Howard Gardner is the John H. and Elizabeth A. Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Senior Director of Harvard Project Zero. He is the author of more than 20 books. In this erudite work, Gardner explores the meaning and viability of the three classic virtues of truth, beauty, and goodness in the postmodern era of omnipresent digital media. We have come a long way since Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle laid out their definitions of these concepts and what it means to live by their lights. In his analysis of the reframing of truth, beauty, and goodness, Gardner rejects the rigid and confining hegemonies of biological and economic determinism.
In his probe on truth, the author takes a hard look at the quest to determine the truth in an era of expanded news coverage on TV, the Internet, and open-source referents. When individuals use all of these sources to determine the truth, they wind up with a multidimensional picture of reality or as Gardner puts it, a plurality of truths each appropriate to its realm.
Whereas truth is conveyed via statements, beauty shows itself in an experience with an object. In his discussion of beauty, Gardner muses on the many ways in which artists and creative communities have offered people new access to this slippery quality in strange places and shocking venues. Here art outside museums is a passport to an alternate world of creativity.
Goodness in our time still refers to "neighborly morality," and Gardner has chosen to focus on the choices we have to be good persons, good citizens, and good workers. The survival of this virtue is threatened on two sides: the mindless absolutism of fundamentalists and the feckless relativism on the other.
The author is anxious about some dead-end streets as far as the pursuit of truth, beauty, and goodness is concerned. But he is optimistic that the young people of today (a "Fragmented Generation") are working out their own special brand of the three virtues and will continue to do so via formal and informal education throughout their lives. In addition, Gardner sees the "third stage of adulthood" as one in which the mature person "has the potential and the time to appreciate the various truths across several realms; to refine his or her distinctive sense of beauty; and to tackle sensitively and sensibly the often vexed ethical issues that arise at the workplace, the ballot box, or the town square."
The last section of this fascinating book is most challenging with its insights into the important roles of education and lifelong learning in promoting truth, beauty, and goodness.