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In Search of the Good Life

In Search of the Good Life: A Pedogogy for Troubled Times

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 336
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    In Search of the Good Life
    Book Description:

    The great German novelist Thomas Mann implored readers to resist the persistent and growing militarism of the mid-twentieth century. To whom should we turn for guidance during this current era of global violence, political corruption, economic inequality, and environmental degradation? For more than two millennia, the world's great thinkers have held that the ethically "good life" is the highest purpose of human existence. Renowned political philosopher Fred Dallmayr traces the development of this notion, finding surprising connections among Aristotelian ethics, Abrahamic and Eastern religious traditions, German idealism, and postindustrial social criticism. In Search of the Good Life does not offer a blueprint but rather invites readers on a cross-cultural quest. Along the way, the author discusses the teachings of Aristotle, Confucius, Nicolaus of Cusa, Leibniz, and Schiller, in addition invoking more recent writings of Gadamer and Ricoeur, as guideposts and sources of hope during our troubled times. Among contemporary themes Dallmayr discusses are the role of the classics in education, proper and improper ways of spreading democracy globally, the possibility of transnational citizenship, the problem of politicized evil, and the role of religion in our predominantly secular culture. Dallmayr restores the notion of the good life as a hallmark of personal conduct, civic virtue, and political engagement, and as the road map to enduring peace. In Search of the Good Life seeks to arouse complacent and dispirited citizens, guiding them out of the distractions of shallow amusements and perilous resentments in the direction of mutual learning and civic pedagogy -- a direction that will enable them to impose accountability on political leaders who stray from fundamental ethical standards.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7268-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    Some seventy years ago, in the midst of darkening global horizons, a prominent American intellectual formulated a stunning vision that combined good government or public ethics with a general “regime of peace.” The name of the intellectual was Walter Lippmann, and the book announcing his vision was titledThe Good Society.The book was first published in 1936, at a time when fascism was deeply entrenched in Germany and Italy, a totalitarian ideology was ruling Russia, and Japan was preparing for war—dark horizons indeed. But the situation was even more ominous and foreboding because nearly all the “advanced” countries...

  5. Part I. Prominent Searchers in the Past

    • 1. A Pedagogy of the Heart: Saint Bonaventure’s Spiritual Itinerary
      (pp. 23-39)

      Some eight hundred years ago, a young man in Italy received a summons to rejuvenate religious practices through a life of poverty and humble devotion. The young man’s name was Giovanni Francesco Bernardone, and he lived in the town of Assisi in Umbria. Following this summons, he divested himself of all worldly possessions and founded a religious order that spread rapidly throughout Europe.¹ Two years after his death (in 1226), he was canonized and became revered as Saint Francis. However, in his own lifetime, he was known simply as thepoverello,a poor, humble mendicant following in the footsteps of...

    • 2. Walking Humbly with Your God: Jñanadev and the Warkari Movement
      (pp. 40-57)

      Coming from the West, the contemporary traveler to India often has the sense of visiting another planet. Many customs and practices seem alien or remote, as do the underlying beliefs and motives. If this is true of contemporary India, how much greater would this sense of distance be if visiting medieval India? That place, with its philosophy, literature, and religion, would seem like a lost city, surrounded by nearly impenetrable underbrush. How would one approach such a place, from our modern angle, without disrupting or violating its intrinsic order? Clearly, if such a visit were attempted, one would have to...

    • 3. Wise Ignorance: Nicolaus of Cusa’s Search for Truth
      (pp. 58-79)

      In his approach to the problem of knowledge, Nicolaus of Cusa (1401–1464) can rightly be considered, as Ernst Cassirer observes, “the first modern thinker.” The title belongs to him because he first grasped a principle that modern Western philosophy has erected into an unimpeachable doctrine: the principle that rational or scientific knowledge, properly construed, has to be anchored in measurement and empirical comparison—methods that completely sideline traditional metaphysics (with its claim to deliver speculative knowledge). In his long string of writings, Nicolaus of Cusa never ceased to stress this need for measurement, but with a dramatic twist. Had...

    • 4. The Natural Theology of the Chinese: Leibniz and Confucianism
      (pp. 80-94)

      In introducing their translations of Leibniz’s writings on China, David Cook and Henry Rosemont Jr. observe:

      The vision of Leibniz for a close understanding and communication between China and the West has not yet come to realization. The growth of knowledge of Chinese culture in the United States and Europe has not been matched by a similar growth in its dissemination, especially at the public level; and the respectability of narrow specialization in the academic disciplines provides a ready-made excuse for all but China scholars to professionally ignore the world’s oldest continuous culture, inherited by one quarter of the human...

    • 5. Montesquieu’s Persian Letters: A Timely Classic
      (pp. 95-115)

      The age of Enlightenment is often portrayed as the upsurge of an abstractly rational universalism completely oblivious of, and even hostile to, historical tradition and especially the rich welter of regional and local ways of life. In its home country, the age oflumièreseventually led to a complete break with and attempted eradication of the past—a rupture that stood in sharp contrast to developments in the English-speaking world. Latter-day devotees of the Enlightenment often propagate a bland universalism on the Jacobin model, but that outlook ignores the fact that the rays oflumièresare necessarily refracted in the...

