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A New Version of Optimism for Education


The primary purpose of this paper is to outline the conceptual means by which it is possible to be optimistic about education. To provide this outline I turn to Ian Hunter and David Blacker, after a brief introduction to Nietzsche’s conceptions of optimism and pessimism, to show why certain forms of optimism in education are either intellectually unhelpful or dispositionally helpless in the face of current educational issues. The alternative form of optimism—which I argue is both intellectually and practically helpful—is drawn from a reading of Friedrich Nietzsche. This reading of Nietzsche is not a simple exercise representing his views. As Nietzsche never explicitly advocated for any form of optimism—and frequently advocated against many of its manifestations—drawing what I call ‘a new version of optimism’ from his writings is no straightforward task, and certainly not without risk. As such, I have extended my readings of Nietzsche across his entire oeuvre, including his writings unintended for publication from his Nachlass. At the core of my argument is the claim that when Nietzsche was sketching out what he called ‘a new version of pessimism’ (Nietzsche in Writings from the late notebooks, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2003: 173), it was actually quite close to what we might now call ‘a new version of optimism.’ This first claim precipitates a second, which is that this new version of optimism is not only especially suited to contemporary educational thought and practice but is itself a description of an educational experience and disposition.

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Correspondence to Emile Bojesen.

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Bojesen, E. A New Version of Optimism for Education. Stud Philos Educ 37, 5–14 (2018).

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  • Optimism
  • Pessimism
  • Idealism
  • Education
  • Nietzsche