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Bildung and embodiment. Learning, practice, space and democratic education

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Abstract

In the following I try to work out an aspect of the embodied experience that is circumscribed by the concept of negativity. The experience of the lived body is in a phenomenological perspective based on withdrawal and passive or pathic experiences (Straus 1956), which refer to the dependence, vulnerability and interweaving with others. This negativity of the experience of the body is described in terms of practicing, learning and relearning (1), space and spatial experience (2), Bildung and communication in the context of embodiment (3) and social and democratic learning (4). An ontological, experiential and socio-communicative negativity is distinguished. The learning experience as presented with Günther Buck is experience driven by negativity, which makes learning as experience and relearning possible. Space and spaciality are then presented as spaces of orientation, situation, and responsiveness, and linked to the learning experience from the perspective of negativity. In the third part follows a digression to Humboldt's educational theory, which is re-read from the perspective of embodiment. On this basis, I try to explore with Eugen Fink possibilities of democratic education in the context of an intergenerational questioning and a counseling community.
In: Phenomenology and Educational Theory in Conversation: Back to Education Itself. Howard, Patrick/ Saevi,
Tone/ Foran, Andrew/ Biesta, Gert. London: Taylor & Francis.
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Bildung and Embodiment: Learning, Practicing, Space
and Democratic Education
Malte Brinkmann
https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0853-1397
Abstract
In the following I try to work out an aspect of the embodied experience that is circumscribed by
the concept of negativity. The experience of the lived body is in a phenomenological perspective
based on withdrawal and passive or pathic experiences (Straus 1956), which refer to the
dependence, vulnerability and interweaving with others. This negativity of the experience of the
body is described in terms of practicing, learning and relearning (1), space and spatial experience
(2), Bildung and communication in the context of embodiment (3) and social and democratic
learning (4). An ontological, experiential and socio-communicative negativity is distinguished.
The learning experience as presented with Günther Buck is experience driven by negativity, which
makes learning as experience and relearning possible. Space and spaciality are then presented as
spaces of orientation, situation, and responsiveness, and linked to the learning experience from the
perspective of negativity. In the third part follows a digression to Humboldt's educational theory,
which is re-read from the perspective of embodiment. On this basis, I try to explore with Eugen
Fink possibilities of democratic education in the context of an intergenerational questioning and a
counseling community.
Embodied Experiences in Practicing and Learning
“When I recently practiced cycling with my three-and-a-half-year-old son, he was already
able to do a lot, because he had trained to keep his balance with his balance bike (a small bike
without pedals), and with his tricycle he had learned how to pedal. The first time on the bike he
did quite well. He was very proud to have taken another step towards more independence. With
the bicycle he can extend his circle of action and with a new experience of speed and space. The
other children looked at him and compared themselves with him. ``Oh, he can already ride
bicycles, I can do that already better than him’ and so on. But although he was not able to fully
control what was happening. For example, he could not brake yet. Also, he could not yet estimate
the speed and adjust his angle of vision and braking power to it, so that he often involuntarily went
off the bike, simply fell over or drove against obstacles. But the pain didn't stop him from climbing
up again and keep on practicing. However, these experiences of disappointment and failure left
obvious traces - scratches and abrasions, tears and rage. By now he can ride a bicycle as good or
as bad as most children of his age." (Brinkmann 2012).
The example shows some aspects of experience and negativity that I would like to work
out first: The phenomenological ontology of the lived body makes clear, that we can see in this
example of practicing the lived body as an “expressing body” (Hua IV p. 247) that articulates itself
in movements as well in gestures and mimics (cf. Hua X pp. 13 f.). In his late work, Husserl
describes this phenomenon with the term ‘movement-sensations’ and which express themselves in
In: Phenomenology and Educational Theory in Conversation: Back to Education Itself. Howard, Patrick/ Saevi,
Tone/ Foran, Andrew/ Biesta, Gert. London: Taylor & Francis.
