The moral malaise of modernity: Codes of conduct, authenticity, lifelong learning and the case of Thailand
Keywords:authenticity, codes of conduct, ethics, lifelong learning, modernity
It is argued in this paper that the project of modernity has not only undermined commitment to traditional frameworks of morality or ethics but has also failed to provide any ethical frameworks sufficiently persuasive to replace that loss. Contemporary modernist culture has become what may be seen as a culture of instrumentalist individualism, in which morality is increasingly individualised and contextualised, creating moral conflict and uncertainty: the moral malaise of modernity. The development of situated codes of conduct or ethics has become a standard response to that moral malaise. They are, though, insufficient foundations for ethical or moral practice, since they fail to provide a conception of the goal or telos of ethics, from which may be drawn a compelling purpose for being ethical. An alternative response to the moral malaise of modernity, though, is to recognise and encourage the development of an ethic of authenticity, which would seem to provide a moral telos and in which lifelong learning is a core dimension – suggesting the centrality of lifelong learning engagement in the on-going search for ethical authenticity. Such an ethic may be seen as an emergent feature of contemporary modernity, but as more congruent with cultures – such as that of Thailand – where individual authenticity has strong traditional foundations and links with lifelong learning. That tentative idea is here examined and assessed. It is concluded, though, that contemporary Thai culture is unlikely to provide a particularly fertile site for the fuller development of an ethic of authenticity.
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This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/