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Randall Curren

Ongoing Projects and Collaborations

In recent years I have been collaborating with Richard Ryan, recognized in 2014 as one of the world’s most influential psychologists. Ryan and our colleague Ed Deci co-founded Self-Determination Theory, a systematic theory and supporting body of research on human agency, motivation, and well-being. I have been on a mission to bring advances in motivational psychology to bear on topics in philosophy to which motivation is important, such as the idea of meaning in life, moral motivation, and systems of accountability, while contributing to empirical research on motivational and contextual aspects of socially and environmentally responsible conduct.  SDT identifies itself as a form of eudaimonistic psychology, and its greatest importance to my work has been the use I have been able to make of it in working out a conception of human flourishing.

Sustainability has been a major focus of my work since 2005, when hurricanes Katrina and Rita flooded New Orleans, my home town, and invitations to speak at disaster relief events and disaster ethics and sustainability symposia began to flow my way.  A notable product of this work was an invited education policy pamphlet on UNESCO’s Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, launched in 2009 in London with a public debate featuring Doug Bourne, head of the UNDESD implementation for the UK, and Ann Finlayson, the education officer of an environmental NGO that was deeply involved in UNDESD implementation in Europe.  Shortly thereafter I began to collaborate with geologist Ellen Metzger on what has become our 2017 book with MIT Press, Living Well Now and in the Future:  Why Sustainability Matters.

My other recent collaboration has been in writing a book, Patriotic Education in a Global Age, with historian Chuck Dorn. This is for the University of Chicago's History and Philosophy of Education Series of coauthored books that I co-edit with historian, Jon Zimmerman.  Patriotism is an interesting and contested moral psychological construct, and one that may sometimes be an obstacle to the global cooperation in solving urgent problems, from climate destabilization to refugee crises.  We identify a virtuous form of patriotism, but argue that rationales for cultivating patriotism in schools have generally rested on little more than speculation about the sources and structure of civic motivation.  Drawing on my work with psychologists Richard Ryan and Laura Wray-Lake, we defend an approach to civic education that is focused on civic friendship, civic intelligence, and civic competence.