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the mode of “I can” (Hua XI pp. 13 f.). Merleau-Ponty follows Husserl, but not his solipsism, in
determining the kinaesthetic unity of the lived body in an inter-corporal way. “The conscience in
its original sense is not an “I think to …”, but an “I can”” (Merleau-Ponty 1974, p. 166).
Knowledge is first incorporated and implicit knowledge in the body schema, not intellectual or
cognitive knowledge. By repeatedly mastering situation-specific requirements and tasks, forms of
knowledge, skills and behavior - through which the world and others come to us in a familiar way
become sedimented. As a bodily acquisition of certain meanings, the body schema manifests
itself as an "I can do again and again" and is, as a system of lived habits, involved in the foundation
of meaning. It responds in a habitualized way to the appeals of things and the behaviors of others.
In this way, it gains its “Gestalt” (Merleau-Ponty 1974, pp. 132 f.). Through the repeated
interaction with things and others, we form a certain structure of behaviour, perception and
judgement, which Merleau-Ponty and, following this, Bourdieu call style: a typical way of
perceiving the social world, and of behaving and acting in it (ibid., p. 378).
So we can say, experience is structured in a twofold way: Through repetition, experience
can result in routines, automatisms and dogmatisms. Experience is thus conventionalized,
habitualized and sedimentialized and manifests itself in certain types (Schütz/Luckmann 2003)
and habits. The pedagogical practice that enables these sedimentalizations and habitualizations is
practicing (Brinkmann 2012). Practicing is a specific form of learning. It takes place, when we
perform the same action which we actually want to practice, as Aristotle said. Within practicing
and by practicing, skills and abilities are cultivated and perfected. We are practicing something to
be able to perform this specific activity in a more cultivated, aesthetic or elegant way. The path
towards it is repetitive practicing. Within practicing, implicit knowledge as practical ability is
primary, verbally explicit and formalized knowledge on the other hand secondary. In addition to
this, practicing is a form of learning which aims at continuity and permanence. It is characterized
by repetition. In the same moment of practicing we experience a break. That's why we only
practice, if we are not already able to perform the action we are aiming at, if we are disappointed
and irritated, if we fail and try anew like the boy in the example. The experience of not-knowing-
how means that the experience process is interrupted. It is not just the failure of a task, but the
experience process itself is in its temporal structure to disposition. The anticipation of being able
to ride a bicycle is disappointed at the moment of the negative experience.
Buck (2019) describes this structure as involving cycles of experiential anticipation and
fulfilmentor alternatively, disappointment or negation. "Anticipation means precisely the
openness to new experiences that belongs to said experience" as "preceding interpretation" and
"understanding in advance" (Buck 2019, p. 69). The disappointment of anticipation in the
negativity of experience "does not manifest itself in the fact that a deception is simply seen through
and a correction or deletion takes place…” (ibid p. 69). While a fulfilled anticipation explicates
the horizon (not reinforcing it), a non-fulfilment or contradiction leads to a change in the horizon
of experience and new anticipations. This negation brings a moment of discontinuity into the
continuity of experience. By undergoing a “negative” experience that is in this sense a determinate
negation or a specific disappointment of anticipations, we not only experience something, but we
also experience ourselves reflexively. As our horizon is changed in an experience, future
anticipations change, as do experiences from the past.
In: Phenomenology and Educational Theory in Conversation: Back to Education Itself. Howard, Patrick/ Saevi,
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The horizon of experience is changing, which also means that the structure of
sedimentalization and habitualization is changing. They are not deleted, but provided with a new
"index" (Husserl). In other words: The little boy who practices does not merely perform an action
and practices a skill. The boy who is practicing also changes his horizon. Self-relation and his self-
image are challenged by the failure, the non-abilities and the new efforts that go along with
practicing. He is therefore also practicing himself. He experiences something but also himself: the
horizon of experience is changed due to the boy changing his relation to himself and to the world.
