Preparing For The Test Week Article Review Develop at least five discussion questions based on the articles ( webster doing the public good – hosteler ) fr
Preparing For The Test Week Article Review Develop at least five discussion questions based on the articles ( webster doing the public good – hosteler ) from preparing for the test Identify the issues presented in the case and the points of view held by each character. WEB04423 ®
R. Scott Webster
Faculty of Education
Doing the ultimate public good through
It is argued here that the many public goods associated with education are derivatives of an
ultimate good. This ultimate good is the overall purpose of life in general and is similar to a
telos as understood in ancient Greek culture. This paper reviews the notions of ‘good’ and
telos, and examines implications of Bauman’s analysis of our present individualizing era, the
role of personal meaning making and the nature of education. It is then argued that preservice teachers can do the ultimate public good in a postmodern society, by articulating a
developed personal, professional perspective that expresses a purpose (telos) of life.
This is not an idle esoteric project. Dewey (1958, p. 383) reported that “the greater part of
life” will remain in darkness unless illuminated “by thoughtful inquiry”. It is argued in this
paper that such an illumination into the greater part of life can be made possible by the
articulation of a telos. This perspective provides the basis for all other goods which teachers
decide to do. This project accords well with a recent UNESCO report which calls for such a
perspective, and its importance is clearly indicated in its claim that “It is no exaggeration on
the Commission’s part to say that the survival of humanity depends thereon” (Delors, 1998, p.
The ultimate public good
Aristotle indicated that ‘good’ could be considered as belonging to three categories. These
were the external, the body and the soul, and with reference to the latter he claimed that
“those belonging to the soul we call most properly and specially good” (trans. Chase, 1911, p.
13, my emphasis). This soul is described by Aristotle as having both irrational and rational
attributes. The irrational includes the appetites and desires, and the rational consists of
intellectual and moral attributes. His notion of good then, involves our desires being
tempered with intellectual and moral reasoning.
Aristotle’s virtues were expressions of good character, which enabled people to live a life of
excellence (aretê) and happiness (eudaimonia). Aristotle developed his notion of special
goodness that pertained to this soul, and conceptualised it as a Chief Good. This represented
“that which all things aim at” (trans. Chase, 1911, p. 1, my emphasis). This Chief Good,
being the main thing aimed at, the end purpose or telos for humankind, was understood from
the perspective of the community rather than that of the individual.
What was ‘good’ for Aristotle is often contrasted with other notions of good, such as found in
the Christian New Testament. In contradistinction to Aristotle’s virtues which included
wealth, strength and courage, Christian theology promotes notions of weakness, poverty and
humility. Nietzsche made great issue with this difference. He argued that the conception of
‘good’ was subject to the worldviews of various interest groups. Nietzsche was against any
notion of a grand teleology existing for humankind and through Zarathustra claimed, “A
thousand goals have there been so far… the one goal is lacking. Humanity still has no goal”
(Nietzsche, 1954, p. 60). Zarathustra observed that only humankind could create a meaning
for things – a human meaning. Therefore, he encouraged the individual to create a meaning in
which he or she would become responsible. He declared, “He, however, has discovered
himself who says, ‘This is my good and evil’; and ‘this is my way; where is yours?’”
(Nietzsche, 1954, pp. 194 – 195).
Nietzsche goaded his readers to consider going beyond good and evil – which is a title he
used for one of his books. He challenged his readers to consider how they understood the
criteria that would determine whether something was to be considered either good or bad.
Nietzsche (1989, p. 55) called this a “dangerous formula” because it allowed the individual to
create her or his own values regardless of what the commonly accepted ones were. In short,
one could apply one’s own meanings to the terms good and evil.
Nietzsche’s works were aimed to address the apparent nihilism of his age, a time of
meaninglessness, which is understood to be postmodern in the sense that no one worldview,
with its systematised values, can be legitimized. Nietzsche claimed that there are no such
things as absolute values that can be appealed to once ‘Truth’ (in the absolute sense) is
understood to be no longer attainable. Consequently Nietzsche argued that, in order to
recognise meanings in a potentially nihilistic context, the individual must re-evaluate all
values. One must become a creator of one’s own notion of the good and the values by which
one is then to be held accountable. One must determine for oneself what is of value, what is
good and what is true.
