NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ1135175
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2017-Feb
Pages: 12
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0309-8249
Education, Despair and Morality: A Reply to Roberts
Cowley, Christopher
Journal of Philosophy of Education, v51 n1 p298-309 Feb 2017
In a recent thought-provoking piece, Peter Roberts argues against the central role of happiness as a guiding concept in education, and argues for more attention to be paid to despair. This does not mean cultivating despair in young people, but allowing them to make sense of their own natural occasional despair, as well as the despair of others. I agree with Roberts about happiness, and about the need for more attention to despair, but I argue that focusing too much on despair is dangerous without paying simultaneous attention to goodness. Roberts argues that students must be helped to face the despair born of the realisation that (i) we can never be sure of the moral grounds on which our actions are based, (ii) we can never fully know ourselves, and that (iii) education should make us more appreciative of what we don't know. I argue against all three claims: (i) there are some moral truths that we can know; (ii) we can know enough of ourselves in certain contexts; (iii) education should not only teach intellectual humility, it should also give us confidence in appreciating the sources of meaning that are ordinarily available, e.g. personal relationships. The paper concludes with a response to the objection (perhaps by Roberts, as well as by liberals) that my position is little more than old-fashioned moralism and conservatism.
Wiley-Blackwell. 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148. Tel: 800-835-6770; Tel: 781-388-8598; Fax: 781-388-8232; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A