ABSTRACT. Should critical thinking or moral perfection be the ultimate end of (cosmopolitan) education? Harvey Siegel (1988: 137) argues that the former should be the ultimate end. His reason is that any other aim requires critical thinking to be achieved and that it therefore “must preside over and authorize the force of its rivals” (ibid., 1988: 137). Moreover, Siegel believes that reason has to be cultivated or, in his term, educated, so that those concerned develop the skills necessary for a critical thinker, skills that enable a person to assess reasons and arguments. Further, those who want to be critical thinkers “must have … certain attitudes, dispositions, habits of mind, and character traits, which together may be labelled the ‘critical attitude’ or ‘critical spirit’” (ibid., 1988: 39). Siegel’s reason for this is that people may have the skills but not be appropriately moved to practise them. Therefore, a critical thinker must have the “critical spirit” (Siegel, 1988: 39; Siegel, 1997: 3) which motivates him or her to use critical skills whenever needed. However, I argue that the ultimate end of education, in particular cosmopolitan education, cannot be critical thinking but moral perfection, and we cultivate ourselves and in particular our moral predisposition to use our reason when we are enabled, and freely choose, to have our will determined by the principles of practical reason through the use of examples, and pursue the objects of morality, namely our freedom and the highest good in practice. pp. 21–37

Keywords: critical thinking; cosmopolitan education; moral perfection


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