Learning and practicing from experience can then be seen as learning and practicing as experience
(Meyer-Drawe 2008). Negative experiences enable us to change previous knowledge and
experience; and at the same time they open us to new experiences. By undergoing negative
experiences, we are able to become aware of latent attitudes and habits. Learning itself is a
reflective moment within the process of experience. By using hermeneutic methods of
understanding, we can explicate the latent structures of the meaning of experiences of learning.
The resistive and passive aspects are negotiated in newer theories of learning and Bildung
under this label. Negative experiences are regarded as constitutive moments of processes of
Bildung and learning. Negativity is here not to be understood in a common sense as something
bad, annoying or dangerous. Irritations, disappointments, misunderstandings, failures and mistakes
stimulate searching, questioning, trying or research (cf. Benner 2005). Negative experiences are
therefore important occasions for learning and re-learning (Meyer-Drawe 2008, Brinkmann 2012,
Rödel 2018). An unsolved problem, an unanswered question, an irritated wonder and amazement
can challenge the already existing "positive" knowledge and skills. As experiences of crisis, they
are also an important element in biographical processes of Bildung in which self and world
relations are transformed (cf. Koller 2011). This ontological experience level of learning will be
specified in the following section for the spatial experience.1
Space and Spatiality
In our example, the boy changes also his spatially orientation and entanglement. In a
phenomenological perspective the lived body is seen as the “starting point of all orientation”
(Hua IV, p. 158). It lets all orientations and movements of the "space register" arise from the
lived body (Waldenfels 1999, p. 206): Directions of space like right and left, above and below,
where from and where to, inside and outside, open and closed as well as the spatial divisions
such as fullness and emptiness or near and far (ibid., p. 202 ff.).
Phenomenology distances itself from the Eurocentric, geometric model of space, which is
dominated by the scheme of empty space (spatium). In this schematism, objects are collected one
above the other in measurable distances (cf. Brinkmann and Westphal 2015,p. 8). Kant defines
space formally as a "necessary idea" and as an a priori of "absolute first formal reason of the
world of senses" (Kant 1974, p. 72 f.). Following Kant (1974), Piaget (1969) also determined
space as a cognitivist and intellectualist construction within the framework of his cognitivist
schematism and thought of it as more important than perception. In contrast, phenomenological
concepts and theories of space focus on the corporal, sensory-aesthetic, social and emotional
qualities of the experience of space. Space is to be determined from activity or movement as well
as from the situation. Like in the example of practicing cycling the space is experienced as a
1 On the temporal dimension of experience in learning as relearning and re-practicing (cf. Brinkmann 2012).
In: Phenomenology and Educational Theory in Conversation: Back to Education Itself. Howard, Patrick/ Saevi,
Tone/ Foran, Andrew/ Biesta, Gert. London: Taylor & Francis.
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space of orientation and movement. The spatial is determined by the space, the surrounding by
the giver and that what is given as well as the things in it by their "readiness-to-hand" or by the
lack of it (Heidegger 2001). The things in space – like the bike – can thus also be seen, in their
"challenging character" (cf. Waldenfels 1999, p. 222), as gestalt psychologists suggest.
Spatiality of Orientation
In Being and Time, Heidegger presents an ontological analysis of space as spatial
orientation (cf. Heidegger 2001, p. 101-113). Space is understood "in recourse to the world" as
"being-in-the-world." as the "basic constitution of existence" (ibid., p. 113). The handling of things
in the "spatiality of existence" has a caring character, be it in the construction of houses, in the
furnishing of a room, in the giving of space as shaping of the 'environment' or in the use of tools,
to which the "handy" bodily movement corresponds (ibid., p. 109). Tools are primarily "used for
the body" (ibid., p. 108). According to Heidegger, the "spatialization of existence" has its basis in
a "corporeality (Leiblichkeit)" (ibid., p. 108).
