[Paideía and Saṁskṛti: Some Food for Thought] «Other nations made gods, kings, spirits; the Greeks alone made men» wrote famously Jäger, enthusiastically celebrating the purported exceptionality of the Greek ‘miracle’ in his epoch-making early XX century work, Paideia. Die Formung des griechischen Menschen, which was to exert a persistent influence on western self-representation, giving new scope to western supremacism by the added distinction of its Hellenic roots. Taking its cue from Jäger’s advocacy of paideía, or culture in the higher sense of Bildung, as a uniquely Greek (and by extension European) creation, this paper seeks to expose the untenability of such an assumption by comparison to the parallel notion of saṁskṛti in the Indian milieu. It does so first of all by arguing that Jäger’s premises are flawed and methodologically unsound on various accounts, and most of all because they endorse a restrictive notion of culture that, in addition to being unreasonable in itself, is utterly inconducive to fruitful historical investigation. Secondly, after a brief discussion of the Vedic and priestly foundations of the peculiarly Indian notion of culture vis-à-vis the Homeric and aristocratic roots of the Greek one, the paper tries to show, with the help of several examples, how the Indian notion of saṁskṛti, besides possessing its own unique features over against the Greek paideía, also shares with the latter a number of parallel traits, and most importantly the very concept, which Jäger recognizes as paramount, of culture as the conscious creation of an ideal type which selectively binds its exponents to the preservation and transmission of the values of an élite — however differently embodied, in the warrior aristocracy, in Greece, and in the priestly class in India. Nevertheless, despite the major role played by the brāhmaṇas as the custodians of high culture throughout Indian history, the contribution of the kṣatriya class has by no means been of lesser consequence. After an intermezzo challenging the notion, still fondly cherished in some circles, of the unmistakably Greek specificity of that all-important department of culture, i.e. philosophy, the paper winds up by drawing a quick sketch of the outstanding culture-shaping significance of the Indian epics, the Rāmāyaṇa and the Mahābhārata, and their pervasive and enduring influence even well into the contemporary Indian society, exceeding by far whatever meaningfulness the Homeric epics may still be credited with in the contemporary ‘disenchanted’ western world.

Magnone, P., Paideía e saṁskṛti: qualche spunto di riflessione, in Tanaka, K. (ed.), L’educazione nella società asiatica, Biblioteca Ambrosiana - Bulzoni, Milano 2014: 31- 48 [http://hdl.handle.net/10807/66618]

Paideía e saṁskṛti: qualche spunto di riflessione

Magnone, Paolo
2014

Abstract

[Paideía and Saṁskṛti: Some Food for Thought] «Other nations made gods, kings, spirits; the Greeks alone made men» wrote famously Jäger, enthusiastically celebrating the purported exceptionality of the Greek ‘miracle’ in his epoch-making early XX century work, Paideia. Die Formung des griechischen Menschen, which was to exert a persistent influence on western self-representation, giving new scope to western supremacism by the added distinction of its Hellenic roots. Taking its cue from Jäger’s advocacy of paideía, or culture in the higher sense of Bildung, as a uniquely Greek (and by extension European) creation, this paper seeks to expose the untenability of such an assumption by comparison to the parallel notion of saṁskṛti in the Indian milieu. It does so first of all by arguing that Jäger’s premises are flawed and methodologically unsound on various accounts, and most of all because they endorse a restrictive notion of culture that, in addition to being unreasonable in itself, is utterly inconducive to fruitful historical investigation. Secondly, after a brief discussion of the Vedic and priestly foundations of the peculiarly Indian notion of culture vis-à-vis the Homeric and aristocratic roots of the Greek one, the paper tries to show, with the help of several examples, how the Indian notion of saṁskṛti, besides possessing its own unique features over against the Greek paideía, also shares with the latter a number of parallel traits, and most importantly the very concept, which Jäger recognizes as paramount, of culture as the conscious creation of an ideal type which selectively binds its exponents to the preservation and transmission of the values of an élite — however differently embodied, in the warrior aristocracy, in Greece, and in the priestly class in India. Nevertheless, despite the major role played by the brāhmaṇas as the custodians of high culture throughout Indian history, the contribution of the kṣatriya class has by no means been of lesser consequence. After an intermezzo challenging the notion, still fondly cherished in some circles, of the unmistakably Greek specificity of that all-important department of culture, i.e. philosophy, the paper winds up by drawing a quick sketch of the outstanding culture-shaping significance of the Indian epics, the Rāmāyaṇa and the Mahābhārata, and their pervasive and enduring influence even well into the contemporary Indian society, exceeding by far whatever meaningfulness the Homeric epics may still be credited with in the contemporary ‘disenchanted’ western world.
Italiano
L’educazione nella società asiatica
9788878709607
Magnone, P., Paideía e saṁskṛti: qualche spunto di riflessione, in Tanaka, K. (ed.), L’educazione nella società asiatica, Biblioteca Ambrosiana - Bulzoni, Milano 2014: 31- 48 [http://hdl.handle.net/10807/66618]
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/10807/66618
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