University studies as a human practice: what is excellence for a student?

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University studies as a human practice: what is excellence for a student?

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Filosofía antigua Estudiantes universitarios -- Vida cristiana Virtudes humanas Trabajo -- Filosofía


For the Greeks, a free man lived in the polis, the place for otium and virtues. Work and active life at the oikia occupied a secondary place. Luther challenged this view: Beruf is both work and a divine call, and the contemplative life has to disappear. In the Middle Ages, the beginning of the universities and the presence of guilds developed a new approach to human work that discarded the opposition between otium and nec-otium. But this new approach did not influence philosophy. Modern philosophy, following Luther’s thesis on Beruf and the primacy he gave to active life, understood man and his work as totally rational. Within this approach, Protestantism introduced a “work ethic”, but this labor-centered society contains a strong economic basis, because work is understood as production. This article proposes a notion of work as craft, which is part of human practices and implies the attainment of different internal goods. Every work, whether manual or intellectual, also has social meaning: it appears within a community. Work cannot be defined as product. University practices —studying, teaching, doing research— can also be explained in these terms, and when this is the case, they are intrinsically related to human excellence, because they are at the basis of different virtues that make us flourish.

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