The meaning of things only becomes apparent in their practical use: the hammer in
hammering, the bike in cycling. The readiness-to-hand-structure of existence in the use of
environmental things is at first unexpressive or pre-reflexive. The relation of man to the world, i.e.
his worldliness of the world, becomes clear when this structure is disturbed, i.e. when the pencil
is broken off (ibid., p. 73) or the boy falls off the bike, when - so one can add - the use becomes
"difficult". Heidegger thus takes up the important topic of phenomenology: that of negativity. This
perspective focuses on experiences in the execution of practice and therein on moments of
irritation, on resistances and 'disturbances'. According to Heidegger, it is a "break in the ontically
experienceable context of reference" in which the "world" (ibid., p. 75) appears (cf. Brinkmann
2012, p. 180). Here, existential and ontological experiences become possible. The human being
existentially experiences his spatiality and through it his care for orientation and for the need to
care for his existence.
Spatiality of Situation
Merleau-Ponty continues the phenomenological analysis of space using the term "body
scheme". The "acquisition of a world" (ibid., p. 184) happens in a concrete situation. While the
mere body or the mere objects possess a "spatiality of position", a living body has a "spatiality of
situation" (ibid., p. 125). As shown above, according to Merleau-Ponty, the body schema arises in
repeated practice. As bodily-intentional acts, motoric movements themselves are already
embedded in the world’s space of meaning . For this reason, movement is the central medium for
experiences of a situational spatiality that is structured kinesthetically, socially and existentially.
Against this background, the handling of things is based on a spatial-kinaesthetic "complicity"
(Meyer-Drawe 1999, p. 330). Things themselves have their own challenging character (cf. Stieve
2008). Children in particular are encouraged by things to do something like the ball rolling across
the street or a scarf lying around asking them to play and dress up. The character of these
"demands" corresponds to the requesting character of the things for example in dressing,
bandaging or in dealing with artefacts such as pens or the bicycle. The demands made by things
show that their meaning is only revealed to us in the context of the situation.
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Spatiality of Resonance and Responsiveness
From the perspective of the lived body and the response to the demands of the things the
perspective shifts. Not only other things and other people in space, but also the foreign and the
demands of the foreign become recognizable (cf. Lippitz 2007). Following the phenomenological
approach Bernhard Waldenfels (1997) developed a topography of the foreign. The experience of
the foreign disturbs existing orders. It leads beyond them into an atopia or heterotopia, where there
is no distinct place, but only an "in-between" (ibid., p. 8). According to Waldenfels, however,
foreign spaces elude social, discursive and symbolic orders. Existential events can only occur in
the experience of foreignness. Thus, a singularity only becomes recognizable from the point of
view of the foreign, i.e. an event that cannot be classified as an individual case in individual cases
or classified as an event to further events. "Such a singularity does not mean that something occurs
only once, like every individual event, or that it is classified as an individual case among other
individual cases. Rather, it is a singularity of events that occur by deviating from others and that
enabling a different way of seeing and acting" (ibid., p. 121).
The topography of the foreign appears as a space of resonance and response to life-worldly
and bodily experiences that lead out of existing discursive and symbolic orders. The answers to
the demands of the foreign make themselves perceivable as experiences. The phenomenological
investigation of space and spatiality in the sense of a topography of the foreign tries to identify the
experiences of the foreign in answers. In doing so, it has to abandon the Eurocentric categories of
place in space and open itself up to a radical experience of orientation and situational spatiality.
The paradox of this approach lies in the fact that the experience of the foreign can never be
described in situ, but only retrospectively and incompletely, i.e. rather tentatively. (cf. Brinkmann
and Rödel 2018)
With Waldenfels, therefore, there is a social-theoretical determination of negativity. Waldenfels
focuses on the passive, unavailable and social aspects on the basis of a philosophy of the lived
body. Responsivity here means the crossover (chiasmus) of strangeness and peculiarity in the
social communicative experience.
