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In Search of the Good Life

A Pedogogy for Troubled Times

Fred Dallmayr

Publication Year: 2007

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.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. xi-xvi

This book was written in dark times, in an attempt to stave off despair. It was begun when war had once again been launched—an unprovoked and illicit war that by now has cost the lives of several hundred thousand people (mostly civilian). ...

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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.” ...

Part I: Prominent Searchers in the Past

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pp. 21

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1. A Pedagogy of the Heart: Saint Bonaventure’s Spiritual Itinerary

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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. ...

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2. Walking Humbly with Your God: J

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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...

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3. Wise Ignorance: Nicolaus of Cusa’s Search for Truth

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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...

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4. The Natural Theology of the Chinese: Leibniz and Confucianism

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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. ...

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5. Montesquieu’s Persian Letters: A Timely Classic

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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. ...

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6. Beautiful Freedom Schiller on the Aesthetic Education of Humanity

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pp. 116-137

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...

Part II: A Pedagogy for Our Troubled Times

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pp. 139

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7. Why the Classics Today?Lessons from Gadamer and de Bary

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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. ...

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8. Canons or Cannons? On Mobilizing Global Democracy

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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. ...

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9. A n End to Evil: Conquest or Moral Pedagogy?

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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. ...

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10. Transnational Citizenship: Paths beyond the Nation-State

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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...

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11. Religious Freedom: Preserving the Salt of the Earth

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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...

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12. Love and Justice: A Memorial Tribute to Paul Ricoeur

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pp. 220-235

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. ...

Appendix A: Multiculturalism and the Good Life: Comments on Bhikhu Parekh

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pp. 237-245

Appendix B: Modalities of Intercultural Dialogue: UNESCO at Sixty

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pp. 246-253

Appendix C: In a Different Voice: Some Afterthoughts on Violence

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pp. 254-259

Appendix D: Building Peace—How?

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pp. 260-265


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pp. 267-310


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pp. 311-320

E-ISBN-13: 9780813172682
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813124575

Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2007