Bildung is Nietzsche's conception of a new form of education; it is the German word for culture, which can signify the culture of a society, but it can also signify culture as in the formation of character.1The latter meaning is more appropriate when reading Nietzsche's thoughts on education.

In his Untimely Meditations, Nietzsche identifies the favourable educator as one who guides the student. Instead of filling him (or her- but in Nietzsche's time, it would more than likely have been a him) with information (i.e. prescribed truths, the educator would help the student come into himself; in other words, the role of the educator is to help the student mould himself into his own person.

This is in stark contrast with the Platonic/Socratic tradition, in which the end result is a student who is a reproduction of what he has been taught. In particular, Plato's account of education in The Republic envisions a very restrictive training in which the end result is uniformity, homogeneity and obedience.

1Catherine H. Zuckert, Postmodern Platos,(Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1996) 17.


  • Plato, The Republic, trans. Desmond Lee (1955; London: Penguin Books, 1987).