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Wilhelm von Humboldt
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Nearly everywhere in Germany, the reorganised philosophical faculties succeeded in maintaining their newly acquired dominance for a very long time. It was only in the late 19th and early 20th century that new faculties gradually began to dissociate themselves from their unifying grip. Yet, for all their durability, it is far from clear whether education at the reorganised philosophical faculties actually had the expected effect of " wissenschaftliche Bildung " "scientific education" as understood by Humboldt.
Humboldt and his fellow reformers are usually very positively assessed for having granted Bildung education a central place on Prussia's academic and social agenda. Throughout the 19th century, many educationalists stuck to the traditional opinion that humane education should primarily focus, not on the acquisition of new knowledge by means of scientific research, but on a canonical body of exemplary texts that offered aesthetic and ethical models worthy of imitation.
In their view, the new model of " wissenschaftliche Bildung " "scientific education" was so abstractly conceived that it was unlikely to sort much effect in educational practice.
The relevance of this criticism would emerge ever more clearly in the course of the late 19th century, when increasing numbers of scholars remained faithful to the concept of "science as research" while abandoning the educational ideal that had once been its motivating force. By examining its tense interplay with the traditional ideal of classical education, we may get a grip on the intrinsic causes why the new ideal of " wissenschaftliche Bildung " "scientific education" proved so difficult to realise and why it ultimately created the very conditions of its own decline.
Up to the early 19th century, only a limited number of sciences was assigned with a potential of humane education Bildung. It comprised both the literary texts that formed the main subject of classical education and the ancillary disciplines needed to explain them. Thus, an intensive training in perfect form was dictated by the "nature and order of the human soul". Yet, although beauty was classical education's central point of focus, it was by no means its only objective. Like most classical school teachers of his time Herder believed that beauty was intimately connected to virtue and truth.
Once having acquired "accuracy" and "precision" by the intensive study of perfect form, he argued, children could reasonably be expected to translate these virtues into moral behaviour. Herder adhered to the widespread view that "everything beautiful can only lead to the true and the good". In Herder's view, the "fine sciences" were indispensable to cultivating the three properties that above all make a human being a human being: the sense of beauty, the sense of virtue and the sense of truth.
For that reason it is For our present investigation it is of central importance that underlying the late 18th-century ideal of Bildung education with its focus on the beautiful, the good and the true, was a concept of science that did not exclude values. Although it was generally agreed that knowledge of the beautiful could not lay claim to the same degree of certainty as the higher sciences, 27 it was nevertheless recognised as a science in its own right. Bildung education , far from being associated with the "totality" of human knowledge, was believed to be attainable only by studying those scientific disciplines in which humane values played a central role.
Only after the acquisition of Bildung education one would continue to the "higher" or "faculty sciences", to which no specific educational value was assigned. Although Kant did not yet develop a consistent concept of science himself, he insisted that true science deal exclusively with knowledge that was obtainable by the application of strict methods and therefore determinable with complete certainty.
This "subjectification" of aesthetics by Kant was of profound influence on the philosophical way of reflecting on science. As early as , August Wilhelm Schlegel — called the expression "almost obsolete".
Schlegel wrote that "all science is rigorous by nature; the appearance of play and freedom, which plays an essential role with everything beautiful, is entirely excluded [from science]". This paradigm shift in the philosophical way of reflecting on science deeply influenced ideas on humane education Bildung.
The widespread study of classical literature , with its major focus on aesthetic and ethical values, was increasingly at risk of not being acknowledged as a true science and therefore of being discarded as frivolous. Aiming to reduce the traditional focus on aesthetic and other humane values, they highlighted that aspect of classical studies which was the most strictly methodical and therefore best fitted the Kantian view: philology. From the s onwards, a group of leading academic philologists undertook to apply the changing demands of science to classical philology. The central aim of these scholars was to conceive of classical philology as a clearly ordered system of knowledge in which interdependent subdisciplines were all assigned their proper place and task.
Wolf's aim to transform the study of antiquity into a systematically ordered whole showed the influence of Immanuel Kant, who wrote that "each doctrine Lehre is called science Wissenschaft when it is a whole of knowledge that is ordered according to principles".
In Darstellung der Alterthumswissenschaft , Wolf gave substance to this objective by subdividing classical studies into 24 subdisciplines, ranging from "fundamental" disciplines grammar, hermeneutics and criticism , to specialist ones such as mythology, numismatics and epigraphy. Wolf expected the knowledge yielded by a properly operated science of antiquity to possess a degree of certainty that would "often not be less" than that yielded by "the mathematical calculus".
