Routledge have recently published Deputy Director, Kristján Kristjánsson’s new book Flourishing as the Aim of Education: A Neo-Aristotelian View. This book aims to develop a conception of student flourishing (understood as their objective well-being) as the overarching aim of education. The conception of flourishing elicited here falls broadly within the Aristotelian concept of eudaimonia. Yet it distinguishes itself from Aristotle’s own conception in various ways. While neo-Aristotelians typically offer friendly amendments or upgrades of Aristotle’s theory in light of contemporary social scientific findings and developments in current virtue ethics, this book departs further from the Aristotelian script by adding contours to the conception of flourishing that are recognisably un-Aristotelian. Most conspicuously, it argues that the ‘good life’ of the student, to which education should contribute, must involve engagement with self-transcendent ideals and ignite awe-filled enchantment, in ways which go well beyond, and even clash with, traditional Aristotle-inspired conceptions of eudaimonia.
Flourishing as the Aim of Education picks up threads from the author’s 2015 award-winning Routledge monograph, Aristotelian Character Education (which won the British Society for Education Studies prize as the Education Book of the Year). However, it carries those threads in new directions such that there is virtually no overlap between the two books. Educating young people as persons of good character is one thing; educating them towards a life of overall flourishing is a more ambitious goal, involving a set of considerations that exceed the remit of ‘mere’ character education and must be pursued by every educator, inside as well as outside of classrooms.
With flourishing being a more capacious goal than the cultivation of character, it allows for more social and educational variance, and it requires engagement with a host of socio-political as well as ‘spiritual’ issues that tend to be conveniently eschewed in the literatures on the moral dimensions of schooling. While this book constitutes a theoretical study of the foundations of flourishing, it is meant to convey significant lessons to policy-makers and practitioners; and each chapter closes with some salient food for thought for teachers and other educators who are in a position to directly facilitate student flourishing.
The book is available to purchase here.