The paper reconstructs, develops and discusses Scheler’s Bildung theory to highlight its relevance for educational philosophy. First, we point out that a personality flourishes through a process of progressive individuation which is modulated by affective maturation and promoted by the encounter with an exemplarity. Then, in order to avoid some limits of Scheler’s realism, we suggest rethinking these theses in the light of a new epistemological position (relational enactivism).

During the second half of the 20th century, phenomenological tradition has become an important reference for research on education. Over the last few years, many publications, have shown that phenomenology can inform a broad range of aspects of educational theorising and practice.

However, it seems to us that some of Scheler’s intuitions regarding personal development have not yet been sufficiently examined. According to Scheler, personal flourishing is modulated by affective maturation. This thesis will be progressively clarified as follows:

  1. we present Scheler’s notions of “ordo amoris” and “vocation” to point out what we mean when we say that every person is, in his/her essence, unique;
  2. we get back to Hildebrand’s concept of “affective response” to explain how each person develops his/her individual personality through his/her distinctive individuation process;
  3. developing some of Scheler’s suggestions, we examine the formative influence of a personal exemplarity (Vorbild) to clarify that Bildung is a relational, not solipsistic, process;
  4. extending the Vorbildung’s phenomenology to the area of formal education, we suggest that teachers’ relational intentionality should imply not only a general existential exemplarity, but also a more specific affective exemplarity;
  5. in order to avoid the theoretical difficulties connected to Scheler’s realism (in particular, the idea of a hierarchy of objective values classes to which every individual ordo amoris should be conformed), we suggest rethinking all the ideas already mentioned in the light of a new epistemological position, which we define as “relational enactivism”.

Against the risk of any uncritical acceptance of the dominant common sense, Scheler’s Bildung theory, rethought in the light of relational enactivism, emphasizes the importance of personal uniqueness and personal individuation.


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