As order and coherence were amongst Wolf's main concerns, he was highly critical of the conceptual obscurity that characterised classical studies up to his day. He strongly disapproved of the fact that the various subdisciplines of the study of antiquity were plagued by "fluctuating boundaries and an indeterminate scope". Nothing illustrates with more clarity the shift in thinking about classical studies than Wolf's attempt to replace the concept of "fine sciences" by a new concept of "pure science". Wolf complemented the traditional, exemplary perspective on the ancient world with a historical perspective, which he even considered superior to the traditional view:.
In Wolf's view, the primary aim of classical studies was no longer to appreciate classical texts for their exemplary qualities, but to gain "historical and philosophical knowledge, by which we can get to know the nations of the ancient world The transformation of classical philology initiated by Friedrich August Wolf posed a major challenge to the late 18th-century ideal of humane education Bildung.
Yet, Wolf, like most contemporary academic philologists, did not himself consider scientific philology and humane values to be mutually exclusive. On the contrary, Wolf explicitly motivated his transformation of classical studies in normative terms. It was because he considered classical antiquity a world of rare significance and beauty that he recommended it as an excellent object of scientific study. In the introduction to Darstellung der Alterthumswissenschaft , Wolf celebrated antiquity as "the inner sanctum of the Wolf was amongst the first philologists to conceive of the classical world at large as a beautifully structured work of art.
Seeing antiquity as an "organic unity" " organisches Ganze " and an "animated whole" " belebtes Ganze " , Wolf held that the "mediocrity" of many remains of the ancient world "still had a nobler stamp than modern mediocrity", as all remnants of the ancient world were infused by a sacred "spirit that unite[d] everything individual to a harmonious whole". This early 19th-century concept of classical antiquity as a beautifully structured unity is of essential importance to understand why the concept of rigorous science was integrated into the ideal of classical education.
In Friedrich August Wolf's view, getting sight of the "organic unity" underlying the ancient Greek and Roman world would only be possible by subjecting this world to conscientious methodical research. Only a Wissenschaft science that would explore all aspects of antiquity in detail and conjunction would be able to fully expose its beautiful "inner coherence".
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By transforming classical studies, Wolf aimed to create a science of antiquity that was as harmoniously organised as antiquity itself. Yet, Wolf left not the slightest doubt that the ultimate purpose of unravelling antiquity's inner coherence was to see its beauty and value. Scientific philology would ultimately generate an inspirational " Epoptie " "epopty" of "ancient humankind itself", an uplifting "vision of the sacred".
It was because it confronted people with an edifying "image of a more divine humanity" 60 that " Altertumswissenschaft " "science of antiquity" contributed more "perfectly" than any other science to "the harmonious development of the [human] mind". Wolf's transformation of the ideal of classical education testifies to the implementation of the novel, Humboldtian concept of " wissenschaftliche Bildung " "scientific education" in classical philology. It was this abstraction of the ideal of humane education from its traditional connection to concretely demonstrable and imitable values that created a new standard of reflection on the relation between Wissenschaft and Bildung science and education.
After Wolf's implementation of the concept of " wissenschaftliche Bildung " "scientific education" in classical philology, educational value was no longer the prerogative of the humane sciences, but could be claimed by each scientific discipline that aimed to unveil a part of the harmonious totality of human knowledge.
Thus the path was cleared for many more sciences than ever before to gradually enter the canon of the educational sciences. From the s onwards, the educational value of the natural sciences began to be defended in a fashion that would have been unthinkable without the Wolfian model. Karl von Raumer — , a well-known geologist, deduced the educational value of his discipline from the geologist's task to uncover the mathematical structure underlying geological formations by means of rigorous science.
For this order, being of an unmistakable, magnificent beauty, pointed to a higher, non-material reality. The "admirable, beautiful Moritz Drobisch — , professor of mathematics and philosophy at the University of Leipzig , welcomed the recent exposure of the "mathematical fundament" of many sciences, as it put students in the position to "awe at the teleological coherence" and "recognise a superhuman, ordering wisdom whose purposes By directing the student's attention towards a spiritual reality behind the world of nature, astronomy could impossibly be denied "a powerful moral and religious influence".