Nietzsche’s views concerning the central importance of personal meaning making and choice
when it comes to the notion of ‘the good’, is reflective of many postmodern writers. Lyotard
is recognised as famously announcing the end to modernism’s metanarratives, which makes
the postmodern world fractured, ambivalent and uncertain. In this era, Bauman (2001, p. 69)
identifies the individualizing effect these conditions have and argues that “ambivalence may
be, as before, a social phenomenon, but each one of us faces it alone, as a personal problem”.
Bauman, like Nietzsche, throws his readers back on themselves as individuals, and
encourages them to become active and critical meaning makers and participants rather than
passive and docile consuming citizens.
The making of meaning however, is a derivative of purpose. Morris (1992, p. 57) states that
“if my life is to have meaning (or a meaning), it thus must derive its meaning from some sort
of purposive, intentional activity. It must be endowed with meaning”. Any meaning,
including the establishing of a meaning of a (public) good, must, as Nietzsche argued, be part
of one’s personal worldview as to what makes life worth living. For Aristotle, it was his
notion of the telos which indicated the purpose by which excellence and happiness could be
Aristotle’s Chief Good was derived from a perspective of a telos – what was good for the
public or society. This not only involved the intellectual development of individuals, but also
the community required them to be moral. Morality itself, as argued by Ellin (1995) is more
suited to enriching society as a whole rather than enriching individuals, and is therefore
considered to be specifically a social good. While moral goodness is understood to be a
public good, whatever particular meaning is attributed to ‘good’ for a specific community,
must, as was mentioned before, be derived from a particular purpose or telos. The telos for
the public is understood to be that which is considered to be the point aimed at, or end
purpose of the community, which enables it to live well.
The ultimate public telos
As mentioned earlier, the Greek term telos denotes the point aimed at or purpose. This term
forms the root for the word teleology, meaning the overall quality of being purposeful. In
ethical theory teleology is often contrasted with deontology. The former generally refers to
producing good, while the latter generally refers to following moral duties or principles.
Taylor (1989, p. 3) delineates between the modernistic deontological rule-following approach
which focuses upon “what is right to do” with the more postmodern condition “on what it is
good to be”. Therefore, the moral issue is not one of which rules to follow but rather ‘what
sort of person is one to become?’. That is, what is the purpose by which one can assign
meaning to one’s existence. The meaning of a public good then should be derived from such
a teleological position.
There can be many meanings of ‘good’ which can be derived from various teleological views
concerning the public to which we as educators belong. However, it is argued here that the
notion of an ultimate good would refer to that which gives life purpose and makes life
meaningful. In this context the response to the question ‘what is the meaning of life?’ is
considered to involve the ultimate telos. This proposal of the ultimate public good can be
criticised as being a particularly Western view, where since Ancient Greece, there has been
the premise that there is a telos – a point to life. Yalom (1980, p. 470) contrasts this with the
Eastern view, where “Existence has no goal. It is pure journey”. Nevertheless, it is argued
here that in order to address the topic of ‘public good’, meanings should be derived from
To examine this issue of life’s meaning more closely, it is helpful to differentiate between the
questions ‘what is the purpose of life?’ and ‘what is the purpose of my life?’. Yalom refers to
the former as the ‘cosmological’, noting that it can be addressed by a worldview as found in
various religions. The latter he terms ‘terrestrial’ and includes a purpose, a reference to an
intention, aim or function, and as more personal and even secular. MacIntyre (1984, p. 28)
contends that this latter question, which focuses on individual choice and responsibility, is the
more appropriate one to emphasise in these postmodern times, and argues that “it is by way of
their intentions that individuals express bodies of moral belief in their actions. For all
intentions presuppose more or less complex, more or less coherent, more or less explicit
bodies of belief, sometimes moral belief”. So while both questions have great value, it is the
terrestrial question that is considered to have particular significance in providing the basis by
which the meaning of an ultimate public good might be derived.
