The fifth annual conference of the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, University of Birmingham.
In Aristotelian virtue ethics, the intellectual virtue of practical wisdom, or phronesis, plays an indispensable role in guiding the moral virtues. Phronesis ideally latches itself onto each virtue; we could call this the constitutive function of phronesis. But phronesis is not just responsive to the moral good in ‘some restricted area’, but rather to the whole of what ‘promotes living well in general’ (Nicomachean Ethics, 1140a25–28). Thus, phronesis can be called upon for adjudication when two different virtues, say justice and compassion, collide. We could call this the integrative function of phronesis; it helps us to act virtuously in an overall way.
Howard Curzer - Practical Wisdom and the Time of Your Life - Keynote Speaker
(1) Contemporary lists of virtues are boring. They seldom stray from the old standbys: courage, temperance, justice, etc. At most, they include a few controversial character traits – traits which have been points of contention for years. To inject some excitement, I put forward a candidate character trait which, to my knowledge, has not been previously proposed as a virtue.
(2) Contemporary virtue ethicists focus upon the virtues of the individual, the happiness of the individual, the moral development of the individual. The fact that people are political animals, always embedded in social networks and engaged in social practices, is given mere lip service. To begin to remedy that neglect, I show that both practical wisdom and my new virtue are virtues of collectives as well as individuals.
(3) Practical wisdom’s main task is usually thought to be decision-making. Ethicists have said much about which decisions are right, but little about how to make decisions. I provide a sampler consisting of a dozen decision-making methods, some of which involve practical reason.
(4) Practical wisdom includes much more than good decision-making. Using my new virtue as a clue, I construct a partial list of addition tasks of practical reason.
Candace Vogler - Aquinas on Practical Wisdom - Keynote Speaker
Various aspects of Aristotelian work on virtue seem to move around each other in circles—correct practical knowledge seems to be measured by right desire, and right desire seems to be measured by correct practical knowledge; having the moral virtues seems to require having practical wisdom, but having practical wisdom seems to require having the moral virtues. Aquinas's account of practical wisdom is deeply indebted to Aristotle, but Aquinas finds a kind of grounding for practical wisdom in an understanding of human nature at some remove from Aristotle's, developing a moral psychology that is, in many respects, both richer and more powerful than what we find in some contemporary neo-Aristotelian work. Aquinas devoted considerable attention to both the character of virtue and the nature of vice. He provided a special account of the way in which human beings were oriented toward human good and away from bad that allowed ample room for accounting for the many ways most of us routinely fail to lead entirely well-ordered lives. I will take us into some of the detail of Aquinas's account of practical wisdom in search of theoretical wisdom about virtue, vice, and human nature.
Lenn Goodman - Wisdom/Phronesis in Islamic and Jewish Virtue Ethics - Keynote Speaker
Phronesis is an intellectual virtue at work in the moral sphere – and critically so. For prudent actions must consider every factor relevant to a wise choice: matters of intention and circumstance, the prima facie goods and ills we confront, and all the interlacing impacts of our choices. Tracing the idea of practical wisdom, as conceived by Jewish and Muslim philosophers from Philo (ca. 25 B.C.E. to ca. 50 C.E.), to Miskawayh (932-1030), Ghazali (1058-1111), and Maimonides (1138-1204), this paper examines the relevance of moral understanding in guiding ethical choices. Comparative study of the interplay of moral with intellectual concerns as conceived by these major representatives of diverse but kindred traditions against the backdrop of Aristotelian, Platonic, Stoic, and indeed Socratic philosophy, and the philosophers’ own humanistic, spiritual, juridical, and political commitments, proves instructive for our own appraisals of our ethical options and commitments in the present day.
Monika Ardelt - Measuring Wisdom and Its Relation to Character and Virtues - Keynote Speaker
Although wisdom has always played a prominent role in philosophy and religion, contemporary empirical wisdom research started around 1980, when several research teams tried to determine what wisdom is and how it can be measured. Two different approaches emerged, divided into implicit and explicit theories of wisdom. The implicit approach asked lay people to name characteristics of wise individuals that were then summarized into several dimensions, while the explicit approach referred to experts and classical wisdom texts to define the essential elements of wisdom. Based on these implicit and explicit wisdom theories, several wisdom measures have been developed in the past decades, which can be distinguished on three dimensions: whether the measure assesses general or personal wisdom, whether cognitive or non-cognitive aspects of wisdom are emphasized, and whether a rating measure or a standardized scale is used to assess wisdom. Although correlations of wisdom partly depend on its measurement, personality qualities related to human development, openness to experience, gratitude, humility, forgiveness, psychological well-being, and a concern for others are consistent predictors and/or effects of wisdom. It appears that wise persons know how to live a life that is happy, fulfilling, and directed toward the well-being of others.
