Progress or stability? An historical approach to a central question for moral education

Journal of Moral Education 38 (1):93-107 (2009)

Abstract

This article aims to problematise and shed some new light on the idea that moral education should be oriented toward constant progress. Looking to uncover the philosophical foundations of this idea, the article examines its first historical appearance and its initial historical development, which took place in eighteenth-century British and French educational thought. The article reveals that this idea grew out of an attempt to base morality and moral education on reason and human nature. It explains how this attempt led to a preference for generating constant progress over maintaining social and moral order. The emergence of this idea had a deep impact on views regarding the nature of the interrelations between moral education, individuals and society. Discussing the tension between progress and stability, the article shows that the more progress was sought, the less moral education was seen as having to initiate individuals into existing society. The article concludes by briefly connecting the historical investigation conducted in it to subsequent and current debates about moral education

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