Negativity has so far been presented as a dimension of experience in learning (Buck 2019), as a
dimension of experience in space, and as a dimension of the crossing of foreignness and otherness
in the mode of responsiveness (Waldenfels 2007). In the following, it is supposed to be related to
a theory of education. In German-speaking countries, this reference is made in different approaches
but it is always emphasized that negativity as an individual, social and communicative dimension
of experience determines processes of Bildung (cf. Brinkmann 2016). There is a debate that
critically refers to Humboldt's theory of Bildung. In the following, from the perspective of
embodiment, I will try to explain the role of the lived body in the process of Bildung more
precisely.
Bildung and Embodiment
According to Humboldt, Bildung is the "highest and most proportional" development of
all human powers (Humboldt 1960a, p. 64) under the condition that a “linking of the self to the
world to achieve the most general, most animated, and most unrestrained interplay” takes place
(Humboldt 1960b, pp. 235 f.). Interplay is the basic category of Humboldt's dynamic view of man
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and the world. Human spontaneity interplays with receptivity. Here, the world cannot be a material
of human arbitrariness, but is itself something active, something original (ursprünglich), that is the
uncatchable foundation of all human knowledge. "Man is also dependent on a world beyond
himself" like other living beings (ibid., p. 233). For this purpose, man should strengthen all his
powers (Kräfte). According to Humboldt, Bildung is therefore also the formation of powers with
the aim of strengthening all powers. Powers are man's mental, physical and emotional faculties,
such as reason, imagination, the power of imagination, judgement, physical-practical power and
the power to perform actions. Thus, Bildung can only be determined formally; contents and
materials cannot be goals, only means of Bildung. Man must therefore seek the goal and meaning
of his life for himself. He can take on these tasks because he is ductile (bildsam, he has the ability
of Bildung), i.e. he can give himself goals and appropriate the world, in other words: give himself
a form (sich bilden). Bildung is thus in principle inconclusive and open, teleologically
indeterminate (cf. Benner 2005).
Criterion of an interplay as an instance of Bildung is the concept of alienation. Because
man’s “nature drives him to reach beyond himself to the external objects”, he runs the risk of losing
“himself in this alienation” (Humboldt 1960b, pp. 64 f.). Bildung is therefore determined
negatively. It is necessary alienation in and through the world and at the same time a way back
from alienation. However, this way back from alienation is not the fundamental abolition of
alienation. For only something that is foreign and unknown, uncertain and unavailable, something
that leads the human being out of himself, can have an effect of Bildung. In mere identity with
himself, man could not give himself a form (sich bilden), man could not ask for his own purpose.
In pure identity with the world, no experiences could be made (cf. Benner 2003, p. 104). Bildung
is thus a new experience through appropriation of the world and at the same time progressive
alienation into the world. Bildung in this sense aims at a change and transformation of the
relationship to oneself and to the world (cf. Koller 2011). According to Humboldt, this relationship
is primarily structured through language as a language ability, the possibility of expression in and
with languages (Humboldt 1963).
Humboldt's theory of language is condensed in the introduction to his work on the Kawi,
one of Java's high-level languages, under the title On the Diversity of Human Language
Construction and its Influence on the Mental Development of the Human Species (Humboldt 1963,
pp. 368-756). There he writes that Bildung of language means the learning of "a foreign language
as the acquisition of a new point of view in the previous world view" (ibid., p. 434) and thus the
transformation of the relationship between self and world. In this way, man not only learns a new
material (the foreign language in the sense mentioned above), but he also gains a new way of
accessing the world and himself. Each language contains "a peculiar view of the world" (ibid., pp.
433 f.). The intersubjective dimension of language as a formative (bildend) medium and
expression of a worldview comes to bear when Humboldt relates his philosophy of language to
empirical reality.
In appearance, however, language develops only socially, and man understands himself
only by testing the comprehensibility of his words to other people. For objectivity is
increased when the own word resounds from a foreign mouth" (ibid., p. 429).
