Achieving Moralised Compassion in Higher Education


  • Alison MacKenzie Queen's University, Belfast
  • Tess Maginess, Dr Queen's University, Belfast



Moralised compassion, ‘other’, interreading, interculturality, literature


This paper engages with a philosophical conception of moralised compassion. This involves imaginative dwelling on the condition of the other person, an active regard for her good, and a view of her as a fellow human being. We will suggest that we ought, following Schopenhauer, to cultivate moralised compassion if we are to have just relations and just institutions. This will enable us to consider compassion not just as a private interpersonal value, but as a broader institutional and global value. Many universities still proclaim a three–stranded mission: to educate for personal development, to create public/societal benefit, and to prepare students for the labour market. There is an emerging set of voices critically questioning what they see as an overly dominant obsession with training students to serve the economy, and that universities are increasingly focused on the private, rather than the public good. We will reflect on meanings and enactments of compassion within the ‘engaged’ university by asking a number of related questions. We will explore how universities can offer leadership on moralised compassion, both at an individual and institutional level to their students, and how teachers can offer a more culturally sustaining pedagogy to their students, which values and defends cultural pluralism and cultural equality. One way in which we might cultivate compassionate regard is to use the embodied experiences and suggestive capacities of literature to [re]imagine or [re]conceive beliefs or attitudes, to cultivate perception, discernment and responsiveness. The paper concludes by proposing some practical suggestions on how moralised compassion might inflect and inform creative interconnections and interdependency between universities at a global level.

Author Biographies

Alison MacKenzie, Queen's University, Belfast

Alison MacKenzie is a lecturer in Special Needs Education, Queen’s University, Belfast. Her interests lie within philosophy of education and the philosophy of emotions, with a particular interest in compassion. Her interests also include epistemic injustice and epistemologies of ignorance. Before entering academia she was secondary school teacher in Scotland.

Tess Maginess, Dr, Queen's University, Belfast

Tess Maginess is a senior lecturer in Queen’s University, Belfast. A national teaching fellow, her expertise is in literature, innovative pedagogies and arts based approaches with adult learners, especially non-traditional learners. In addition, she has published on inter-disciplinary approaches, including medical humanities.


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