Living Together: The Temporal Dimension of Civic Health


Resource authors: Derek Edyvane
Project: Living Together: Re-Thinking Social Unity for a Multi-Faith Society

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.

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