The objectification of subjective imagination does not only succeed by the subject expressing it. It
also succeeds and above all by the fact that the idea of one is expressed by another and through it
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returns to the subject. Self-understanding and understanding the foreign/alien are thus
interdependent. The alienation of subjective objectification occurs in foreign understanding.
Precisely because everyone speaks their own language and articulates their own worldview, "all
understanding [...] is always at the same time a non-understanding" (ibid., p. 439). Thus, the non-
understanding is the fundament of the possibility of understanding (cf. Koller 2003, p. 524). Self-
understanding thus becomes possible only through the detour of foreign understanding. The basis
of the possibility of understanding other people is therefore difference, i.e. non-identity and not-
understanding. Foreignness and otherness as alienation and estrangement are thus seen as the
premises for processes of Bildung and transformation becoming possible.
With Humboldt, imagination has its premise of possibility not in reason, but in language.
In language, an elementary corporal reflexivity takes place: "Language is the formative organ of
thought (…) The activity of the senses must synthetically connect with the inner action of the mind
[...]. For this, however, language is indispensable. For as the spiritual aspiration breaks its way
through the gaps in it, its product returns to its own ear. The imagination is thus transferred into
real objectivity without being withdrawn from subjectivity. Only language is capable of doing this"
(ibid., pp. 428 f.).
In speech a connection between the corporeal and the spiritual occurs. This "synthesis" comes
about based on the specific corporal structure in speech, that the spoken is being heard at the same
time. The "mental", which is expressed in the spoken in the medium of symbols and based on
ideas, becomes empirical in language, i.e. it enters experience, space and time. Speaking
establishes an elementary reflexivity between subjectivity and objectivity: from the mouth to the
ear and back to the self. The 'resounding' of language is thus not only social and intersubjective,
but as a structure already bodily arranged. It is based on an interplay between expression and
internalization. The alienation of which we were talking above also determines both the possibility
of intersubjective understanding and the possibility of human reflexivity. In other words, without
speaking there can be no thinking. Both are closely connected due to the bodily-spiritual interplay.
Thinking is therefore not the effect of a mentality, nor the proceduralization of memory content,
as cognitivism sees it (cf. Brinkmann 2012), but an embodied.
To summarize, the corporal-empirical constitution of the human being is the precondition
of the possibility first of all for speaking, secondly for thinking and thirdly for Bildung, insofar as
the corporal "mediation" between mouth and ear or between hand and eye is at the same time a
"mediation" between sensuality and mentality, which requires a reflexive self-relationship. This
self-relationship is in turn a prerequisite for the human being to be able to give himself a form
(sich bilden) in the interplay between expression and internalization and to change or transform
himself in it. However, Humboldt also only hints at the idea of the connection between mentality
and corporeality and refers only to language or speech. He lacks a theory of embodiment. For a
contemporary theory of Bildung, however, the corporal and aesthetic, i.e. non-linguistic and social
dimensions of the relationship between world and self are important. There is broad agreement in
the discourse of theory and philosophy of Bildung (cf. Brinkmann 2016), that traditional theories
of Bildung cannot adequately grasp the social and societal foundations. Thus, a shift is currently
taking place in Education studies from an individual-theoretical to a social-theoretical orientation.
It is assumed that something is not only learned from each other or from others, but also in front
of each other - even if these others are only imaginarily present (cf. Bedorf 2010). Power,
recognition, subjectivation and otherness become important terms in the discourse of current
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theory of Bildung (cf. Brinkmann 2016). The dimensions of experience mentioned above are taken
up by Eugen Fink in a philosophy of education.
Democratic Education in the Community of Counselling (“Beratungsgemeinschaft”)
Following Heidegger's hermeneutics of existence, Eugen Fink developed a social
phenomenology, a co-existential anthropology and a systematic philosophy of education. Fink
describes fundamental human phenomena in a phenomenological-praxeological analysis (cf.
