Gratitude, Ressentiment, and Citizenship Education


Authors
Mark E. Jonas
Wheaton College, Illinois
Abstract
Patricia White (Stud Philos Educ 18:43–52, 1999) argues that the virtue gratitude is essential to a flourishing democracy because it helps foster universal and reciprocal amity between citizens. Citizens who participate in this reciprocal relationship ought to be encouraged to recognize that “much that people do does in fact help to make communal civic life less brutish, pleasanter and more flourishing.” This is the case even when the majority of citizens do not intentionally seek to make civic life better for others. Were citizens to recognize the appropriateness of gratitude in these situations, the bonds of our democratic communities would be strengthened. In this paper, I examine White’s argument more carefully, arguing that it fails to address adequately the difficulties that arise when we attempt to encourage the virtue of gratitude in our students. To address these difficulties, I turn to an unlikely source for democratic inspiration: Friedrich Nietzsche. In spite of his well-known anti-democratic sentiments, Nietzsche offers democratic citizens insights into the social value of gratitude. I argue that Nietzsche’s ideas resolve the educational difficulties in White’s argument and viably establish gratitude as an important democratic virtue that ought to be cultivated
Keywords Gratitude  Resentment   Ressentiment  Democracy  Citizenship Education  Nietzsche
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DOI 10.1007/s11217-011-9261-8
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Human, All Too Human.Friedrich Nietzsche - 1996 - Cambridge University Press.
Gratitude and Justice.Patrick Fitzgerald - 1998 - Ethics 109 (1):119-153.

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