The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 11, 1998

Modern Philosophy

Paola Giacomoni
Pages 53-57

Paideia as Bildung in Germany in the Age of Enlightenment

There have been many interpretations of Bildung in the history of German philosophy, from the Medieval mystics to the secularization of the Enlightenment. Wilhelm von Humboldt's work at the end of the 18th century is a good example. He placed the idea of Bildung at the center of his work because it was rooted in a dynamic, transforming idea of the natural and human worlds while also being oriented toward a model of balance and perfection. Von Humboldt's interpretation of modernity is characterized by a strong emphasis on change as well as the need to find criteria for guiding such a transformation that has no intrinsic or predetermined end. Love of classical antiquity was not merely nostalgia for a lost world, a normative current that placed the idea of perfection and balance foremost in order to achieve the ideal of Humanitas in an attempt to overcome the unilaterally of modernity.