is basically viewed as unfinished and, by principle, eludes a strict scientific/rational planning, in the second instance, it is the task of education to shape man according to the pattern of technological or economic thought (e.g., means  and ends or input and output) and to subdue him through rational planning as well as quantitative evaluation. If, because of the particular socio-economic conditions, the products of education no longer smoothly fit, as finished once and for all, into the dynamically changing system of employment (society, marketplace, etc.), then this process  of  manufacturing is simply drawn out and extended to the entire length  of life—be it in the form of “recurrent education,” “life-long learning,” “éducation permanente,” “gerontagogy,” or even “Pantherapeutization.”54

An equally cursory glance through the history of Western educational thought could teach us that both of these models not only opposed each other in the beginning of this history, mutually challenging each other’s pre-eminence, but throughout the entire course of history they continuously reappear as competing models. Even a very rough glance at contemporary education would show us that both of these models still dominate the pedagogical discussion today. At this point, where we are discussing the problem of theory and practice, it cannot be our purpose to stroll through the long and varied educational history of Western thought. Nor can it be our task critically to scrutinize the various positions of contemporary pedagogy. Because of this, in what follows, with the aid of a few prominent historical examples, we will examine education as poiesis, in order to be able to decide about the legitimacy of adopting a modern/scientific understanding of theory and practice, i.e., the double view of an operational theory (“know-how,” the scientifically established knowledge of experts) and its “application” in an educational poiesis. To do this, we will consider particularly the possible justification of this model, i.e., its basic strengths and weaknesses, range and boundaries, fullness and emptiness, in order to decide if this model is in reality appropriate for education and for the relationship between pedagogy and education. After that, we will ask about the justification of an education as praxis. With this, we will highlight pedagogy as practical knowledge—i.e., as knowledge, which is always joined to an already existing educational practice, explains it, makes it more conscious, pursues it critically, and projectively sketches a better practice. From this it will be shown how much more suitable such a “practical” perspective is than a technological model of thought for the authentic nature of education, for the humanity of mankind, and for the reality of the human community.



1. Compare this and other technical concepts applied here in Winfried Böhm, Wörterbuch der Pädagogik 12 (Stuttgart: Korener-Taschenausgabe, 1982).

2. See Samuel Jjsseling, Rhetoric and Philosophy in Conflict (The Hague, 1976) esp. 7ff.

3. Theodor Ballauff, Philosophische Begründungen der Pädagogik (Berlin, 1966) 82; compare also in more detail from the same author, Die Idee der Paideia (Meisenheim/Glan, 1952).

4. Compare Giuseppe Flores d’Arcais, Educazione e pedagogia. Storia del pensiero pedagogico (Milano, 1976) vol. 1 esp. 67fl.

5. Compare in detail J. J. Chambliss, “The Guardian,” The Educated Man. Studies in the History of Educational Thought, eds. Paul Nash, Andreas M. Kazamias, Henry J. Perkinson (New York, 1965) 29-52.

6. Fritz-Peter Hager, Plato Paedagogus (Bern, 1981) 108.

7. Joseph Moreau, “Platon et l’éducation,” Les grands Pédagogues, eds. J. S. Brubacher, et al. (Paris, 1956) 1-22; citation on p. 1.

8. Ballauff, Philosophische Begründungen der Pädagogik 56.

9. Henri-Irénée Marrou, A History of Education in Antiquity, trans. George Lamb (New York: Mentor Books, 1956) 120.

10. Giambattista Vico, Vom Wesen und Weg der geistigen Bildung, ed. Fritz Schalk (Bad Godesberg, 1947) 59f.

11. Johannes Christes, Bildung und Gesellschaft. Die Einschätzung der Bildung und ihrer Vermittler in der griechisch-römischen Antike (Darmstadt, 1975) 31.

12. Plato, Gorgias 484 c-d.

13. Plato, Gorgias 485 d. 192.

14. Karl R. Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies 2 vols. (Princeton, 1963).

15. Giuseppe Flores d’Arcais, La pedagogia nel pensiero greco (Milano, 1954).

16. Benjamin Farrington, Ciencia griega (Buenos Aires, 1957).

17. Farrington, Ciencia y política en el mundo antiguo (Madrid, 1968) 82.

18. Robin Barrow, Plato. Utilitarianism and Education (London, 1975) 179.

19. Barrow, Plato. Utilitarianism and Education 180.

20. Barrow, Plato. Utilitarianism and Education.

21. José Ortega Esteban, Platón. Eros, política y educación (Salamanca, 1981) 26f.

22. Esteban, La acción y la actitud educativa en Platón (Salamanca, 1976) 13.

23. Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago, 1958) 141-142.

