The Concept of Education (Bildung) as a Cultural Heritage

Transcultural Traditions and Perspectives

  • Wolfgang Sander University of Giessen, Germany
Keywords: Education, Bildung, Humboldt, Rawls, Eisenstadt, World Society, Christianity, Antiquity, Judaism, Islam, Confucius, Hinduism, Buddhism


This article is based on a theoretical study about the concept of Bildung in world society. The concept of Bildung (in German) refers to a special dimension of education. It focuses on personal development and self-education and is not utilitarian. The study, which investigated different traditions of thinking about education in the sense of Bildung, begins with German and European educational theories from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Next, older Christian traditions in Europe, pre-Christian concepts in the European ancient world, and educational thinking in Judaism and the Islamic world were analysed. Confucius was also examined as an educational thinker. Finally, the study investigated educational traditions in Buddhism and Hinduism. Findings clearly show that the ideas connected with this concept of Bildung are represented in different cultural traditions within and beyond Europe. The concept of Bildung seems to constitute a common cultural heritage of humankind since at least the Axial Age. This concept can therefore contribute to an overlapping consensus in world society as de­fined by John Rawls: a consensus endorsed by conflicting religious, philosophical, and moral doctrines—each from its own point of view.

Author Biography

Wolfgang Sander, University of Giessen, Germany

Wolfgang Sander, Dr. phil., is professor emeritus at Justus Liebig University of Giessen, Germany, Faculty of Social Sciences and Cultural Studies. His research focusses on civic education, social studies, and general education in the sense of Bildung.