Howard Nusbaum - The Role of Experience in Making Wiser Decisions - Keynote Speaker
There are many notions the development of wisdom, such as the association of wisdom with age. But aging is not just a biological change in the functioning of the body; it is an accumulation of experience. It is likely that wisdom may result from experiences themselves rather than aging. There is some belief that life challenges can increase wisdom, although the benefits of adversity are questioned by research. What kinds of experiences lead to wiser decisions? Wiser decisions may sometimes depend on knowledge and expertise that comes from experience in particular domains, such as medicine or business or law, and may depend on generalizing beyond those experiences to new situations. But there can be wise experts and not-so-wise experts. From Aristotle’s concept of practical wisdom, wise decisions increase human flourishing, which suggests other kinds of experiences may be important. Deep knowledge of human social interaction and human nature is likely important. Furthermore, beyond knowledge, a set of dispositions and skills may be important for wisdom, such as epistemic humility, emotional self-regulation, curiosity, perseverance, and the ability to reflect and take others' perspective. I will discuss research at the Center for Practical Wisdom that is focused on trying to understand how specific types of experiences can strengthen these foundations of wisdom.
Sarah Banks - Practising professional ethical wisdom: the role of ‘ethics work’ in social welfare professions
This paper critically explores ‘professional ethical wisdom’ - the disposition to engage in practical reasoning in professional situations relating to harm, benefits, rights and responsibilities. This entails sensitivity to ethically salient features of situations; empathy with feelings, values, desires and perspectives of others; capacity to exercise moral imagination; deliberation on the right course of action and giving reasons for actions.
While the capacity to deliberate and make good judgments is important in professional ethics, this is often emphasised at the expense of the less visible work of moral perception, imagination and emotion. This paper examines these aspects of professional ethical wisdom in the social welfare professions in fields such as child protection, mental health, elderly care, disability services and youth justice. Here the relationship between service users and professionals is sometimes unwelcome or involuntary. Professionals are publicly accountable, yet also develop relationships based on personal engagement with service users and may have a strong sense of vocation. How do they develop themselves as ethical practitioners, negotiate roles and responsibilities, and make difficult ethical judgements and decisions?
Drawing on practice examples, the paper will introduce the concept of ‘ethics work’ as a feature of professional ethical wisdom, considering how it can be cultivated within professional education.
Michael Beaty - Morality, Roles, and Prudence
Virtues fit naturally with roles. Aristotle claimed that a virtue makes its bearer and bearer’s work good. It seems natural to see an analogy between sharpness in a good knife, the dribbling skills of a good soccer player and the virtues of a good friend, spouse, parent, citizen, or physician. These roles are central to human flourishing and thus are morally salient or morally saturated roles. It is clear that some significant portion of our moral lives is constituted by our success or failure in a variety of moral roles.
I briefly sketch a role-centered understanding of morality, offer some positive reasons for embracing this theory of morality, and respond to one important objection I will call the “objection from conflict in moral roles.” I will attempt to respond to this objection by appeal to prudence or practical wisdom as a (the) regulative master virtue whose function is, in part, to adjudicate rightly in situations of (apparent) conflict. I will illustrate how prudence might function well in situations of conflict by appeal to some (at least one) concrete case from the practice of medicine.
Marvin Berkowitz - A Pedagogical and Psychological Perspective on Phronesis and its Role in Character Education
Virtue ethics is often misconstrued as psychological behaviorism. Virtues emerging from habit turns into the behaviorist shaping of children’s behavior. The behaviorist proclivity is to devalue what cannot be observed. The tradition of focusing on the cognitive side of character development has not been integrated with a virtues ethic approach. Kohlberg’s theory offers a psychological pathway to keep phronesis in the pedagogy of virtue ethics, but unfortunately Kohlberg himself thwarted this integration by his claims that virtues were arbitrary and that only deontological reason was universal. It is time to bring virtue ethics, character education, and moral development together in a way that will provide a model for more holistic pedagogical application. In education, two major goals are acquisition of content and development of intellectual (and other) capacities. One important aspect of the latter is critical thinking. In character education, critical thinking is contentious, as it may connote questioning of moral truths. I argue that one cannot be fully a moral person without both knowledge of the good and the capacity to think critically about it. Phronesis can be the target of pedagogical strategies that promote the capacity to think critically about virtues. This is precisely what schools of character do.
