Paideia and the Semiotics of Educating for Democracy


  • Steve Peter Mackey Deakin University


Democracy, education, paideia, semiotics, Dewey, Marcuse, Poinsot, Peirce, Deely, Jaeger, Biesta, Castoriadis, Bauman, Vladimir Putin


This paper was sparked by comments made by President of Russia Vladimir Putin about the weakness of democracy. It considers the millennia-old notion of paideia and its ancient aspiration towards autonomy as virtues which are necessary for democracy to prevail in the face of authoritarianism. Paideia or the educational instigation of culture is particularly well described by Werner Jaeger. Cornelius Castoriadis has related insights into how democratic culture can be enhanced and defended. After discussing paideia the paper enlists the semiotics of John Poinsot, Charles Sanders Peirce and John Deely as an epistemological basis from which the workings of paideia and the possibilities of autonomy might be assessed. The conclusion discusses education theorist Gert Biesta's concerns with character, democracy, politics and autonomy. It suggests that Biesta's notion of subjectification implies a semiotic process of mind which invokes the need for a modern paideia designed to oppose the supposed present deterioration in liberal democracy and its replacement by ‘traditional' values which is advocated by Mr Putin.


Author Biography

Steve Peter Mackey, Deakin University


Deakin University




How to Cite

Mackey, S. P. (2020). Paideia and the Semiotics of Educating for Democracy. Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, 16(2), 448–474. Retrieved from