Review of ‘Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Reframed’ by Howard Gardner
Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Reframed
By Howard Gardner
Published by Basic Books: 2011: New York, 244 pp.
Whenever Howard Gardner has a new book it’s cause for celebration.
This is no exception. Beautifully written, confronting often-elusive philosophical concepts and framing them with clarity and precision, Gardner’s latest work offers a rewarding read. When so much in popular media and culture seem to work against any appreciation of such classical virtues as truth, beauty and goodness, Gardner’s discussion is a powerful antidote.
As he writes, “…the new digital media have ushered in a chaotic state of affairs. Thanks to their predominance, we encounter a mélange of claims and counterclaims; an unparalleled mixture of creations, constantly being revised; and an ethical landscape that is unregulated, confusing, indeed largely unexamined.”
Why should we care about valuing truth, beauty and goodness? Gardner asserts that “such caring is fundamental to our condition as human beings, and has been so for thousands of years.” Maintaining these core values, he suggests, is critical to maintaining our society.
He writes, “Any society that hopes to endure must ensure that these concepts and values are passed on in viable form to succeeding generations. For, if we give up lives marked by truth, beauty and goodness — or at least the perennial quest for them — to all intents and purposes, we resign ourselves to a world where nothing is of value, where anything goes.”
Throughout this book, Gardner — who is the John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Senior Director of Harvard Project Zero and recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship — provides a thoughtful, reasoned and reasonable road map to imprint the next generation with ways to discern these fundamental virtues.
Ultimately, Gardner believes that — despite the younger generation’s reluctance to “privilege” any one authority’s definition of beauty, for example — it will be possible in an increasingly global world to “search for a ‘good’ that transcends individual borders or any single, received sense of moral absolutes.”
This work is a refreshing and invaluable contribution to a discussion that must continue to take place, at home, and in classrooms, if our society is to continue and flourish. #