Jay Brandenberger - Promoting Practical Wisdom in Young Adulthood: Integrating Insights from Developmental Psychology, Neuroscience, and Engaged Learning
Practical wisdom (phronesis) is a complex aspirational virtue that has the power to unify many aspects of the moral life. Yet little is known about how young adults develop the capacities for such applied wisdom. What prompts maturity in moral reasoning, empathy, identity and related components? What might we learn from neuroscience? How can we frame learning experiences that engage young adults toward the goal of practical wisdom? And, to examine progress, how can we operationalize the concept of practical wisdom developmentally to enhance research in this area? This session will address such questions and explore implications for higher education, with a particular focus on socially engaged forms of learning.
The development of practical wisdom presents no small challenge in the life of an individual or community. Policy makers, educators, and parents seek to foster virtue and character development through means that may be built on unexamined paradigms of learning and development. We need multidisciplinary models of moral learning and social responsibility that can account for the complexity of the developing individual and changing social contexts. Toward this end, the author will draw upon various research traditions and share data from a recent study of over 700 young adults.
Thomas Buchlack and Tonia Bock - Validating the 'Centering Wisdom Assessment': assessing the role of contemplative practices in the cultivation of practical wisdom
This study provides empirical evidence to validate the theoretical foundations of a new psychometric tool, the Centering for Wisdom Assessment (CWA), aimed at assessing the relationship between contemplative practices and the cultivation of the virtue of practical wisdom. In this paper, we first describe the theoretical foundations of the CWA. Next, we present the results of three different validity studies that provide evidence of content, criterion, and construct validity. The results indicate that the CWA is internally consistent, related to the theoretically-similar construct of mindfulness, not related to religious commitment, and predicts – above and beyond mindfulness – relevant criterion variables including wisdom, hope, forgiveness, stress, anxiety, and depression. We conclude that the CWA is ready for use in pedagogical, spiritual, or leadership development contexts, and provide suggestions for future studies.
Angelo Campodonico - Why Wisdom needs Fortitude (and viceversa)
Cardinal virtues mark pervasively all virtuous action. Thus although fortitude is primarily about confronting the danger of death, it makes the brave person firm and constant in other situations as well.
- Fortitude acts directly on temperance and therefore indirectly on practical wisdom.
- But the lack of fortitude may also directly affect practical wisdom when dreadful aspects of life shock us. In these situations the functioning of practical wisdom is compromised and so are our judgments and our choices.
- Practical wisdom acts on the irascible part of the soul aiming it toward the golden mean of fortitude and against both weakness of character and stubbornness.
- Fortitude operates on the capacity of practical wisdom to direct actions in context, judging with openness of mind and choosing and acting bravely.
- The phronimos must develop the virtue of fortitude. But this requires a strong motivation related to the answer to the question of happiness and the meaning of life. And this question is strictly related to the topic of recognition.
All that suggests that the lack of or deficiency of fortitude may be one of the main causes of the transformation of the meaning of prudence from the virtue of moral decision, personal responsibility and risk to the virtue of those who are careful and avoid risks.
David Carr - Wisdom, Knowledge and Justice in Moral Virtue
According to an early attempt to understand the nature of moral virtue – associated with Socrates and Plato – there can be no true virtue without wisdom, defined in terms of the acquisition of knowledge conceived as the elimination of ignorance about oneself, the world and one’s relations with others. Still, Aristotle offers an account of moral wisdom which departs significantly from this Socratic picture arguing that it is not the prime purpose of moral wisdom to define or know ‘the good’, but to help us become agents of good moral character – and sharply divides the ‘practical’ virtue of phronesis or moral wisdom from epistemic or knowledge-seeking virtues. A rather more disturbing possible consequence of this Aristotelian separation of moral wisdom from the knowledge-seeking epistemic virtues – drawn by virtue theorists such as Julia Driver – is the idea that there may be virtues that actually require ignorance for their proper expression. However, building on the critical literature regarding ‘virtues of ignorance’, this paper will proceed to a fuller discussion and evaluaton of the compex issue of the epistemic dimensions of virtue.
Shelby Clark - How Should We Teach Intellectual Character? Student and teacher perspectives on the impact of enculturation on adolescent intellectual character growth
Intellectual character refers to character strengths, such as curiosity and intellectual humility, that are associated with productive thinking. Relatively few studies have examined how to foster intellectual character in schools, and scholars continue to disagree whether indirect or direct teaching methods should be used to cultivate students’ intellectual character strengths. The present study employed a quasi-experimental, mixed methods, longitudinal design to consider the intellectual character development of 76 sixth grade adolescents attending two urban charter middle schools in the western United States-- one with an explicit mission of intellectual character development (BIMS), the other with a mission of social-emotional learning outcomes (ICS). Data collection included pre-post questionnaires at both schools, as well as faculty and student semi-structured interviews and 13 days of participant observation at BIMS. Analyses indicate that BIMS students concluded the year with significantly higher intellectual humility scores than their peers at ICS; triangulation with our qualitative data provides insights into which practices students and teachers found most promising for fostering intellectual character strengths.
