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.

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