The French expression Culture générale" is deeply entrenched in philosophical and humanist ideas:

Le projet d’une culture générale est intrinsèquement lié à des réflexions à propos de l'humanité, qu'elle soit conçue comme nature humaine ou encore comme dépassement de la nature par la culture (ou « seconde nature »). Durant la Renaissance, elle forme l'idéal de l'« honnête homme ». La problématique de la culture générale est au cœur de ce que l'on a pu appeler la « crise de l'éducation » (La crise de la culture de Hannah Arendt).

Wikipedia translates the expression into General knowledge, but General knowledge sounds much wider than Culture générale. Is there any better translation?

1 Answer 1


It is always very difficult to translate core philosophical terms like this. They often have long histories behind them, which cannot be bracketed out (think of Plato's logos); and translations in one generation have a tendency of becoming fixed, so that they are added to the history in the target language (think of transcendence, the traditional English translation of Hegel's Aufhebung).

In this case, however, the solution happens to be clear: Arendt wrote this in English, not French, so you need only consult the original text, Between Past and Future. The French edition, according to Wikipedia, is based on the 2nd edition, 1968.

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