Samantha Crossley - Dear Prudence: Addressing the Relationship between Regulation and Virtue through the Application of Practical Wisdom
Often referred to as practical wisdom, the intellectual virtue of phronesis is required to find the right course of action, when often more than one virtue is in conflict. Within corporate management decision-making, phronesis provides a compass for navigating through the complex moral mazes. In addition, when an individual experiences cognitive dissonance between personal beliefs and those of the organisation, practical wisdom is required to encourage metacognition (Solomon, 1992). Thus, the importance of acquiring and attaining practical wisdom is essential for practicing the virtues within organisations.
I will argue the significance in interpreting the place for practical wisdom within organisational theory, applying Riceour’s (1992) seventh study on the self and ethical aim, by applying the connections identified between actions and self-reflection through the function of “narrative unity” and outlining the possible execution of phronesis in practice through complex deliberation.
I will suggest that the focus of regulatory controls need to consider the action-configurations of organisational strategic and operations plans and how this shift per individual, societal, economic and political interests, using narrative theory to evaluate how these integrate to produce action (Riceour, 1992, pp.177-78).
Randall Curren - Wisdom and the Origins Moral Knowledge
Aristotelian eudaimonism is predicated on claims that there are knowable truths about living well, that knowledge of these ‘universal’ truths is foundational to phronesis or practical wisdom, and that such knowledge can be obtained by students of ethics who had a good upbringing. The starting points for moral knowledge are evidently true moral beliefs, but are they entirely a product of sound upbringing or can they originate in individual perception or intuition? Aristotle calls ethics a science and he holds that the knowledge (nous) of essences that constitutes a science’s first principles originates in perception of particulars, ‘experience’, and induction (NE, Meta., Prior An.). This paper sketches a neo-Aristotelian account of moral perception. One of its starting points is Jonathan Dancy’s (2014) account of moral intuitions as motivational presentations: A feels angry when B treats her with disrespect, and the anger presents what has happened as a reason to respond in some way, w. I argue similarly that felt frustration and satisfaction of basic psychological needs associated with fulfillment of human potential are innate sources of information about what is good and bad for people and may play a foundational role in the moral knowledge foundational to phronesis.
Steve Ellenwood - Cultivating Wisdom in Schools
This paper examines how the value of wisdom can become an ideal, ultimate goal of schooling and how it is a natural progression of successful reform over the last four decades. To successfully inject wisdom into the moral-character-ethics-virtue pedagogy conversations a carefully delineated definition of wisdom must be established. This important and elusive task has been underway not for decades, but for centuries. We can began with Aristotle’s legendary phronesis-sophia distinctions through Bertrand Russell’s examination of key elements regarding knowledge and wisdom and then proceed to contemporary revisions such as the Berlin models. Educators are naturally drawn to the phronesis-centric concepts because of the emphasis on practicality. But careful consideration must also be given to the sophia theoretical themes. Though theoretical is often posed as in opposition to practical, that is a dangerously incomplete thought-construct. Instead the best results will accrue from learning how to integrate practical and theoretical wisdom. Further, creative educators often benefit from including learning activities devoted to impractical wisdom, which helps us articulate more traditional understanding of wisdom Impractical wisdom shows up in many productive and delightful ways among the young, especially in the arts and the sciences.
Jennifer Frey - Action, Knowledge, and Human Goodness: A Prolegomena to a Theory of Practical Wisdom
Aquinas and Anscombe both held that human action essentially involves a certain kind of practical self- knowledge. I argue that this knowledge is knowledge of action under descriptions that the agent can in principle connect to her general conception of how to live a good human life. An agent demonstrates her ability to make such connections by giving reasons. These rational connections between the particular action and the general practical knowledge of how to live are made explicit in the construction of practical syllogisms, understood as heuristic devices that make explicit the practically rational grammar of the act itself. Such an account of action, I argue, is the necessary foundation for any virtue ethics in which practical wisdom plays an important role. For any theory of practical wisdom must be able to show how it is the virtue that perfects the practical intellect, the faculty that provides the faculty of choice with a particular object of pursuit or avoidance, under some descriptions that can be rationally related to happiness.