Brinkmann, 2018a). He differentiates five fundamental phenomena and practices of human Dasein
(Fink 2018): play, power, work, love and death. He then adds a sixth one: education (Fink 1970).
They are seen as social, co-existential and embodied practices in time and space of society and as
an expression of care about Dasein. In the context of education, caring, learning, wonder and
astonishment, questioning as well as counseling are considered basic practices. At the same time,
these practices allow humans to stay in a productive openness towards the world, the foreign and
the other.
Fink describes the practice of finding a solution to the existential plight as counselling (cf.
also Burchardt 2001, pp. 188 ff.; Meyer-Wolters 1992, pp. 159 ff., 223 ff.). In counselling and as
counselling, the outlining of human goals" occurs as an "open and conscious production of
meaning" (Fink 1970, p. 210). It is thus a matter of a practical relationship to oneself and to others,
of a caring and worrying relationship to oneself and to the world as self-guidance and of "bringing
oneself into a style" (Fink 1978, p. 44).
Counselling as a co-existential practice cannot be understood as an authoritative and
knowledge-based procedure, as it is often practised in social and educational contexts, for example
in the form of drug counselling, tax counselling or career counselling. There can be no expert in
the co-existential counselling, because all are equally affected by the existential situation of plight,
all are in the equal situation of aporia, of pathlessness and aimlessness. The consulting community
is therefore a community in plight, a community of age in "fundamental equality" (ibid., 180), a
reciprocal relation of equal "co-existences of freedoms" (ibid., 217). However, if no goals, no
cultural, religious or moral norms and values can be assumed to be generally binding, then we are
all in "relation to the un-comprehended existence" (ibid., 188). Only the relative advantage in time
and life experience can justify the "assumption of a certain leadership and authority" (ibid., p. 181)
by the educator. Yet, the community of counselling would be misunderstood if it were seen as a
symmetrical dialogue or as a free, non-hierarchical discourse (cf. Meyer-Wolters 1992).
Counselling takes place under conditions of social institutions, in family, school, university. The
power of the discourse and the space of power of society are as much a part of the counselling
situation as are the different levels of knowledge and skills of the participants. Counselling is thus
a pedagogical-political practice. Not equality, but difference of the participants stands in the
foreground. Counselling is a controversy of interpretations and styles as a controversy of the
subjects in the socio-political area. This is precisely where it proves to be democratic education
(cf. Brinkmann 2018b).
Counselling aims at the future and actively reverses the concrete existential plight (cf.
Meyer-Wolters 1992, pp. 166 f.) It is therefore an expression of communality and caring, a
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productive and projective negotiation in the mode of practical reason (phronesis), an educational
solution for the described plight. It is directed at a particular situation, at a particular plight, which
can only be averted if one thinks beyond the present situation. Fink calls the educational form of
the community of counselling community of questioning (“Fragegemeinschaft”). The above-
mentioned characteristics apply here as well as the intergenerational condition of the interrelation
of freedoms (cf. Fink 1970, p. 198). Since it is no longer possible to rely on answers that are
authoritative in terms of knowledge and facts, education becomes "the mediation of a common
search" (ibid., p. 147). Learning together as a practice of questioning and researching becomes
important. At the beginning of an understanding about the mutual experience of the aporetic
situation stands the exposition of the thing as thing, the question as question, the problem as
problem. The community of questioning thus discusses and radicalizes the problem and the
phenomenon of education itself as a "question of the interpretation of the world to be learned and
taught" (Meyer-Wolters 1992, p. 229).
