Foreningen av visdom og veltalenhet – utkast til en universitetsdidaktikk gjennom en kritikk og videreføring av Skjervheims pedagogiske filosofi på bakgrunn av Arendt og Foucault. Eller hvorfor menneskelivet er mer som å spille fløyte enn å bygge et hus
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This thesis attempts to give an interpretation and further development of the Norwegian philosopher Hans Skjervheim’s educational thinking. The main argument is that Skjervheim’s view of pedagogy as a type of psychagogy – a certain way of «leading the soul» – represents a continuation of a common theme of higher education harking back to antiquity, namely the union of wisdom and eloquence.
The union of wisdom and eloquence as a theme expresses an attempt to solve conflict between philosophy and rhetoric or a conflict between the bios theoretikos/vita contemplativa and the bios politikos/vita activa. This is a conflict starting in many ways with Plato’s project of formulating a philosophical education or a philosophical way of life to remedy the political crisis evolving in the Athenian city-state. As many have stated, Plato launched his education in order to compete with the rhetorical education and political way of life offered by Isocrates. The union of wisdom and eloquence or the theme of the conflict between vita contemplativa and vita activa, has taken many forms throughout history, starting with the Greek enkyklios paideia. One can find the theme institutionalized in the seven liberal arts (artes liberales), where trivium has been traditionally considered as «rhetorical» arts and the quadrivium as «philosophical» arts. This composition of studies is regarded as the backbone of academia from the beginning of the university.
The thesis examines whether this conflict is still relevant in our time, and I will argue that some of its most important features may have been forgotten and need to be rediscovered. It will be argued that perhaps this theme can still serve as an ideal for higher education today, where academic or scientific endeavors are increasingly considered to be a type of work or production. The thesis will attempt to continue and expand Skjervheim’s critique of positivism and thus contribute to the debate on Bildung and higher education in Norway after the Quality Reform and similar debates internationally, by giving a theoretical foundation to a university didactics with the theme of the union of wisdom and eloquence as its core.
The reason why the union of wisdom and eloquence is still a relevant theme today is that both vita activa and vita contemplativa have presupposed the exclusion of work. This means not only that education to a philosophical or rhetorical way of life rested on freedom as a material and institutional condition (as in the necessity of skhole or the principle of Einsamkeit und Freiheit in the Humboldtian university), but the education given both by the vita activa and the vita contemplativa was also an education to a way of knowing regarded as non-productive or as a non-interfering attitude to the world. This represents a significant break with the modern understanding of science increasingly becoming more «technical».
This attempt to revitalize the vita activa and the vita contemplativa is carried out through examinations of Hannah Arendt’s and Michel Foucault’s projects and their critical stances towards modernity. The thesis will argue that Arendt and her critique of our society as a «society of job holders» represents a revitalization of the vita activa, while Foucault and his critique of the neoliberal governmentality and lectures on philosophy as a way of life represents a revitalization of the vita contemplativa.
The main criticism of Skjervheim in this thesis stems from Arendt and Foucault. But at the same time Skjervheim's understanding of pedagogy as a type of psychagogy is the element bridging the thinking of Arendt and Foucualt together, and thus serves as a modern expression of the union of wisdom and eloquence.