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What are we doing when we educate? A dialogue about educational activity with Hannah Arendt




Education, Hannah Arendt, Elementary activities, Teaching experience, Literature


This article establishes a dialogue between the essay “The crisis in education” by the philosopher Hannah Arendt and her book The human condition. In this, the thinker presents a phenomenology of elementary human activities – labor, work and action – or, as she says, the vita activa. The essay, in turn, qualifies education as an elementary activity of human society. From this interface between the two contemporary texts, I reflect on the question: what are we doing when we educate? – thus paraphrasing the central question of The human condition: “What are we doing when we are active?”. The intention is not to find an exact correspondence between education and one of the three activities of the vita activa, but to think about some aspects that approximate or distinguish the educational activity from them. In particular, I seek approximations between Arendt's thinking about education and her approaches to labor and work that have less attracted the interest of education scholars. The dialogue takes place with several voices, as I also bring narratives about teaching, literary ones and other experiences, seeking to read them in the light of Arendtian thought, which, in turn, is questioned based on school experiences. Finally, with no intention of exhausting the topic addressed, this article is an exercise in polyphonic thinking, which emphasizes some excerpts from The human condition that have not been explored so far in order to think about educational activity.


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How to Cite

Almeida, V. S. de. (2023). What are we doing when we educate? A dialogue about educational activity with Hannah Arendt. In SciELO Preprints.


Human Sciences


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