The Aims of Upbringing, Reasonable Affect, and Parental Rights: A Response to Paul Hirst's Autobiographical Reflections'

Journal of Philosophy of Education (forthcoming)
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Abstract

In a candid autobiographical chapter (Hirst 2010), which numbers among his last writings, Paul Hirst subjects his upbringing within a fundamentalist Christian sect to searching moral appraisal. He concludes that his parents wronged him by religiously indoctrinating him, stifling his emotional development, and arbitrarily restricting his range of valuable morally permissible experiences. This upbringing undermined his autonomy and—more fundamentally, on his account—kept him from living the life he had most reason to live. Surprisingly, however, Hirst suggests that his parents had a right to initiate him into this conservative religious life, though the wider community owed him a more non-directive form of religious education to temper it. This is a striking concession to the scope of parental rights, especially in view of Hirst’s complaint that the emotional repression required by his parents was to ‘distort [his] experience and understanding of [himself] and others in ways that persisted well into [his] adult life’. Engaging with Hirst's evaluation of his upbringing, I argue for a narrower range of parental rights than Hirst–one which excludes a parental moral right to religious initiation–and provide an account of the kind of emotional experiences to which children plausibly have a right.

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John Tillson
Liverpool Hope University

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