Patrick Frierson - Character, Wisdom, and Virtue in the Philosophy of Maria Montessori
For Maria Montessori, our “greatest social problem” is “to reconstruct the character of individuals.” Montessorian character is first and foremost “a tendency … to raise oneself up” (1:191) with “roots” in human “creativeness” (1:177). More Nietzschean than Aristotelian (or Kantian), character does not arise from habituation (as in Aristotle) nor consist of principled action (as in Kant), but is an active “drive” (1:190) to become more than one already is. Moreover, character is an innate tendency of children that requires only room to manifest itself: “children construct their own characters” (1:190). After sketching Montessori’s distinctive concept of character, I discuss the relationship between character, wisdom, and virtue. Like Aristotle and others, Montessori sees these concepts as closely linked, but on her account, both wisdom and virtue emerge from character. As a tendency to self-perfection involving concentration and persistent work, character is an intellectual virtue that gives rise to wisdom, and it highlights the central roles of concentration, creativity, and drive to improve in overall epistemic excellence (wisdom in an epistemic sense). In a similar way, one with character has “a true wish to become better” that gives rise to virtue, including social virtues such as mutual respect (1:193-4).
Mike Fullard - Teaching Character Through the Primary Curriculum – A cross-curricula approach to developing virtue literacy and practical wisdom in 10-11 year olds
This presentation will look at the practice-oriented perspective of teaching character virtues in a primary school setting. It will describe how the Jubilee Centre programme, Teaching Character Through the Primary Curriculum, has been designed and produced to cultivate the virtue literacy and practical wisdom (phronesis) of primary school pupils.
The programme takes a cross-curricula approach and draws on a selection of narratives established around moral exemplars to help encourage discussion and reflection on a series of virtues, which in turn will contribute to a successful transition from primary school (Year 6) to secondary school (Year 7). Throughout the programme pupils are asked to recognise and focus on a series of primary and secondary virtues and explore how these virtues affect their own everyday lives. Discussion and reflection on how these virtues can have positive and negative consequences and how, on occasions, they can collide is enabled through a series of pupil resources including a virtue toolkit, virtue glossary and exemplar narratives. Pupils are encouraged to think about how they would react and what other alternative actions could be taken. Throughout this process pupils will begin to develop their own practical wisdom.
Kevin Gary - Thoughtful Sophia versus Chatty Wisdom
Wisdom, in this time, has found a new home: modern psychology. Wherein previous ages wisdom was enigmatic and elusive, in the house (or lab) of the psychologist, she has become transparent and quantifiable. Whereas before she was tacit and oblique (speaking elliptically through parables, myths, and poems), now she is chatty and direct. Before, fear and awe were the beginning of wisdom, now the cool, detached, objectivity of the scientist or curriculum planner promises to provide access into her portals. While lamenting the loss of wisdom I am suspicious of its modern recovery and her new home, wary of ceding wisdom to the social sciences, and doubtful there can be wisdom “deliverables,” or even wisdom objectives. In this essay I will argue that attempts to translate wisdom into objectives, outcomes, or standards language is a categorical mistake. Given that, I explore what a retrieval of authentic wisdom would like for modern educational practices and purposes.
Igor Grossmann - Wisdom in Context
The present talk highlights the critical role of various forms of context – cultural-historical, personal-motivational, and situational – in understanding the processes underlying appreciation of wisdom exemplars, development of wise thought and application wisdom in daily life. Interpretation of actions as “wise” depends on culture and time necessitating understanding of a given cultural-historical context. “Wise” actions are appraised as admirable, based on understanding of intentions and motivations driving exemplars towards an action in a difficult situation. Empirical findings shed additional light on the contextual nature of wisdom-related cognitions such as intellectual humility, recognition of world in flux and change, consideration of the broader context at hand and perspectives of others, and integration of these perspectives. These cognitions substantially vary as a function of the situational context the person may be in, with self-focused contexts inhibiting wise thinking. Experiments show ways to buffer reasoning against bias in cases where self-interests are unavoidable. Specifically, an ego-decentering cognitive mindset enables wise thinking about personally meaningful issues, promotes consideration of bigger-picture ideals and facilitates prosocial behavior in social dilemma situations. Insights about contextual nature of wisdom have direct implications for a psychologically-informed wisdom theory, for its measurement, as well as for development of reliable wisdom-enhancing interventions.
Liz Gulliford - Phronesis and the Integration of the Virtues
This paper makes the provocative suggestion that phronesis is not the sole adjudicator and guide over moral virtues. Whilst phronesis often does direct courses of moral action, particularly where virtues conflict with other another, it is not entirely indispensable in this role.
