Flourishing and epiphanies
DOI link for Flourishing and epiphanies
Flourishing and epiphanies book
Aristotle's and Kohlberg's theories of moral development and education are often presented as proverbial anti-theses in the field. Yet both suffer from a similar difficulty in accounting for epiphanic moral conversions. Kohlberg's trajectory of moral development is a slow one, through well-defined stages, and Aristotle is often depicted as an early-years determinist who does not envisage much hope of moral reform for people ‘brought up in bad habits’. Late in life, Kohlberg suggested an additional ‘Stage 7’, of peak moral experiences, and Aristotle's virtue of ‘contemplation’ does offer some reprieve for intelligent agents who are blessed with good friends. Yet we are not much closer to explaining what happens when amoral/immoral people undergo sudden conversions towards morality, for example in the wake of near-death experiences or other radical ‘Damascus events’. I try to ameliorate these shortcomings by adding to Aristotle's theory a dimension of human nature that he overlooked: a universal emotional (awe-inspired) attraction to transpersonal ideals. I hypothesise that this dimension may hold the key to explaining the phenomenon of epiphanic moral conversions – real, if rare. Finally, I elicit some educational implications of the proposed account and how it matters for the development of a theory of student flourishing.