13 SES 11 A, Moral Space and Wellbeing, Role Models, and Political Education
By articulating Charles Taylor's phenomenology of moral space within the context of wellbeing discourses in education this paper attempts to offer an antidote to the subjectivist accounts of wellbeing that are prevalent in efforts at curriculum reform.
Taylor introduces a spatial metaphor in relation to orientation within a field of values, and in the context of goals that he or she finds meaningful. He maintains that our point of departure of such orientation is always given to us in culture but is an once a process of self-discovery as it is of self-creation. The very conditions of where and how we find ourselves in any given culture can provide the basis for a conversation that generates personally refracted meaning goals, which are salient for individuals and communities alike. The paper will argue that the process of gaining orientation in the space of wellbeing is at one with the process of getting clear on our values and what is meaningful for us, since our wellbeing like our identity never hangs on one thing, and therefore must be put in perspective relative to the other things that matter. What is better or worse, what is significant or trivial, all play a part in deciding what is of value. We never define ourselves only in relation to one thing but rather in relation to a host of things that may not always sit comfortably together. Orienting in moral space involves getting clear on what we value most, and while maybe not ordering our values relative to each other in any explicit way at least having a sense of where each fits. This weighing, sifting, evaluating and ordering of values is part of the process of getting clear on who I am, my likes and dislikes, what I can and cannot live without and is itself a core wellbeing activity when seen as part of a basic phenomenology that includes illbeing experiences within to process of gaining meaning.
Developing Taylor’s notion of ‘inescapable questions’ the paper will argue that within the arrangement of motivating sources in any life there usually is one source of value that appears higher or more significant than all the rest, something that is best described as an ultimate meaning goal. For some this might have to do with a believable account of their national identity; for Aborigines it may extend to a more mythical ‘dreamtime’, and for others still it may be part of God’s plan for creation. For some this ultimate meaning goal remains firmly within the temporal bounds of this life and for others it extends beyond this life and exists eternally. Whichever form it takes in different situations for individuals, an ultimate meaning goal or value often helps arrange and shape all others, creating the standard by which I try to live my life.
Yet, even when understood individually in relation to the self and its own landscape of values, it is difficult to imagine it not finding its shape in interaction and dialogue with the surrounding world and with other values and value systems. In other words, gaining orientation in relation to meaning goals and ultimate meaning goals is not a monological and static process but is rather a dialogical and dynamic process which we are engaged in at many different levels, with many conversation partners and at many different points along our life path. This paper will explore whether wellbeing, as a discourse about the good, can accomodate such a strong account of meaning and value in the context of particularity, inclusion, and dialogue.
The methodology is a hermeneutical and phenomenological examination. It involves a close reading of key texts, analysis of current discourse on wellbeing as it has evolved in education, specifically in an Irish context, and the explication of ideas in the context of a developed argument that appeals to current international practice.
This research builds on work that has already been published as part of national curriculum reform at second level in Ireland. It seeks to give a fuller articulation to a phenomenological account of wellbeing and how it might further develop the curriculum developments. The paper tests, through argument and clarification, whether a 'spatial metaphor' might be employed to provide a depth perspective on wellbeing, one that is both subjective and dialogical in its value orientation. Further research might test this spatial metaphor as a helpful approach empirically through qualitative research with teachers and students. The aim would be to submit the finished paper to the Ethics in Education Journal.
Allardt, E. (1993) Having, Loving, Being : An Alternative to the Swedish Model of Welfare Research.In Nussbaum and Sen (eds.), The Quality of Life, 88-94. Seligman,M. (2011) Flourish: A New Understanding of Happiness and Wellbeing. London: Nicholas Breasley. Seligman, M. (2002) Authentic happiness: Using the new positive psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfillment. New York: Free Press. Taylor, C. (1994) Sources of the Self. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Taylor, C. (2008) A Secular Age: Harvard: Harvard University Press. Teaching Council (2012) Code of Professional Conduct for Teachers. Teaching Council. UNICEF (2007) Child Wellbeing in Rich Countries: An Overview. Florence: UNICEF
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