Also mathematics was increasingly praised for its humane educational potential. According to the philosopher and theologian Moritz Erdmann Engel — , the "indisputable certainty" of mathematical knowledge would have a moralising influence on human beings. In the early 19th century, scholars from widely different disciplines subscribed to the idea that the systematic structure underlying the various fields of human knowledge pointed to a higher, spiritual reality. Much like Wolf, who expected the positive results of scientific philology to yield a mystical vision of "ancient humankind itself", natural scientists believed that the exposure of nature's mathematical foundations would generate insight into the splendour and greatness of creation.
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Precisely the combination of "the marvellous and the scientifically exact" lay at the heart of the early 19th-century concept of scientific education. The institutional impact of the above described ideal of scientific education can be measured by a number of reorganisations affecting the philosophical faculties of most 19th-century German universities.
Firstly, as the ideal of " wissenschaftliche Bildung " "scientific education" was based on the concept of the totality and unity of human knowledge, the philosophical faculties began to develop curricula of encyclopaedic breadth that included both the humanities and the natural sciences. In order to achieve this, they integrated numerous disciplines that had previously been accommodated elsewhere, for example botany, zoology, mineralogy and chemistry, which traditionally had the status of ancillary disciplines at the medical faculty.
Secondly, as the concept of " wissenschaftliche Bildung " "scientific education" was intrinsically bound up with an ideal of scientific research, the philosophical faculties considered it their specific task, not only to provide general education, but also to expand the existing body of human knowledge. Here students were given the opportunity to acquire scientific education by actively partaking in advanced, inquiry-based learning under the guidance of a scientific specialist.
Thirdly, well into the late 19th century, it was common for German scholars to justify scientific research by stressing its educational potential. Specialisation within a small subdiscipline was widely considered suitable to harmoniously educate the mind because the systematic structure underlying the various subfields of human knowledge reflected the overall structure of the whole. Thirdly, the influence of the new ideal of scientific education is testified by the fact that at most universities, the philosophical faculty lost its traditional status of subordination to the other faculties.
Studying at the philosophical faculty was no longer seen as a way of gathering preparatory knowledge required for entering the higher, professional faculties, but, on the contrary, as the pre-eminent formative stage of the development of a true scientist Wissenschaftler. Only when mathematical and natural-scientific faculties began to emancipate themselves in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the philosophical faculties gradually gave up their claim of being the pre-eminent faculties to provide students with scientific education.
The 19th-century German ideal of " wissenschaftliche Bildung " "scientific education" was also a major influence outside of Germany. Although a German "model" was not known as such, many European countries copied various aspects of the German university system that closely related to the German concept of scientific education. The first official regulation of studies, put into effect on April 26th , was prepared by Christian August Brandis — , a German professor of philosophy who worked as a consultant for the young Bavarian King Otto I — , who ascended the Greek throne in In accordance with the Prussian model, Brandis accommodated the natural sciences at the philosophical faculty, against earlier proposals to equip them with a faculty of their own.
Apart from thus making the philosophical faculty represent the "unity of science", he also successfully introduced the typically German institution of "outside lecturers" Privatdozenten : privately paid university teachers who distinguished themselves by scientific research and thus contributed to spreading an integrative concept of Forschung and Lehre research and teaching. Petersburg — led to the establishment of a three-year curriculum of general scientific education that preceded higher, professional training. At nearly all of them, numerous eminent German scholars were employed, whose academic status helped spread the German ideal of science and research.
These German-inspired achievements were remarkably preserved during subsequent university reforms in and , despite the significant political changes brought by time.
Humboldtian model of higher education
In the Low Countries , German influence was most noticeable in the last quarter of the 19th century. In , the Dutch parliament justified a decision to preserve theology's position at the state's universities — against proposals to remove it from them in view of the radical separation of church and state prescribed by the Constitution of — by appealing to the celebrated German principle of the unity of science, which was even called "sacred" in one of the parliamentary debates.
Moreover, the first article of the Law on Higher Education mentioned scientific research as one the university's central tasks, whereas before, universities were primarily seen as teaching institutions. Comparable developments took place in Belgium from the s onwards, with German universities serving as examples. In Romanic countries, the influence of German ideas on scientific education was considerably smaller.
Since the French Revolution , the French system of higher education was in many ways diametrically opposed to that of Germany. Secondly, in the French faculties of letters, as in that of most other Romanic countries, a traditional, humanistic approach remained dominant throughout the 19th century. This approach centred not on the ideal of rigorous science, but on elegant, empathetic text explanation intended for a wide audience. The sharp separation between faculty education on the one hand and scientific research on the other proves that the typically German integration of teaching and research did hardly materialise in France.