24. Compare August Burk, Die Pädagogik des Isokrates (Würzburg, 1923) 89.

25. Here, I have borrowed several passages from my article, “Theorie und Praxis,” Die Pädagogik und ihre Bereiche, eds. Wilhelm Brinkman and Karl Renner (Paderborn, 1982) 29-44.

26. The word is meant here in the platonic sense as that strictly rational method, excluding the false (through refutation) and the merely hypothetical opinion (through proof of its non-necessity) and which climbs step by step to absolute truth.

27. Cosimo Laneve has presented a brilliant historical-critical investigation of this essential relationship: Retorica e educazione. Analisi storico-critica (Brescia, 1981); also from the same author, “Il discorso pedagogico di fronte alla ‘nuova retorica,’” Nuova Rivista Pedagogica 27 (1979) 59-96.

28. Compare Wolf Steidle, “Redekunst und Bildung bei Isokrates,” Hermes 80 (1952): 257-296.

29. Cicero, De oratore 2: 178.

30. Aurelius Augustine, De doctrina christiana 4, 13.

31. Compare Chaim Perelman, The New Rhetoric and the Humanities (Doordrecht, 1979) 7.

32. Vico, Vom Wesen und Weg der geistigen Bildung 59.

33. Compare Vico, “De nostri temporis studiorum ratione” (1708), Opere filosofiche, a cura di Paolo Cristofolini (Firenze, 1971) 811.

34. Jürgen Habermas, Theorie und Praxis (Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp TB, 1978) 81.

35. Rüdiger Bubner, Theorie und Praxis—eine nachhegelsche Abstraktion (Frankfurt, 1971) 32f.

36. Bubner, Theorie und Praxis—eine nachhegelsche Abstraktion 33.

37. Habermas, Theorie und Praxis 81.

38. Karl-Otto Apel, Transformation der Philosophie (Neuwied, 1973) 1: 14.

39. Apel, Transformation der Philosophie 1: 15.

40. Habermas, “Dogmatismus, Vernunft und Entscheidung. Zu Theorie und Praxis in der verwissenschaftlichten Zivilisation,” Theorie und Praxis 334.

41. Albert Reble, Geschichte der Pädagogik (Stuttgart, 1975) 25.

42. Ernst Lichtenstein, Der Ursprung der Pädagogik im griechischen Denken (Hannover, 1970) 61.

43. Compare James L. Jarret, ed., The Educational Theories of the Sophists (New York, 1969) 102.

44. Marrou, Geschichte der Erziehung im klassischen Altertum (Freiburg, 1957) 77.

45. Compare Aloys Fischer, “Erziehung als Beruf,” Leben und Werk (Munich, 1950) 2: 77.

46. Toward the problem of professionalization, compare Wilbert E. Moore, The Professions. Roles and Rules (New York, 1970); Wilhelm Brinkmann, Der Beruf des Lehrers (Bad Heilbrunn, 1976); Böhm, “Es posible profesionalizar la actividad del maestro?”, Educación. Colección semestral de aportaciones alemanas recientes en las ciencias pedagógicas 26 (1982): 14-23.

47. Plato, Protagoras 318e-319a. For an overview of the sophist movement in modern literature compare especially G. B. Kerferd, The Sophistic Movement (Cambridge, 1981) and H. D. Rankin, Sophists, Socrates and Cynics (Totowa, NJ, 1983).

48. Compare Jarret, The Educational Theories of the Sophists; there on pp. 212-218 is a superb English translation of this writing of Isocrates (“Against the Sophists”).

49. Compare Werner Eisenhut, Einführung in die antike Rhetorik und ihre Geschichte (Darmstadt, 1982) 15.

50. For more detail, compare Böhm, La educación de la persona (Buenos Aires, 1982) 76ff.

51. I borrow this term from my colleague at Würzburg, Günther Bittner, who has used it on several occasions (in a critical-polemic manner).

52. For a very typical example of this, the highly complex book of Sergio de Giacinto, Educazione come sistema (Brescia, 1977).

53. If one wants a picture of the modern escalating technological as well as economic-mercantilistic transformation of education, a critical analysis of the language and concepts in the Strukturplan of the German Council of Education would be extremely useful. In this regard, compare also Ballauff, “Transzendentale Schemata im pädagogischen Denken,” Geschichte der Pädagogik und systematische Erziehungwissenschaft, eds. Winfried Böhm and Jürgen Schriewer (Stuttgart, 1975) 20-29, esp. p. 27.

54. Toward the problem of an almost malignant outgrowth of this pantherapeutic trend, one can read Hansjörg Hemminger and Vera Becker’s recent: Wenn Therapien schaden (Reinbek, 1985). Michael Winkler refers to the presumed rewriting of educational issues into problems of therapy hidden in the so-called “Antipädagogik” movement: Stichpunkte zur Antipädagogik (Stuttgart, 1982) esp. 157ff.