By emphasising this terrestrial question which asks ‘what is the purpose of my life?’ morality
must become a necessary component of this exercise. This is because an individual is argued
to be a social being having a presence-in-the-world. Morality in postmodernity is understood
to have greater significance if considered teleologically rather than deontologically. This is
not confined of course to postmodernism as Aristotle’s ethics were also teleological. His
virtues were not a means to a meaningful life, but rather were expressions of the Chief Good.
MacIntyre (1984, p. 118) addresses the teleological project which asks ‘what sort of person
must I become?’ and answers it by how “in practice” one lives one’s life. Mehl (2001, p. 4)
argues that “this existential issue of personal becoming” to which MacIntyre refers, is tackled
by Kierkegaard’s philosophy.
Kierkegaard’s writings call the individual back out of the crowd to live an authentic existence.
By living authentically, one can choose one’s own identity and possibilities rather than have
these dictated by the crowd or by some framework encouraging rule-following behaviour.
Kierkegaard (1987, vol.2, p. 259) stated that when becoming authentic, “the individual has
known himself and has chosen himself”. For Kierkegaard, this was where one’s purpose and
meaning of life was to be found. Being authentic allows one to determine how things are to
count towards one’s situation and how one is to act in relation to them. This is similar to
Nietzsche’s encouragement for individuals to become responsible by re-evaluating and
choosing goods and values, and not as has occasionally been the interpretation, to become
immoral. Nietzsche calls individuals to become responsible for establishing an authentic
relationship to what is good, by being able to distinguish between good and evil.
This ability to choose between goods and to determine the criteria by which goods might be
recognised, refers to a higher layer of decision making which lies beyond many goods
themselves. This higher layer is described by Taylor (1989) as consisting of hypergoods,
which are the higher-order goods by which lesser goods can be determined. He argues that
these contribute to our sense of being good rather than just informing us of doing good. He
claims that “We sense in the very experience of being moved by some higher good that we
are moved by what is good in it rather than what it is valuable because of our reaction. We
are moved by it seeing its point as something infinitely valuable” (Taylor, 1989, p. 74). This
level of hypergoods, or what Taylor refers to as strong evaluation, enables persons to make
meanings as to what are then to count as lesser goods.
Personal meaning making
Persons can be considered as beings who experience meaning where ‘meaning’ is understood
to unify rationality and reason with other aspects of experience such as feeling, conscience
and imagination (Phenix, 1964, p. 5, 21). For Heidegger, ‘meaning’ refers to the relations of
entities to a structural whole of meanings and intentions (Palmer, 1969, p. 133) and
constitutes part of his concepts of self-understanding, care and significance. This ‘subjective
meaning’ is an understanding of self-in-the-world and therefore has a degree of ‘objectivity’
associated with it as the ‘world’ is not of the individual but of the public (Pring, 2000, p. 100).
Betanzos argues that Wilhelm “Dilthey has a strong sense for existential concerns” too where
an individual is considered by Dilthey to have an “overwhelming need to put together a
pattern of meaning for his life as a whole emerges a Weltanschauung, or ‘worldview’”
(Betanzos, 1988, p. 29). According to Dilthey this is how life can be made sense of or
comprehended as a whole, where “meaning is the special relationship which the parts have to
the whole in a life” (Dilthey, 1976, p. 235-6).
Meanings are generally socially constructed with others, and so an understanding of others is
an important contribution in being able to appreciate critically the various facets of cultural
meanings. Personal beliefs regarding one’s self and the world contribute to a personal
worldview that consists of a morally responsible approach to others. Therefore, in addition to
encouraging students to be creative and critical towards generally accepted cultural
knowledge (Fritzman, 1990), education should also foster sensitivity to differences. The
individual is not an indifferent detached ‘atom’ from the rest of humanity, but is in-the-world
with others and can therefore be referred to by the more inclusive concept of “the individualsubject-and-others” (Smeyers, 1995, p. 407). Education should therefore place an emphasis
upon understanding and accepting the ‘Other’, which fosters “a tolerance of uncertainty,
ambiguity, and change, and a humility with respect to one’s own identity and beliefs”
(Bagnall, 1995, p. 92).
