Identity and good character (English)

In one of the most important chapters of Don Quixote de la Mancha (Part 2 – Chapter 6), we find words which may provide a good introduction to this International Seminar on the Philosophy of Education:

“I have more of arms than of letters in my composition, and, judging by my inclination to arms, was born under the influence of the planet Mars. I am, therefore, in a measure constrained to follow that road, and by it I must travel in spite of all the world, and it will be labour in vain for you to urge me to resist what heaven wills, fate ordains, reason requires, and, above all, my own inclination favours; for knowing as I do the countless toils that are the accompaniments of knight-errantry, I know, too, the infinite blessings that are attained by it; I know that the path of virtue is very narrow, and the road of vice broad and spacious; I know their ends and goals are different…”.

This text raises two points. The first is a reflection on the complex problem of identity. Who was Don Quixote, really? Was he the Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance? Or was he the Knight of the Lions? Or was he Alonso Quijano? Reading The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha and the last will and testament of Alonso Quijano the Good may lead us to the conclusion that identity is something we receive, and that living means revising and being loyal to our birth potential. But that, obviously, would lead us to forget that, at a certain point, Alonso Quijano decides to ignore those bonds and begin a series of adventures which would make him world-famous. However, at the end of his life he decides to reassume his original birthright.

When Ortega stated that life has been given to us empty, and we must occupy it, he was expressing a complex truth. In fact, there are many things that have been given to us; no one can choose their parents, nor can parents choose who and what their children will be. But, at the same time, we feel responsible for our own lives, which we can channel in different ways, and even make important life choices as did Alonso Quijano – first as Alonso, then Don Quixote, finally dying as Alonso. Ronald Reagan was over 50 when he decided to give up show business and television in order to get into politics and begin the public activity that led him to be governor of California and, at the age of 69, President of the United States. Thus, the concept of identity is a very broad one as a means a reflection on what changes can be made to what we have received and on the criteria for a reasonable use of our freedom.

The second point refers to the fact that, in his different incarnations, Don Quixote always had a gentle disposition and a pleasant manner. This makes us reflect on what we call good-natured. Truly, people’s serenity and courtesy stand out and are generally seen as signs of someone who is good-natured. This good nature is the demonstration of a mature person who lives their life to the full, and has a stable capacity to undertake actions of virtue, the most important of which is good works towards others.

This is the general approach of our Symposium, allowing for extremely varied perspectives on the above-mentioned issues.

Keynote Speakers

Hanan Alexander – University of Haifa

Professor Alexander has been Dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Haifa, where he serves as Professor of Philosophy of Education. He is also President of the Religious Education Association and Chair of the Committee on Values Education: Guidelines for Measurement and Evaluation of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. During the 2021-2022 academic year he will return to UC Berkeley as a Visiting Profesor in the Graduate School of Education, a position which he held from 2008-2010. An Affiliated Profesor (Professor Extra Numerum) at the University of Warsaw, Alexander has taught at American Jewish University, UCLA, Graduate Theological Union, Jewish Theological Seminary, Bar Ilan University, Kaunas Technological Univertsity and the University of Vilnius; and was Visiting Fellow at the University of Cambridge. A past editor of Religious Education, he has published more than 135 essays and 7 books. These include: Reclaiming Goodness: Education and the Spiritual Quest (University of Notre Dame Press, 2001); Ethics and Spirituality in Education: Philosophical, Theological, and Radical Perspectives (Sussex, 2004); Citizenship Education and Social Conflict: Israeli Political Education in Global Perspective, with Halleli Pinson and Yossi Yonah (Routledge, 2011); Commitment, Character, and Citizenship: Religious Schooling in Liberal Democracy, with Ayman Agbaria (Routledge, 2012); and Reimagining Liberal Education: Affiliation and Inquiry in Democratic Schooling (Bloomsbury, 2015).

Chris Higgins – Boston College

Associate Professor of Teacher Education at the Boston College Lynch School of Education and Human Development. He has published numerous papers on philosophy of education, formation, ethics of professional practice, humane education, etc. Higgins has taught at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Columbia University, among others. Editor-in-Chief, Philosophy of Education Yearbook, Philosophy of Education Society (PES). Some of his last publications are The Good Life of Teaching: An Ethics of Professional Practice (WileyBlackwell, 2011); The Promise, Pitfalls, and Persistent Challenge of Action Research (Ethics and Education, 2016); Education in a Minor Key (Special issue, Educational Theory, Ed., 2018; Does Dewey’s history of philosophy help us to meet the demands of our present? (Special issue, Educational Theory, Ed., 2018); Humane Letters: Essays on Integrity, Vocation, and Higher Education (in prep).

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