Living Together: Re-Thinking Social Unity for a Multi-Faith Society


Principal Investigator: Dr Derek Edyvane, University of Leeds
Collaborators: Theos Think Tank
Duration: 2011

The ‘civic health’ discourse in contemporary politics presupposes an analogy between the lives of communities and the lives of individuals that is often overlooked. This report examines two prominent philosophical conceptions of the life of an individual – the ‘episodic’ and the ‘narrative’ – and considers what they can tell us about the lives of communities.

The report finds that both conceptions obscure what they seek to disclose: the process of living, and sharing, a life. The episodic conception, according to which a life is a sequence of discrete episodes, ignores the fact that there is more to a good life than a succession of happy moments, while the narrative conception, which interprets a life as an unfolding story, tends to prescribe its preferred way of life in such a way as to frustrate the enterprise of actually living.

In order to preserve the ‘vitality’ of a civic association, it is necessary to assess civic health rather differently: by identifying and promoting the basic form of a meaningful civic life whilst refraining from the effort to specify its content. The story of a healthy civic life must be lived before it can be told.