Evaluating cultures: the instrumentalism, pluralist perfectionism, and particularism of John Gray

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In this article, Matthew Johnson examines the possibility of using elements of John Gray's work to advance a means of evaluating cultures, in order to inform the development of pluralist perfectionist forms of public policy and, in particular, educational programs. Johnson engages critically with elements of Gray's value pluralism, such as his understanding of the objectivity and universality in human values, needs, and well-being; determinacy of circumstance; and particularity with regard to the selection of values. These elements support an instrumental account of culture in which a group's choice of values is assessed according to their contribution to well-being. Johnson then considers the potential conflict between pluralism and perfectionism in the development of education systems in heterogeneous societies, highlighting the harms inflicted on the identity, meaning, and security of particular groups by attempts to promote well-being. Johnson concludes the article with an exploration of possible means of minimizing harm through pragmatic engagement with identity and circumstance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)553-572
Number of pages20
JournalEducational Philosophy and Theory
Issue number5
Early online date26 Sept 2012
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2012
Externally publishedYes


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