Volume 39, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 1567-7109
  • E-ISSN: 2468-1652



Human flourishing can be characterized as living a successful, happy and morally good life. Several philosophers of education have argued that flourishing should be seen as an overarching, ideal aim of education, and that this has or should have several implications for both schools and parents. In this article, which is a summary of my dissertation, I reflect on these theories. Is the fact that these theories tend to place a central emphasis on ideals problematic? And what does aiming for flourishing exactly imply for parents and parenting? I argue that in parenting for flourishing, we deal with a double uncertainty. Parental striving for flourishing is an uncertain endeavor, firstly, because flourishing, being in part dependent on ‘luck’, is inherently fragile; and secondly, because childrearing can be considered to be an ‘existential risk’ that makes parents vulnerable in yet another way. I conclude that in theories on education for flourishing, this double uncertainty has to be taken into account properly, by which I mean that it has to reflect the practices of parenting and the uncertainty of life in general in order to keep in touch with the non-ideal, real world.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...



  1. Aristoteles
    Aristoteles(2009). The Nicomachean ethics. D. Ross (trans.) & L.Brown (ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  2. Biesta, G.J.J.(2007). Why “what works” won’t work: Evidence-based practice and the democratic deficit in educational research. Educational Theory, 57(1), 1-22.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Biesta, G.J.J.(2013). The beautiful risk of education. Boulder, Co: Paradigm Publishers.
  4. Bollnow, O.F.(1959). Existenzphilosophie und Pädagogik. Stuttgart: Verlag W. Kolhammer.
  5. Brighouse, H.(2006). On education. London: Routledge.
  6. Brighouse, H.(2008). Education for a flourishing life. Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, 107(1), 58-71.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. De Ruyter, D.J.(2004). Pottering in the garden? On human flourishing and education. British Journal of Educational Studies, 52(4), 377-389.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. De Ruyter, D.J.(2007). Ideals, education, and happy flourishing. Educational Theory, 57(1), 23-35.
    [Google Scholar]
  9. De Ruyter, D.J.(2012). On optimal development and becoming an optimizer. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 46(1), 25-41.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. De Ruyter, D.J.(2015). Well-being and education. In J.Suissa, C.Winstanly, & R.Marples (eds.), Education, philosophy and well-being. New perspectives on the work of John White (pp. 84-98). Oxon: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. Downie, R.S.(1963). Hope. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 24(2), 248-251.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Eagleton, T.(2015). Hope without optimism. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  13. Emmet, D.(1994). The role of the unrealisable. London: The Macmillan Press Ltd.
  14. Haybron, D.M.(2008). The pursuit of unhappiness. New York: Oxford University Press.
  15. Kristjánsson, K.(2015). Aristotelian character education. London: Routledge.
  16. Kristjánsson, K.(2017). Recent work on flourishing as the aim of education: A critical review. British Journal of Educational Studies, 65(1), 87-107.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Lareau, A.(2011). Unequal childhoods: class, race and family life. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  18. Lawrence, G.(1993). Aristotle and the ideal life. The Philosophical Review, 102(1), 1-34.
    [Google Scholar]
  19. MacIntyre, A.(1967). A short history of ethics. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul PLC.
  20. May, W.F.(2005). The president’s council on bioethics: my take on some of its deliberations. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 48, 229-239.
    [Google Scholar]
  21. Mills, C.M.(2005). “Ideal theory” as ideology. Hypatia, 20(3), 165-184.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. Nussbaum, M.C.(2010). Not for profit. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  23. Rawls, J.(1999). A theory of justice (revised ed.). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  24. Reiss, M.J., & White, J.(2013). An aims-based curriculum. The significance of human flourishing for schools. London: Institute of Education Press.
  25. Robeyns, I.(2008). Ideal theory in theory and practice. Social Theory and Practice, 34(3), 341-362.
    [Google Scholar]
  26. Schmidtz, D.(2016). Editorial introduction: a realistic political ideal. Social Philosophy and Policy, 33(1-2), 1-10.
    [Google Scholar]
  27. Sen, A.(2006). What do we want from a theory of justice?The Journal of Philosophy, 103, 215-238.
    [Google Scholar]
  28. White, J.(2007). What are schools for and why. Impact, 14, 1-50.
    [Google Scholar]
  29. White, J.(2011). Exploring well-being in schools: A guide to making children’s lives more fulfilling. London: Routledge.
  30. Wolbert, L.S., De Ruyter, D.J. & Schinkel, A.(2015). Formal criteria for the concept of human flourishing: The first step in defending flourishing as an ideal aim of education. Ethics and Education, 10(1), 118-129.
    [Google Scholar]
  31. Wolbert, L.S., De Ruyter, D.J. & Schinkel, A.(2017). What kind of theory should theory on education for human flourishing be?British Journal of Educational Studies, 1-15.
    [Google Scholar]
  32. Wolbert, L.S.(2017). De prestatiepijn van een jonge moeder. Een pleidooi voor kwetsbaarheid. In F.I.Kusters & A.Visser (red.). Prestatiepijn. Opvoeding en onderwijs voor een ontspannen samenleving. Culemborg: Phronese.
    [Google Scholar]
  33. Wolbert, L.S. (2018). Flourishing, fragility and family life. Critical reflections on human flourishing as an aim of education. Proefschrift: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. https://www.publicatie-online.nl/uploaded/flipbook/15315-wolbert/
  34. Wolbert, L.S. (2018a). Speelruimte. Vertrouwen in ouderschap. Utrecht: Ten Have.
  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): education; fragility; human flourishing; ideal; uncertainty
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error