Antonio Erbetta

Prof_9foto antonio erbetta

“Historian of educational ideas” – this is how he used to call himself – Antonio Erbetta went through the Italian cultural climate ranging from the seventies to the first decade of 2000.

Established at the University since the very beginning, his intellectual path was always supported by a passionate and thorough cultural activity: from publishing house – he was Editor-in-chief of eight series for five different Publishers – to collaborations with scientific Journals, from the organization of conferences, seminars, meetings with academics, teachers, educators, students, to the relations with educational Institutions, to the urging of a national debate through issues that have subsequently been consolidated within pedagogical thought.

Focusing his studies on particular figures such as Banfi, Gentile, Nietzsche, Husserl, Sartre, Simmel and on fundamental issues such as the crisis of culture, the sense of tragic, the pedagogical experience of death, youth, the relationship between pedagogy and nihilism and, more generally, the relation between education and culture and between education and politics, Antonio Erbetta became the interpreter of Education as “lived experience of man as culture”. It is within this definition, in fact, that the “scenes of crisis” – which are existential for the subject and cultural and social for the community – become the most radical possibility – perhaps the only one – to live the disquieting experience of one’s own “existential authenticity”. Such a position, clearly distant from either the pacifying temptations of the rhetoric of values or the hedonistic escapes of ordinary pessimism, placed him in a reflective context that was always dynamically problematic, up to the elaboration of the idea of “pedagogy as a theory of culture” capable of becoming a real “criticism of pedagogy”. In this very critical and cultural direction, Education has the task of always interpreting itself as “critique of Education”, plunging purposefully and resolutely into the infinite forms of cultural life – from philosophy to human sciences, from art to literature, from social and political sciences to education itself – which decipher the contingent reality in the sign of radicalism.

Always dealing with the defense of the intellectual freedom of educators not subjected to current logics, about which he did not lack to disclose some traces of irony, his sudden demise, in February 2011, occurred when he had already been Full Professor of History of European Education for a decade in the former Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures of the University of Turin, where he also held the course of History of Philosophy.

His biographical and cultural path however took its first steps in two close – but yet very far – cities of Liguria. Born in La Spezia, Antonio Erbetta studied and graduated with honors at the University of Genova in 1972. Since then and for about a decade he collaborated with his Master, the philosopher of Ethics Italo Bertoni, in Genova (first at the Magisterium and then at the Faculty of Literature and Philosophy) and in Padova, at the Faculty of Literature and Philosophy. Throughout those years he dealt with the study of the ethical issues which went through Philosophy of Education; such studies were collected in the works L’umanesimo critico di Antonio Banfi [The critical humanism of Antonio Banfi], in 1978, and La pedagogia come teoria della cultura [Pedagogy as a theory of culture], in 1983, both published by Marzorati. Such works clearly showed both the paradigm of crisis and the establishment of education within the material concreteness of existence as “lived experience of man as culture”.

In the meanwhile, from 1970 to 1980 he also dealt with the political activity of the Socialist Left party of Riccardo Lombardi. This was a long and very intense period, which definitively came to an end when Craxi became leader of PSI.

As he took the decision to focus only on academic studies, he collaborated with several journals – “Cultura e Scuola”, “Prospettive pedagogiche”, “Giornale critico della filosofia italiana”, “I problemi della pedagogia” – but above all with “Bibliographie Internationale de la Philosophie”, edited by Raymond Klibansky and “Giornale di Metafisica” at that time edited by Pietro Prini.

The Genovese period – in 1983 he moved from La Spezia to Genova – was also characterized by the role of deputy-director of the International Centre for Italian Studies of the University of Genova, where he was in charge of the chair of History of Ideas in the summer courses that take place in Santa Margherita Ligure. Both his Deputy-direction and his courses lasted until 1993, giving him the chance to meet, over a decade, hundreds of university students coming from several areas of the world.

In 1984 he attended the first national public exam for associate professors of Pedagogy. Ended in 1989, he won the public exam and in November he was given the chair of History of Pedagogy by the former Faculty of Magisterium of the University of Torino.

Again in 1989 he published L’eredità inquieta di Giovanni Gentile [The troubled legacy of Giovanni Gentile] and, in 1991, on the occasion of Bertoni’s seventieth birthday, he edited the book Limite e ulteriorità [Boundary and Beyondness]. Both works were published by Marzorati.

