This article evaluates the substance and structure of Comenius’ work and its function for the development of pedagogical theory and practice. It begins with an outline of how each epoch of historical development projected its own social, ideological, political and cultural aspirations into its evaluation of, and its interest or lack of interest in the work of Comenius. Particular attention is payed to two extreme, wrong judgments resulting from the fact that historical contexts were disregarded, that the ideas of Comenius were being inadmissibiy torn out of the context of his work. On the basis of the results of the most recent comeniological discoveries the study places methodological emphasis on research from the viewpoint of dialectical unity of the historical method with the logical and structural analyses. The study goes on to clarify the roots of Comenius’ conception of pansophistic universal lifelong education of all people. It concentrates on the fundamental relationships of the general and the particular, as it is underlined by Comenius in his interdisciplinary work.
This point of view is applied to interpreting and appraising the fundamental principles of Comenius’ work and their significance for the subsequent, especially present-day, educational theory and practice. Thus it is, for instance, the relation of educational questions to the basic problems of evolution and development of human life, both individual and social, in the sense of continual improvement of everyone in all that is essential for human life, in as comprehensive a manner as possible, and the like. In applying Comenius’ pansophia to questions of education of everyone it has been shown how Comenius developed the elements of the Czech tradition, such as man’s relationship to the world, lifelong education and improvement of everyone, the conception of the dialectical relation of manual and mental activities as an element bringing universal perfection, aspirations for tolerance and peace, and others. Furthermore, how he enriched these basic ideas by the study of other European authors, all of which resulted in the first with practice, by his socially amending aspect of his democratically aimed conception of lifelong education, Comenius became atypical for the times he lived in. But that is why his work can be all the more stimulating for the period in which the economic and social conditions for the implementation of the whole conception are secured. The linkage of general philosophical viewpoints and partial principles, both general pedagogical ones and didactic ones, Comenius’ struggle against a dehumanized view of life and the world, all that gives his system a dynamic and spontaneously dialectical character.
The philosophy of human life was the basis of Comenius’ pedagogy but during the development of his work his aspiration for a lifelong universal formation of man influenced and put the finishing touches to this philosophy of his. It was not only the question of his pansophia having, to a greater or lesser degree, a pedagogical character. Individual disciplines too, when he tried to elaborate them, received the specific features resulting from Comenius’ central aspiration for a lifelong universal formation of man and mankind. No discipline in Comenian conception was isolated in the sense of being confined to its own tasks and goals only, but it formed a significant part of the overall conception of the General Consultation (De rerum humanarum emendatione consultatio catholica). In Comenian conception the application of general philosophical norms was effected in relation to people and helped to create correct norms of education, which were to be applied to individuals as well as to social groups and also to perfecting mankind with the aim of bringing about peaceful co-existence.
Comenius aimed at perfecting man in all the complex structure of human life and development of society as a whole. By this aspiration he opened up a new trend of development side by side with the contemporary Cartesian-natural science stream of thought and mechanistically constructed metaphysics of the 17th century. It is, above all, this comprehensiveness that accounts for the contribution of his thinking even to the present time.