    • 6. Beautiful Freedom: Schiller on the Aesthetic Education of Humanity
      (pp. 116-138)

      During his dark period, the Spanish painter Goya depicted the horrors and monsters that are lying in wait behind the facade of reason. In doing so, he anticipated some of the most troubling questions of our time: How is it possible that one of the most developed and scientifically advanced civilizations on earth could spawn a string of atrocities ranging from Auschwitz to Hiroshima to Abu Ghraib? How is it that such a vast expansion of knowledge and information could be accompanied by such a derailment of conduct and such an atrophy of ethical sensibilities? These questions have occupied major...

  6. Part II. A Pedagogy for Our Troubled Times

    • 7. Why the Classics Today? Lessons from Gadamer and de Bary
      (pp. 141-153)

      We live in a fast-paced age; in fact, the pace of change—at least in the so-called advanced societies—seems to be constantly increasing. Technological innovations that were unheard of just a few decades ago are briskly overturned and rendered obsolete by newer inventions of still more staggering magnitude. Using the parlance of videotapes, some observers have described our age as moving in “fast-forward.” The question that remains to be pondered, however, is whether speed is an adequate gauge for the quality of human life. Clearly, no matter how germane it is to certain technical developments, fastness by itself does...

    • 8. Canons or Cannons? On Mobilizing Global Democracy
      (pp. 154-166)

      “Mobilizing democracy” is a stirring catchphrase, and it was a well-chosen theme for the 2005 meeting of one of the largest social science associations in the United States.¹ In choosing that theme, the organizers obviously wanted to establish a broad agenda, both nationally and globally. In fact, although couched as an ongoing process, the motto can readily be translated into a directive or even an imperative that postulates “mobilize democracy” or “spread democracy everywhere” or simply “democratize the world.” The directive is stirring and captivating—but also disorienting, given the serious malaise afflicting contemporary democracy both at home and abroad....

    • 9. An End to Evil: Conquest or Moral Pedagogy?
      (pp. 167-187)

      Things long ignored or repressed often return with a vengeance. Evil, or the problem of evil, is a case in point. As heirs to the Enlightenment, Western societies in recent centuries have tended to sideline evil as a spook or as the relic of a distant past. In the poignant words of Lance Morrow: “The children of the Enlightenment sometimes have an inadequate understanding of the possibilities of Endarkenment.”¹ Two events in more recent times have disrupted this complacency and catapulted evil back into the limelight. The first was the experience of totalitarianism, and especially the atrocities of the Nazi...

    • 10. Transnational Citizenship: Paths beyond the Nation-State
      (pp. 188-204)

      At the dawn of Western civilization (so called), we find two conceptions of citizenship: one Greek, arising in Athens, and the other Christian, inspired by Jerusalem. The first conception of citizenship, usually associated with Aristotle, is that of membership in a polis, or city-state (with Aristotle holding that such membership is “natural” for, or constitutive of, human beings). The second conception, most prominently formulated by Saint Augustine, assumes a duality of membership: that is, membership in the earthly city (civitas terrena) and the heavenly city (civitas Dei). The two conceptions clearly do not coincide. In fact, as has often been...

    • 11. Religious Freedom: Preserving the Salt of the Earth
      (pp. 205-219)

      The history of the Jewish people is, in large measure, a history of exile, captivity, and diaspora, but it is also a story of redemption. The book of Exodus reports the tribulations endured by the Jews during their exile in Egypt, before they were led into the wilderness by Moses, but it also speaks of a promised land and of the “steadfast love” with which God guides the people to his “holy abode” (Exodus 15:13). The tribulations did not end with the Jews’ arrival in their new home; their troubles returned with even greater intensity after the fall of the...

    • 12. Love and Justice: A Memorial Tribute to Paul Ricoeur
      (pp. 220-236)

      On May 20, 2005, the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur died in Paris at age ninety-two. This chapter is dedicated to his memory. In my view, Ricoeur’s writings and his persona were in complete harmony—something that is not often the case among distinguished intellectuals. I had the good fortune to encounter him at various conferences both in the United States and in Europe and thus was able to discern the human being animating his texts. In 1999 I participated in a meeting held in his honor when he bade farewell to the University of Chicago, where he had taught periodically...

  7. Appendixes

    • Appendix A Multiculturalism and the Good Life: Comments on Bhikhu Parekh
      (pp. 237-245)
    • Appendix B Modalities of Intercultural Dialogue: UNESCO at Sixty
      (pp. 246-253)
    • Appendix C In a Different Voice: Some Afterthoughts on Violence
      (pp. 254-259)
    • Appendix D Building Peace—How?
      (pp. 260-266)
  8. Notes
    (pp. 267-310)
  9. Index
    (pp. 311-320)