It will be argued that the focus on practical wisdom as ‘master virtue’ has resulted in an over-emphasis on explicit processes in moral thinking. I put forward three interpretations of the role of phronesis in guiding moral virtues:
1. phronesis as necessarily consciously invoked and drawn upon in every moral dilemma (the ‘conductor’ model);
2. phronesis as implicitly or automatically involved in moral dilemmas that echo previous moral dilemmas (the ‘internalised conductor’ model);
3. phronesis is not invoked (consciously or otherwise) in every single moral dilemma for which we find a harmonious solution (the ‘jam session’ model). In a novel dilemma we may improvise and do without a conductor altogether such that the music produced is an emergent property that results from moral virtues being repeatedly deployed in concert and finding their harmonious solutions without conscious direction, and possibly with other virtues, such as love, fulfilling the leading integrative role.
John Hacker-Wright - Phronesis, Virtue, and the Reflective Life
On one prominent interpretation of Aristotle on practical wisdom, moral virtue sets the goal toward which the virtuous agents acts, while practical wisdom, as an intellectual virtue, works to specify the goal as it pertains to the agent’s situation. Advocates of this view reject the idea that practical wisdom consists of an independent intellectual grasp of the appropriate end or a set of rules for the determination of what is to be done; rather, the specification of what is to be done occurs “occasion by occasion.” Yet this view may fail to recognize sufficiently the role of reflection in a life of virtue. In this paper I will argue that the non-intellectualist view of practical wisdom is compatible with a more robust and well-integrated role for reflection than its advocates have countenanced. Courage, for example, reflects an implicit assessment that defending one’s community from a threat matters more than escaping the discomfort of fear imposed by that threat. If this is true, then there may be room for a kind of structural reflection on the relative priorities of goods that is compatible with a non-intellectualist understanding of practical wisdom.
John Haldane - Reasonable Disagreement and Virtuous Liberality
The association of character, wisdom and virtue is liable to suggest an image of an individual possessed of good judgement, settled temperament and a prudent disposition. Two or more such individuals might then be expected to engage respectfully. This stands in sharp contrast to the realities of social encounters in the media, in the political sphere, in academia, and elsewhere, which are increasingly marked by hostility, aggression, condescension and contempt. How can the former characteristics be brought to bear on the latter divisions? Not by individual formation, and not by inculcating principles but by refashioning elements of virtue as social dispositions, properties of individuals via their participation and sense of social membership. Understanding the sources and scope of reasonable disagreement is a condition of cultivating the virtues of civic friendship which are the remedy for social division.
Tom Harrison and Binish Khatoon - Character, Phronesis and Professional Education
This paper gives an account of the development, delivery and ongoing trial of a new intervention designed to introduce the concepts of character, virtue and phronesis to lawyers, doctors and teachers. Evidence shows that members of these professions, and others, are not being sufficiently prepared to deal with the ethical dimensions of their practice and that pre and in service educational programmes typically spend little or no time on character and virtue-based approaches to professional ethical education. The paper describes a new approach to the education of professionals, which is founded on the building of moral character virtues and importantly the meta-virtue of phronesis. The intervention is being subjected to various forms of evaluation to determine; i) how can virtue-based ethical education be delivered to teachers, doctors and lawyers? ; and, ii) what influence do the pilot courses have on the doctors, teachers and lawyers who participate in them? Do they develop the virtue knowledge, reasoning and ideally the practice of the members of these professions? The paper will present some early findings from this evaluation.
Peter Hart, Thomas Lickona and Mark Pike - Narnian Virtues: Character Education and the Potential of the Parent-School Partnership
In this paper we will report the latest findings from our Narnian Virtues research, investigating the relationship between character and English literature, with a focus on the influence and perspectives of parents. Parents have the potential to be the most important influence on their children’s character development; Berkowitz and Grych point out the crucial role parents play in developing the “building blocks of morality”. Good parenting, they maintain, can be taught and learned. Given the importance of parenting, leading character educators have called for greater collaboration with parents (Arthur, 2014; Ryan and Bohlin, 1999), however many character education initiatives in schools have neglected to involve parents in a meaningful way.
This study is based in schools serving relatively deprived areas in the North East of England, where parental involvement in schools is expected to be proportionately lower to more affluent areas. Paterson (2011), for instance, cites Ferguson’s research finding that mothers from low-income families tend to be “less engaged with their child’s school work” (p. 27). Developing a parent-school partnership, whereby the parent is fully supported and equipped by the project to engage in their child’s work, has the potential to close this gap. This paper reports how such families are engaging in the Narnian Virtues character education project and we specifically focus on the views of parents.
