Randall Curren

Ongoing Projects and Collaborations

Over the past decade, I have collaborated with a growing number of psychologist colleagues, beginning with Richard Ryan, a co-founder of Self-Determination Theory (SDT) who was recognized in 2014 as one of the world’s most influential psychologists. Over the past 50 years SDT has developed into a systematic theory and supporting body of cross-culturally replicated 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 moral motivation, well-being, civic friendship, transformative experiences, disciplinary practices, and the school-to-prison pipeline. I am meanwhile contributing to psychological research on the significance of perceptions of social justice and injustice for personal well-being, as part of Ryan’s Sydney-based research team. Building on previous SDT research on well-being and the Capability Approach, I played a lead role in developing the first measure of perceived access to Rawlsian primary goods suitable for use in social science research. I have also been collaborating with UR developmental psychologist Laura Elenbaas, on the developmental origins of civic friendship, and with Wilfred Laurier University developmental psychologist Tobias Krettenauer, on a journal special issue on SDT and on the philosophy and psychology of self-regulation.

Sustainability became an important focus of my work in 2005, leading to my collaboration with geoscientist and climate educator Ellen Metzger beginning in 2009. Our 2017 book Living Well Now and in the Future: Why Sustainability Matters conceptualizes sustainability as the preservation of opportunity to live well and it addresses foundational aspects of comparative assessments of such opportunity across generations, sustainability ethics, and related matters of justice. It builds on my work on human flourishing with SDT co-founders and former UR colleagues Rich Ryan and Ed Deci, and related SDT research on the psychic costs of materialism and what is essential to well-being. I accepted the editorship of the SDT Environment webpage in 2019. A Chinese translation of Living Well was initiated by the Dean of the School of Economics and Resource Management at Beijing Normal University, as part of an effort to develop a China Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), to replace GDP as a measure of (sustainable) social progress in China. A virtual launch conference for this translation, a handful of related ones, and the GPI is scheduled for May 29-30, 2021.

My historian collaborator, Chuck Dorn, and I have continued to write magazine articles related to our 2018 co-authored book, Patriotic Education in a Global Age, as public controversies have erupted. Patriotism is an interesting and contested moral psychological construct, and one that may sometimes be an obstacle to the global cooperation that is urgent needed to solve urgent problems, from climate destabilization to refugee crises. We argue that reason-responsive valuing of what is valuable in one’s country could be aptly identified as a virtuous form of patriotism, while arguing that rationales for cultivating patriotism have generally rested on little more than speculation about the sources and structure of civic motivation. Our defense of civic education for civic friendship, civic intelligence, and civic competence has been the point of departure for further work on civic friendship, with psychologist Laura Elenbaas and as part of an international team led by moral psychologist Nancy Snow.