Studies in Philosophy and Education

, Volume 34, Issue 5, pp 505–520 | Cite as

Moments of Goodness: An Analysis of Ethical and Educational Dimensions of the Terror Attack on Utøya, Norway (July 22, 2011)

  • Aslaug KristiansenEmail author


The analysis is based on some moral experiences taking place during a terrorist attack on the Norwegian Labor Party’s youth camp on the island of Utøya (outside of Oslo) July 22, 2011, where 69 young people were killed and several seriously injured. After the attack many of the survivors told stories of how strangers spontaneous had helped and cared for each other. In the midst of the horror there occurred sudden “moments of goodness” or “points of light” that revealed hope for the persons involved, as well as for the society. The article examines these spontaneous moral practices in light of moral educational theory, as well as discusses the terrorists own way of thinking and acting. The spontaneous practices point toward another basis for a moral approach then a cognitive development tradition. The importance of community is underlined, as well as an interpersonal dimension. In the last section the fostering of moral and ethical thinking and acting is discussed in light of general education and the three functions of education proposed by Biesta (Beyond learning: democratic education for a human future. Paradigm Publishers, Boulder, 2010). It is suggested that moral education could contribute something to all of the three dimensions but based on the experiences from Utøya, there will be a particular emphasis on the subjectification function of education.


Spontaneous moral practice Community Goodness Proximity Terrorism 


  1. Adorno, T.W. (1998). Education after Auschwitz. In Critical models: Interventions and catchwords, New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Arendt, H. (1998). The human condition. Chicago, London: The University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Armgard, L. O. (1981). Universal and specifically christian elements in the writings of K. E. Løgstrup. In H. Vander Goot (Ed.), Creation and method: Critical essays on Christo-centric theology. Washington: University Press of America.Google Scholar
  4. Bauman, Z. (1987). Modernity and the holocaust. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  5. Benner, P. (1991). The role of experience, narrative and community in skilled ethical comportment. Advances in Nursing Science, 14(2), 1–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bergem, T. (1990). The teacher as a moral agent. Journal of Moral Education, 19(2), 88–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bergem, T. (1994). Tjener—aldri herre: Om lærerutdanning og yrkesetiske holdninger. Bergen: NLA-forlaget.Google Scholar
  8. Biesta, G. J. J. (2006). Beyond learning: Democratic education for a human future. Boulder, London: Paradigm Publishers.Google Scholar
  9. Biesta, G. J. J. (2010). Good education in an age of measurement. Boulder, London: Paradigm Publishers.Google Scholar
  10. Biesta, G. J. J. (2014). The beautiful risk of education. Boulder, London: Paradigm Publishers.Google Scholar
  11. Buber, M. (1978). Between man and man. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.Google Scholar
  12. Buber, M. (2004). I and Thou. London and New York: Continuum.Google Scholar
  13. Chazan, B. (1985). Contemporary approaches to moral education: Analyzing alternative theories. New York, London: Teacher College, Colombia University.Google Scholar
  14. Dreyfus, H. L., & Dreyfus, S. E. (1990). What is moral maturity? A phenomenological account of the development of ethical expertise. In D. Rasmussen (Ed.), Universalism vs. communitarianism: Contemporary debates in ethics (pp. 237–264). Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  15. Dreyfus, H. L., & Dreyfus, S. E. (2008). Beyond expertise: Some preliminary thoughts on mastery. In K. Nielsen (Ed.), A Quality Stance: Essays in honor of Steinar Kvale (pp. 113–124). Aarhus: Aarhus University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Eidsvåg, I. (2011). Å fullbyrde sin egen form: Et program for dannelse. In B. Hagtvet & G. Ognjenovic (Eds.), Dannelse: Tenkning, modning, refleksjon (pp. 156–170). Dreyers Forlag: Oslo.Google Scholar
  17. Friedman, M. (1983). The confirmation of otherness in family, community and society. New York: The Pilgrim Press.Google Scholar
  18. Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice: Psychological theory and women’s development. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Gustavsson, B. (2001). Dannelse som reise og eventyr. In I. T. Kvernbekk (Ed.), Pedagogikk og lærerprofesjonalitet (pp. 31–48). Gyldendal Akademisk: Oslo.Google Scholar
  20. Heilman, E. E. (2005). Escaping the bind between utopia and dystopia—eutopic critical pedagogy of identity and embodied practice. In I. Gur-Ze’ev (Ed.), Critical theory and critical pedagogy today: Toward a new critical language in education Haifa (pp. 114–142). Haifa: University of Haifa.Google Scholar
  21. Juhl, C. (2012). Indledning. I Giorgi Agamben Resterne fra Auschwitz: Arkivet og vidnet (Homo Sacer lll). Viborg: København.Google Scholar
  22. Kristiansen, A. (1996). The interhuman dimension of teaching: Some ethical aspects. In M. Friedman (Ed.), Martin Buber and the human science (pp. 215–222). Albany: State University of New York.Google Scholar
  23. Kundera, M. (2009/2013). Et møte (Une rencontre). Oslo: Cappelen Damm.Google Scholar
  24. Kohlberg, L. (1980). High school democracy and education for a just society. In R. L. Mosher (Ed.), Moral education: A first generation of research and development. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Publishers Inc.Google Scholar
  25. Løgstrup, K. E. (1987). Solidaritet og kærlighed og andre essays. København: Gyldendal.Google Scholar
  26. Løgstrup, K. E. (1976). Norm og Spontanitet: Etik og Politik mellom teknokrati og dilettantokrati. København: Gyldendal.Google Scholar
  27. Løgstrup, K. E. (1997). The ethical demand. Notre Dame and London: University of Notre Dame Press.Google Scholar
  28. Mandelbaum, M. (1955). The phenomenological of moral experience. Illinois: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  29. Policy Document “Culture of learning”, No.30, 2003-2004.Google Scholar
  30. Rest, J. R. (1986). Moral development: Advances in theory and research. New York: Praeger Press.Google Scholar
  31. Rich, J. M., & DeVitis, J. L. (1985). Theories of moral development. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C. Thomas Publisher.Google Scholar
  32. Sartre, J.-P. (1986). Etik. København: Rhodos Forlag.Google Scholar
  33. The Curriculum for the 10-year Compulsory School in Norway. The Royal Ministry of Education, Research and Church Affairs. 1999. Oslo.Google Scholar
  34. Vetlesen, A. J. (2013). Ond, gal og tilregnelig. Ideer filosofi. Morgenbladet 13–19, September.Google Scholar
  35. Walker, L. J., Frimer, J. A., & Dunlop, W. L. (2010). Varieties of moral personality: Beyond the banality of heroism. Journal of Personality, 78(3), 907–942.CrossRefGoogle Scholar


  1. Verdens gang (VG) 22.12.2011Google Scholar
  2. Aftenposten 23.12.2011Google Scholar
  3. Fædrelandsvennen 8.10.2011Google Scholar
  4. Verdens gang (VG) 5.10.2011Google Scholar
  5. Aftenposten 8.10.2011Google Scholar
  6. Fædrelandsvennen 31.12.2011Google Scholar
  7. Aftenposten 31.12.2011Google Scholar
  8. Aftenposten 24.12.2011Google Scholar
  9. Dagbladet 17.12.2011Google Scholar
  10. Information 21.09.1990Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EducationUniversity of AgderKristiansandNorway

Personalised recommendations