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Books: Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Reframed

Book Cover: Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Reframed

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness ReframedIt is a deceivingly simple task — to define the concepts of truth, beauty, and goodness — yet one which humans have struggled to accomplish. In his latest book, Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Reframed, Professor Howard Gardner explores the meaning of these three timeless virtues and describes the challenge of making sense of them.

Although uncertainties about the nature of these virtues have been raised since classical times, Gardner reveals that in an age defined by vast technological advancement and relativistic attitudes toward human nature, current trends are largely a product of postmodern thought and digital media. Thus, the book — which grew out of a series of three lectures — draws on a range of contemporary science and knowledge as Gardner reframes both the teaching and practice of old virtues within the constraints of a modern society.

Gardner encourages readers to think clearly about their own conceptions of truth, beauty, and morality, as well as the current status of these virtues in society. In three consecutive chapters he sets forth his own definition of each and then, in light of this reframing, offers suggestions on how to strengthen these core ideas through formal education and nurture them going forward. For example, Gardner presents beauty as a virtue that is personalized and fragmented, molded by individual experiences, and subject to constant reevaluation. In the realm of formal schooling, he suggests that instead of focusing on preferences — asking students to declare that one piece of work is superior, more valuable, or more beautiful than another — teachers should first emphasize and cultivate a student's ability to distinguish and articulate differences that matter.

Tackling some of mankind's most perplexing and enduring questions, Gardner highlights the foundations of ethics and virtue in the modern age. While he acknowledges that the concepts of truth, beauty, and goodness are changing faster than ever, he emphasizes that they are — and will remain — the cornerstones of our society. In a thoughtful and enthusiastic view of human possibilities, Gardner encourages readers to embrace the dynamism of these virtues rather than giving up on them altogether.

Ed. Magazine

The magazine of the Harvard Graduate School of Education

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