Caring and Agency: Noddings on happiness in education

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In this short essay I express my own deep sympathy with Nel Noddings's ethic of care and applaud her stubborn resistance in Happiness and Education to what John Dewey would have called false dualisms, such as those between intelligence and emotion, theory and practice, or vocation and academic studies.However, I question whether the sort of caring relation she depicts so beautifully in this and many other books is sufficiently robust to alone carry the weight of the moral life that she supports, and whether her suspicion of community, while sounding important cautions, does not leave us with an ethical vision that is too thin to deliver the sort of education she prescribes. To this end, I argue that she judges Victor Frankl's conception of freedom too harshly and his response to human suffering with an uncharacteristic lack of charity. Following well-known communitarian arguments of MichaelWalzer and CharlesTaylor I suggest that some account of a situated human agent who can choose freely to enter into relation is necessary to sustain the role of caring in education that has been Noddings most significant philosophical contribution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)488-493
Number of pages6
JournalEducational Philosophy and Theory
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2013


  • agency
  • caring
  • community
  • education
  • ethics
  • freedom
  • happiness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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