Despite its limited institutional influence, however, German science and the German university played a central role in French debates on higher education in the second half of the 19th century. Duruy for example encouraged young academics to study in Germany or to examine German educational institutions. Most of these academics agreed that German science was superior to French science and that German universities widely surpassed the French faculties. Of all European countries, England was probably most immune to German influences.
Throughout the 19th century, the universities of Oxford and Cambridge were mostly attended by students from the upper middle class, gentry and nobility, who saw a classical education as part of their gentlemanly upbringing and who harboured little interest in the novel German ideal of rigorous science. Moreover, in England, the concept of "science" never took on the comprehensive and pretentious meaning that the term " Wissenschaft " obtained in Germany.
Furthermore, state-directed, centralised reforms such as took place in Germany could hardly be implemented in a country like England where universities and colleges were still autonomous corporations that were largely independent from ministerial bureaucracy. Nonetheless, German specialised research and education enjoyed a positive reputation in England in the late 19th century. The foundation of technical colleges and the promotion of subsidised research was often legitimised with reference to German examples. The influence of a specific "model" of science or of scientific education, however, can hardly be observed.
Despite the profound influence that the new ideal of " wissenschaftliche Bildung " "scientific education" exercised both in and outside of Germany, it would not withstand the test of time. This pressure would be only increased by the final institutional subdivision of the philosophical faculty into independent smaller faculties from the late 19th century onwards. In the 20th century, of the three constitutive characteristics of the German ideal of scientific education — which have been discussed in the introduction — only the research ideal remained.
This was a highly ironical fact, as the concept of the unity and the educational value of science had initially played a key role in legitimising the accommodation of research at the university.
The founders of the " Wissenschaftsideologie " "ideology of science" believed in the educational potential of scientific research because they considered it ideally suited to educate the human mind in conformity with the unity of knowledge. In the course of the 19th century, however, the proliferation of scientific research created a degree of differentiation and specialisation that proved ever harder to reconcile with the educational ideal endorsed by the research ideal's early advocates.
At the turn of the 20th century it had become clear that the German ideal of scientific education had created the very conditions of its own decline. This paradoxical development is best explained by comparing the ideal of " wissenschaftliche Bildung " "scientific education" with the traditional, classical ideal of humane education. Prior to the 19th century, the humane value of education was usually searched for at a very concrete level.
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As the ideal of humane education was abstracted from this traditional connection to demonstrable exempla, this concreteness could no longer be maintained. The beautiful "organic unity" that Friedrich August Wolf aimed to get sight of by the scientific study of antiquity could not be concretely exposed, explained or imitated, but only be sensed.
Although Wolf considered this unified view the ultimate outcome of scientific philology, it could not itself be analysed in scientific terms. He was sharply aware of the tense relation between his concept of rigorous science and the spiritual insight that it was supposed to evoke. This same tension was felt in the natural sciences. For although it could well be assumed that the scientific study of geology, astronomy or mathematics would imbue students with reverence for the majestic beauty of the creative order, this beauty was fundamentally beyond grasp of the scientific apparatus that should effectuate its appreciation.
Beauty or divine wisdom might well be believed to underlie the eternal laws of nature, but they could not possibly be explained or analysed in scientific terms. In the course of the 19th century, the idea of "organic unity" that was assumed to underlie human knowledge was abstracted to such an extent that its relationship with the practice of education in the end became almost completely obscure. August Spilleke — , one of Germany's foremost advocates of education in the natural sciences, acknowledged the danger that by this type of education pupils would entirely lose sight of the spiritual world.
As a result of this inherent problem, in the course of the 19th century the gap between the positive results of rigorous science and its humanistic motivation gradually deepened. Eventually, it would become so wide as to compel many scholars to give up on the humanistic ideal of education and to replace it by a novel ideal of "objective" science. Within classical philology, this step would be taken by Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff — , who expressly aimed to altogether abandon the traditional, exemplary perspective on the ancient world and replace it by a concept of pure, self-contained Wissenschaft science.
Not seeing the point of "sacrificing a decennium" of one's life to "studying the ancient models", Mach promoted an ideal of "objective" science: in his view, future scholars should not aim to cultivate their taste and other values, but to learn "to simply present the facts and the truth unconcealed". For our argument it is crucial to understand that the final abandonment of the classical ideal of humane education in the late 19th century and early 20th century — an abandonment that is observable throughout Europe — was the ultimate result of its early 19th-century transformation.