Once moved to Tigullio, during the nineties he engaged himself on several fronts. He gave birth to the “Officina culturale Ramaddan”, through which he organized several meetings with the author and, in particular, a series of events with important poets of the second half of twentieth century (Merini, Testa, D’Elia, Sanguineti, Bertolani, Viviani). In 1996 he edited some unpublished works by Luciano Bianciardi (La casa al mare. Scritti per Rapallo [The beach house. Writings for Rapallo], Torino, il Segnalibro).

In 1990 he joined Piero Bertolini’s group Enciclopaideia. In 1992 he published Il paradigma della forma [The paradigm of the form] with the roman publisher Anicia. From 1994 to 1999 he founded and edited the series “Teoria dell’Educazione” e “In partibus infidelium” with the publisher Il Segnalibro of Turin, which hosted more than 40 titles, some of which signed by the most influential Italian academics of Education, in addition to his Luoghi di crisi. Sulla pedagogia come critica della pedagogia [Scenes of crisis. On pedagogy as a critic of Pedagogy] (1994), Educazione ed esistenza [Education as Existence] (1998) and his edition of L’imprendibilità dell’esistere [The unreachability of existence] (1997). The first two works signed the phenomenological and existential trend of his thought, subsequently deeply examined and well-structured. Again with Il Segnalibro in 1995 he also edited the Italian publication of Schulpädagogik by Georg Simmel (L’educazione in quanto vita), thus giving proof of his deep attention to the German intellectual, which later would grow even further.

In 1997 he moved to Turin. During this year he founded and co-directed, together with Piero Bertolini and Marco Dallari, the Journal “Encyclopaideia”, which was published, for the first two years, by Il Segnalibro of Turin. Here, in the same year, he founded the Association of educational culture Paideutika, with which he organized, until 2011, about twenty cultural events on a regional and national level through conferences, seminars, study meetings, formation days. The Association activities are accompanied by the publication of the “Quaderni torinesi di pedagogia fenomenologico-esistenziale” which, with nine issues from 1997 to 2003, are the cultural laboratory that would prepare for the birth in 2005 of the biannual Journal Paideutika. Quaderni di formazione e cultura, still operative.

At the turn of the nineties and two thousand he published two works of fundamental importance for his intellectual path: Per crescere uomo. Ragguagli storico-pedagogici [Growing adult. Historical-pedagogical considerations] in 1999, and La cosa che muore [The dying thing], in 2000, both published by Thélème, a publisher from Turin with which he founded and edited the series “Orizzonti pedagogici” and “In margine ascripta”. These two volumes show two essential aspects for his pedagogical reflection. On the one hand the methodological need of historicity and of its explanation as rigorous and perceived interpretations of the cultural forms that refer to education. On the other hand the deconstruction, on a phenomenological basis, of the cultural stereotypes that have divided, by the way, education and death to see, on the contrary, in the “awareness of death what gives shape to life”.

In 2000 he became Full Professor of History of Pedagogy and was given the chair of History of European Education by the Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures of the University of Torino. This was the first chair with this designation in Italy.

In 2001 he published Il tempo della giovinezza. Situazione pedagogica ed autenticità esistenziale [The age of Youth. Pedagogical situation and existential authenticity], within the series edited by Piero Bertolini for La Nuova Italia: this was another decisive point of departure of Erbetta’s reflection, always attentive to the forms of existence as social and cultural phenomena of his own time. In 2002 he contributed to the planning, together with Piero Bertolini and “Encyclopaideia”, of the International Conference on “Education and Politics”, held in Bologna from 7 to 9 November of the same year. Then he edited, with Piero Bertolini, the Proceedings of the Conference: Senso della politica e fatica di pensare [The meaning of Politics and the struggle of Thought]  (Clueb).