Helen Haste - Practical Wisdom in the (Formally) 'Public' Domain: where moral and civic intersect
I will argue that ‘practical wisdom’ is particularly applicable to an area that increasingly intersects with moral functioning – civic engagement – and second, I will argue that the data (and theory) around the development of civic/moral engagement provides a different interpretation of ‘enacting’ virtuous or other moral/civic things and how it contributes to development. The boundaries of moral and civic action, and their relevant motivation and identity issues, have become increasingly blurred as civic participation has been extensively broadened to recognize considerably more than voting behavior. Furthermore, what motivates people to engage in civic participation often is moral outrage at some injustice. Hence, ‘practical wisdom’ must now encompass the civic domain, not only moral behavior, habits and values. A virtues approach emphasizes good habits, practice and experiences; practical wisdom is tied to judgment-making. Other theoretical models emphasise reflection, and critical thinking which take place within a social and cultural context that scaffolds them. The implications are that we should be looking at practical wisdom in a wider range of actions, beliefs, motives and skills than those, perhaps, encompassed only by individual virtues and personal attributes.
Danielle Hatchimonji - Phronesis in Culturally Diverse Middle Schools
Phronesis —the virtue of practical wisdom— has been interpreted along several dimensions: thought versus action; self versus community; universalist versus relativist. In our approach, Mastering Our Skills and Inspiring Character (MOSAIC), currently being implemented in culturally diverse and socioeconomically disadvantaged middle schools (ages 11-14), it is our goal to move students toward phronesis by balancing each of these dimensions.
While character educators often utilize a universal set of virtues, these virtues have different meanings and applications depending on context and culture. Furthermore, it is not only the meaning of a virtue that is variable, but it is also the emphasis given to each virtue that differs. Thus, instead of stipulating a course of virtuous action, the MOSAIC approach employs pedagogical strategies to enhance students’ abilities to engage in decision-making and reflection, skills that are necessary for developing phronesis. MOSAIC teaches students how to select virtuous action that balances the self and the community, through social-emotional and character development (SECD) lessons. Students also build skills in enacting the chosen action through practiced service-learning. We hope that the MOSAIC approach can serve as an example for cultivating phronesis, particularly for character educators who teach students from culturally diverse backgrounds.
Kazunobu Horiuchi - An Empirical Case Study of the Impact of Moral Education on the Character of Students at Private Educational Institutions in Japan
This paper attempts an empirical exploration of the impact of the moral education offered at the five private, secondary and tertiary educational institutions in Japan comprising the Hiroike Institute of Education, the offspring of Moralogy College founded by Chikuro Hiroike in 1935, on the character building of the students there.
Data was collected by three researchers who interviewed twenty-four students and graduates of the five schools between January 2014 and March 2015. The youngest interviewees were in their 20s, and the oldest in their 70s.
The analysis identified six major categories that seemed to encompass and elucidate the essential components of the moral education offered at these schools. These six categories were; Hiroike as a role model, the passing on of values, connectedness, happiness, a purpose in life, and hope. The virtues most commonly mentioned in the interviews were; respect, benevolence, parental love, caring for others, gratitude, responsibility, connectedness, hope, tolerance, self-examination, and sincerity.
Based on these findings, the paper seeks to clarify the extent to which, and the ways in which, supreme morality (i.e. wisdom), expounded first by Hiroike and subsequently taught in the school system that bears his name, has had a moral impact on students’ character in relation to each of the virtues identified in the interview data.
Jonathan Jacobs - Principles, Virtues, and Intuitions: Elements of an Explication of Phronesis
The paper explicates key features of phronesis in regard to states of character and in regard to cognition. Two chief concerns of the discussion are (i) to explicate distinctions between principles, virtues, and intuitions—and their roles in moral judgment and reasoning, and (ii) to highlight the significance of phronesis as an element of a rational agent’s second nature though ethical virtue need not be connected to a specific telos proper to human nature.
Phronesis makes possible (i) recognition of how (multiple) valuative considerations figure in a situation and (ii) an often intuitive grasp of what is ethically salient. Conceptual fluency and the kinds of perception, insight, and integrative judgment distinctive of phronesis distinguish it from natural virtue. Only developed conceptual fluency and virtuous states of character enable agents to make the synoptic, integrative, rationally explicable judgments ethical life often requires.