In contrast to the community of counselling, the relationship between generations is
explicitly and reflexively emphasized in the community of questioning. Educators and children are
equal in the above-mentioned sense, they can learn something from each other. The difference
between the generations is not equalized but explicitly emphasized: "Child and adult learn different
things from each other. Because we are accustomed to interpret "learning" only as learning about
the world of adults, we all too easily overlook the experiences that flow to the human teacher from
the didactic attention to the child, - we overlook how much the child also gives by taking" (ibid.,
p. 206). We can add: If the adult experiences the memory of his own childhood, then the child can
experience the experiences of the physical being-in-the-world of the adult as well as the
experiences of aging. Here it can be seen that learning experiences in this sense always remain
experiences of foreignness. The generative difference manifests itself in the community of
questioning in the different "state of development of the respective freedoms" (Fink 1970, p. 214).
From this perspective, the child has more possibilities than the adult and at the same time less
experience of the finiteness of human freedom. The child is still about to face failure from
experiencing the resistance and obstinacy of things and others.
Intergenerative learning in the community of questioning and counselling can be described
as anthropologically disclosed, worldly-bodily learning in the difference of age with the aim of a
caring and providing, democratic understanding of meaning. In a democratic theory perspective,
both Fink and Nancy extend the concept of democracy to the community, to being-present. Politics
is placed under the conditions of the communal and thus its scope and "violence" is limited (Nancy
2012, p. 88). In a post-industrial democracy, educational goals cannot be derived from the in
their own rights legitimate - claims of other social practices and systems (economy, art, media,
religions, politics) ( Fink 1970). Rather, Bildung and pedagogy must be distinguished from other
areas of social practice and knowledge as independent areas of practice and knowledge. Bildung
and school cannot and must not be turned into an applied part of politics or economics by
normative setting of teaching goals from the political, economic, aesthetic or religious spheres
(Benner 2001). Rather, Fink emphasizes the inherent logic of pedagogical thought and action by
asking about the specific pedagogical practice of being-together. The democratic education and
the formation of democracy therefore cannot be legitimized in relation to a form of government or
to knowledge about political contexts, nor in relation to a form of life (Dewey 2009), the smallest
unit of which would be the school (the so-called "Embryonic Society" following Dewey). Rather,
In: Phenomenology and Educational Theory in Conversation: Back to Education Itself. Howard, Patrick/ Saevi,
Tone/ Foran, Andrew/ Biesta, Gert. London: Taylor & Francis.
10
democracy as a way of co-existence lies ontologically prior to all communications, all social
institutions and practices by allowing both the existential and the social to emerge from a
difference. This calls conventional promises of pedagogy (Schäfer 2012) into a question, which
hope for a "reconciliation" of individual and community, for the "mediation" of cultural
knowledge, social norms and social identity or for the "preparation" of the learner for an uncertain
and contingent future in the protective space of education. To see the pedagogical as part of the
social and to see in it the constitution of subjectivity as a broken and fragile relationship to oneself
in the face and in response to others and the other - this makes a new perspective on processes of
subjectivation possible that neither merge into submission nor into liberation and reflection, i.e. on
the relations of these constitutional processes within the social.
Finally, I would like to refer to the conclusions for a theory of education. Education from
a phenomenological and existential perspective is an eventful experience in which the relationship
to oneself and to the world is changed (cf. Brinkmann 2018a). First, this change is an experience
in which the whole person changes (Buck 2019). Theories of Bildung must reflect that the self can
find neither its foundations in an all-encompassing, logocentric reason nor in a humanistic tradition
or its Eurocentric history. Emancipation and autonomy become "formulas of pathos" (Rieger-
Ladich 2002), autonomy becomes an illusion (cf. Meyer-Drawe 1990). Bildung must therefore
neither colonize others and strangers nor one's own plural and different parts of the self under the
guise of an identifying reason (cf. Reichenbach 2001, p. 443). In this perspective, the educational
process is dimensioned bodily, spatially, and socially. In each of these dimensions, a relationship
to oneself and to others is established in a special way by responding to existential experiences of
the body, the time of space and to others. It is precisely these experiences that are negative
experiences of deprivation and strangeness. They can thus become productive moments in an
educational experience.
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