In the meantime his editorial activity went on: from 2001 to 2004 he founded and became editor-in-chief of the series “Teorie dell’educazione (Theories of Education)” for Utet-Libreria (subsequently Utet-Università), through which he published two editorships – Il corpo spesso. Esperienze letterarie e vissuti formativi (2001) and In forma di tragedia. Luoghi e percorsi della coscienza inquieta (2004) – and included about ten volumes. With Tirrenia Stampatori, historic Turin publisher, in 2005 he founded the series “Paideutika” within which, among others, he released his own editorships L’educazione come esperienza vissuta. Percorsi teorici e campi d’azione [Education as lived experience. Theoretical paths and spheres of action] (2005) – republished, in 2011, by Ibis Edizioni – and his own book Pedagogia e nichilismo. Cinque capitoli di filosofia dell’educazione [Pedagogy and Nihilism. Five chapters of Philosophy of Education] (2007). In this latter work, which ran out shortly after its release, nihilism was analyzed as “term of interpretation of the historical situation”.

Starting from 2009 he began a new editorial collaboration with Ibis, current Publisher of the Journal Paideutika and of the Series “Formazione e cultura (Education and culture)” he founded.

During the last years he resumed his studies on Antonio Banfi, also on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of his death, and in 2008 he published, for Anicia, the new, revised, expanded and improved edition of his L’Umanesimo critico di Antonio Banfi.

Always driven by a radicalism of thinking capable of recognizing criticism as the most fruitful of intellectual and existential resources, in 2010 he published the editorship Decostruire Formando. Concetti pratiche orizzonti [The educational deconstruction. Concepts, practices, horizons] (Ibis).

Following his sudden death, the Journal “Encyclopaideia” and “I problemi della pedagogia” dedicated two monographic issues to him, respectively n. 36, XVII, 2013 (with contributions by Tarozzi, Madrussan, Papi, Calvetto, Giachery) and n. 1, LX, 2014 (with contributions by Calvetto, Cambi, Cavallera, Fadda, Madrussan, Spadafora, Volpicelli).

In 2019, on the occasion of the seventy years since his birth, the volume Crisi della cultura e coscienza pedagogica. Per Antonio Erbetta [Crisis of culture and pedagogical awareness. For Antonio Erbetta] was published in the Series he founded at Ibis, edited by Elena Madrussan, with contributions from many of his colleagues, friends and scholars, from different institutional and cultural backgrounds, who have collaborated with him throughout his life.

On 14 November 2019, the Convention “Crisi della cultura e coscienza pedagogica (Crisis of culture and pedagogical awareness)” was held at the Graduation Room of the new Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures and Modern Cultures of the University of Turin.


Complete list of Antonio Erbetta’s publications.





Collaborations for Paideutika


  1. Antonio Erbetta, In forma di premessa
  2. Antonio Erbetta, Non crisalidi ma figli del cielo
  3. Editoriale, N. 10 Nuova serie – Anno V 2009 – Etiche dell’impegno
  4. Editoriale, N. 9 Nuova serie – Anno V 2009 – Dopo l’educazione
  5. Editoriale, N. 8 Nuova serie – Anno IV 2008
  6. Editoriale, N. 7 Nuova serie – Anno IV 2008
  7. Editoriale, N. 1 Nuova serie – Anno I 2005
  8. Editoriale, N. 2 Nuova serie – Anno I 2005
  9. Editoriale, N. 3 Nuova serie – Anno II 2006
  10. Editoriale, N. 4 Nuova serie – Anno II 2006
  11. Editoriale, N. 5 Nuova serie – Anno III 2007
  12. Editoriale, N. 6 Nuova serie – Anno III 2007
  13. Editoriale, N. 11 Nuova Serie – Anno VI 2010 – La scuola in frantumi
  14. Antonio Erbetta, The reciprocal action as form of educational experience
  15. Mario Ambel, Angela Nava Mambretti, Luigi Saragnese, Paola Pozzi, Educating, teaching, socializing. Where is Italian School going to?
  16. Antonio Erbetta, Il tema in questione – Paideutika N. 9 – Nuova serie – Anno V – 2009
  17. Antonio Erbetta, In forma di premessa – Paideutika N. 6 – Nuova serie – Anno III – 2007
  18. Antonio Erbetta, Non crisalidi ma figli del cielo – Paideutika N. 5 – Nuova serie – Anno III – 2007
  19. Antonio Erbetta, Il soggetto e la storia – Paideutika N. 3 – Nuova Serie – Anno II – 2006
  20. Antonio Erbetta, Verso il decostruzionismo formativo, Paideutika N. 1 – Nuova serie – Anno I – 2005