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Philosophy in the Contemporary World

Volume 1, Issue 3, Fall 1994

Jeremiah Conway
Pages 8-14
DOI: 10.5840/pcw19941314

Transforming Stories
The Death of Ivan Ilyich, the Birth of a Reflective Life

The problem addressed by this paper concerns the responsibility of higher education in the growing thoughtlessness of culture. By “thoughtlessness” is meant not the absence of mental “busyness,” but indifference to the self-reflective life. How do we cope with the fact that, for so many, the educative act has little or nothing to do with the cultivation of self-reflection, especially when this indifference is amply represented within higher education as well as the wider culture? The paper unfolds in three sections. First, it explores the factors complicating the search for effective materials by which to instigate and encourage the transformation to a self-reflective life. Second, it argues that stories, particularly what it calls “transforming stories,” play an important role in provoking and providing insight into the “turning around of the soul” from unreflective to reflective living. Finally, it illustrates how one such transforming story, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, by Leo Tolstoy, helps accomplish this educational goal.