Educação e Pesquisa
Print version ISSN 1517-9702
ALMEIDA, Vanessa Sievers de. The distinction between knowing and thinking in Hannah Arendt and its relevance to education. Educ. Pesqui. [online]. 2010, vol.36, n.3, pp. 853-865. ISSN 1517-9702. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1517-97022010000300014.
Education, chiefly concerned with the acquisition of competences and/or with the transmission of knowledge, has paid little attention to understanding the world - that is to say, to a mode of thinking that does not have as its primary objective the solution of problems. To better understand the relevance of this issue, we look into the distinction established by Hannah Arendt between thinking and knowing. Her approach to these activities of the human spirit was born out of the Eichmann process in Jerusalem. At that time, she observed that the defendant had been capable of coordinating the deportation of Jews to concentration camps, but was incapable of reflecting upon the meaning of his own actions. Later, in her The life of the mind, she recognized that knowledge and thinking are two distinct faculties. The knowing has to do with the search for the truth. Knowledges have a general validity, and usefulness. The cognitive activity, however, turns out to be limited, because it is incapable of attributing meaning to our relationship with the world. The search for meaning is specific to the thinking, to the reflection on experiences, whose "results" are, nevertheless, "elusive" and often seen as useless. In spite of that, this article argues that thinking, as a search for meaning, is essential to an education that, beyond achieving a knowledge and a know-how, aims at contributing to help youngsters to establish a relationship with the human world of meaning and belonging.
Keywords : Philosophy of education; Hannah Arendt; Thinking; Knowledge.