cultivation of humanity

gary e. davis
November 1, 2004


It’s a nice notion: the cultivation of humanity. I surprised myself, several months back, when I recalled a passage from a Habermas essay and, after reproducing it, suddenly recalled the title of Martha Nussbaum’s book on higher education, Cultivating Humanity.

Another way to think of the so-called theory-practice relationship is relative to scales of development, from that of a life (e.g., developmental psychology, literary writing) to that of a geography (e.g., political economics of development, historiography).

So, in many different ways, across that vast continuum, we strive (I write to those who enjoy such a continuum) to ensure decent developmental conditions for capability, which requires instituting capabilities (of organizations) for universalizing capabilities (of lives).

Universalizing capability is the kind of mission that belongs to international organizations, so the instituting of capability for universalizing capability would be primarily about gaining greater national support for such entities as UNESCO, along with creating (via the global village communication community) more international mandate for institutional capabilities in developing regions.

Nationally, the correlate aim is to promote the enabling of capability in localities, as a matter of funded public policy, which capability-centric approaches to philosophy of education foster within professional education and as educational policy within government. Actually, though, fostering capability in education is so integral to the profession already that the political work is a matter of gaining greater support for education within budgetary cycles than what is already dramatically focal for public debate.

Habermas’s approach to social development relates to enablement of cultural capability greatly. Habermas’s potential importance for educational theory and policy is perhaps barely appreciated. His work is a great Beginning.