Drawing upon the notion of ‘meaning’ as conceptualised by Dilthey, Heidegger and Phenix, it
is argued here that persons can be understood as “meaning-making creatures” (Hill, 1992, p.
9). This meaning-making characteristic can take the form of a personal narrative, where one
is able to make sense of one’s place in the whole scheme of things (Erricker et al., 1997).
Such a claim accords well with the views of Dewey, who maintained that education must be
meaningful for individuals personally, in order for them to engage with the curriculum.
Education is not just to be understood as the subject matter or even the activities, but also as
meaningfulness that is considered to be valuable, worthwhile and significant for the
Such meaning making needs to involve the deepest aspects of our being in order to address an
ultimate public good. While information can be gained via an engagement with various
sources, this does not make it personally significant. As Bruner (1990, p. 4) reminds us
information, being a term which lends itself to a computer-processing metaphor “comprises
an already pre-coded message within a system”. Meaning however, is something which an
individual encodes upon experiences. Such a difference is reflective of what James and
Dewey refer to as second-hand thinking (information) and first-hand thinking (making
personal sense and meaning from experiences). It is this latter aspect which is pertinent for
constructing meanings which give personal significance in an overall purpose for a public
Education and the ultimate good
The relation between education and the good life is an ancient one and yet it appears not to be
obvious with a superficial glance which may view education simply as a means to developing
cultural capital. There is usually an assumed innate goodness associated with the enterprise
of education. That is, through education individuals and the public at large are understood to
receive some benefit. Both the individual and society are made ‘better’ through this
enterprise. Having a similar correspondence to Aristotle’s notion of good character, there is
the current ideal of an educated person. Similarly to Aristotle’s position, this ideal of the
educated person is understood to be good from the perspective of the public, even from a
liberal perspective because it has moral character as a central component to its view.
The term ‘education’ is derived from the Latin edūcēre meaning ‘out’ and dūcēre meaning ‘to
lead’. Hence this notion has traditionally implied that education is the process of nourishing
or rearing a person, to ‘lead out’ of his or her potential for development. It could be implied
that the learner is coming out of his or her ‘natural’ state of ignorance and impulse based upon
appetite and caprice. However the learner is also part of the social world and therefore
education can be seen as offering an initiation in to public understandings, purposes and
‘Education’ does not necessarily aim to achieve anything beyond itself, being understood as
providing the values and criteria by which manners of proceeding (rather than specific
content) should comply (Atkinson, 1965, p. 180; Peters, 1965, p. 92). The notion that
education should be necessarily contributing to something extrinsic to itself is objected to
(Peters, 1967, p. 5), because education stands for something that in itself is intrinsically
worthwhile, the search for extrinsic ends is like seeking the purpose of morality or the good
life (Peters, 1964, p. 17; 1970, p. 29). If the discipline of education is taught in a scientific
approach, somewhat akin to the psychometrics discourse often frequently found in programs
teaching pedagogy, it is likely, as Dewey (1958, p. 383) argued, that “by far the greater part
of life goes on in a darkness unilluminated by thoughtful inquiry”.
Dewey argued that all persons act and behave according to their beliefs, and it is therefore the
task of education to enable persons to believe intelligently. The intellectual thoroughness that
Dewey recommended in order to enable persons to believe intelligently, was basically
philosophical. In his writings which promoted social morality, he described this thoroughness
variously but often as value judgements and critical reflection. He always stressed that such
thinking was not to be separated by too great a distance from direct experience, and argued
For these forms of moral theory while releasing morals from the obligation of telling
man what goods are, leaving that office to life itself, have failed to note that the office
of moral philosophy is criticism; and that the performance of this office by discovery
of existential conditions and consequences involves a qualitative transformation, a remaking in subsequent action which experimentally tests the conclusions of theory.
(Dewey, 1958, p. 433)
According to Dewey, a certain depth of critique appears necessary to uncove…
Purchase answer to see full