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John Amos Comenius and the Modern Concept of Culture

Zurück zum Heft: Archiv für Begriffsgeschichte. Band 62: Jean Starobinski
DOI: 10.28937/9783787339549_12
EUR 16,90

Over the last century, scholars have studied and debated the emergence of the modernconcept of culture. Whereas some have claimed that it was Samuel Pufendorf who invented theconcept in the 1680s, others have argued that it emerged first with the works of Johann GottfriedHerder and others about a century later. In this article, I complicate both these pictures by highlightinga hitherto overlooked case: that of the Czech philosopher, theologian and educational reformerJohn Amos Comenius. In 1650 Comenius delivered a speech that was published in 1657 under thetitle De cultura ingeniorum oratio (Oration on the Culture of the Natural Dispositions). In De culturaingeniorum, Comenius presents a concept of culture that fulfills many of the criteria that scholarshave associated with the modern concept of culture while at the same time distancing itself fromthe idea of national character as the essential feature of a people. In place of this, Comenius arguesthat differences in culture are always the result of differences in educational and cultural institutions,and that the goal therefore must be to provide a pampaideia, a universal education availablefor all, rich and poor, men and women alike.