Phronesis, as part of second nature, includes commitment to negotiate the various departments of life in a manner responsive to the normative valences of the situations and challenges one encounters. However, phronesis is never complete; there is an aspirational aspect to it, one that reflects both confidence supported by sound understanding and humility before the complexity of moral life.
Sabena Jameel - Embarking on a study looking at the enactment of Phronesis (Practical Wisdom) in General Practitioners – The EPGPS"
This paper will explore the meaning of phronesis as applied to medical practice. Phronesis is an intellectual virtue, particularly suited to the work of the General Practitioner, where uncertainty prevails. The dominant positivist approach to the practice of Medicine operates on a level of predictive probability guiding the clinician’s knowledge. General Practice defines itself in terms of relationships and the co-construction of knowledge.
Phronesis will position itself as an under-appreciated intellectual virtue in medical practice (Mcintyrean holistic definition versus Aristotle’s ‘moral adjudication’). The paper will look at the background theory surrounding code-based moral frameworks that underpin medical education, including their shortcomings.
The paper will be written in context of PhD research that will be conducted over the coming months. This research aims to look at what enacted phronesis looks like in a population of General Practitioners (Family Medicine). The paper will introduce the planned research methods which include Ardelt’s 3D Wisdom Scale, narrative interviews and NHS appraisal portfolio analysis. It is hoped the three methods will offer some triangulation in coming closer to identifying the characteristics of a Phronimos in the General Practice setting, providing some empirical research that may guide the future direction of Medical Education.
Eranda Jayawickreme and Laura Blackie - Wisdom Gained? Assessing Relationships between Adversity, Personality and Well-Being Among an Emerging Adulthood Sample
How do emerging adults make sense of stressful life events they have experienced in their lives? College students (N = 1225) reported the stressful events they had experienced in their lifetime up until the present survey, and indicated whether they considered each stressful event to be a turning point and/or an opportunity for wisdom. Students also completed measures of personality and well-being. We hypothesized that the personality characteristics of openness to experience, extraversion, and emotionality would have indirect effects on well-being due to the mediating variables of the tendencies to interpret stressful events as turning points or leading to wisdom. We used a multi-step ESEM approach in which we first assessed the measurement structure of our items before testing partial and complete structural models. We tested partial and structural models according to extant guidelines associated with the evaluation of indirect effects models. We did not find support for the indirect effects model, but Openness was associated with the tendency to view stressful events as turning points, and Openness and Extraversion were associated with the tendency to view stressful events as leading to wisdom, as well as with increased well-being.
Mark Jonas - Wisdom, Virtue and Education in Plato’s Republic
Recent commentators on Plato’s moral theory have emphasized the role that habit and practice play in the development of the virtues. They argue that Plato believes that habit and practice are essential for the development of the virtues and therefore strong intellectualist accounts of Plato’s moral psychology are incorrect. There is one virtue, however, that Plato argues does not require habituation for its development—the virtue of wisdom (phronesis) (Republic, 518d-e). This provocative feature of Plato’s moral theory has significant implications for his educational theory as it raises questions about the apparent elitism that undergirds it.
The standard interpretation of the Republic is that only an elite group of philosopher-kings are capable of achieving wisdom, whereas common citizens are merely taught to obey the wisdom of their superiors. The goal of this paper is to show that this is an incorrect interpretation. I argue that Plato believes that nearly all human beings are capable of achieving wisdom, and that helping them to achieve it requires a regimen of habit and practice. To make my case, I examine Plato’s theory of wisdom, showing why it requires habit and practice, and then I show how the theory challenges the standard interpretation of the Republic.
Gary Lewis - Character Development with Parents
Kings Langley School in Hertfordshire is proud to be one of the first schools in the UK pioneering a strategic and fully integrated character development programme that places the development of “strong character” for all its students as its key educational objective. The programme has developed over several years and places equal emphasis on developing strong character in both students and academic staff, based entirely on a clear moral framework.
Recent research and evaluation of available data at the school has shown that some parents are frequently acting as a significant brake on our work, often unwittingly, because of a clear lack of “parenting character”. Too many parents are not showing sufficient resilience in challenging their offspring as they grow and develop and some parents are mistakenly determined to ensure that their child suffers no setback or upset in their school career. This presentation will consider entirely practical methods that have been employed at the school over the past 24 months to directly challenge parents and assist them in becoming stronger and more resilient when guiding, advising and supporting their children. Hopefully, we are endeavouring to show our parents that their deep love for their offspring must have a sharp edge.
Juan Andres Mercado - Top Models: Aristotle and Maslow on the Perfect Human Being
For Aristotle, the morally mature human being is the one whose character is well-formed and who acts well, but it is also he who feels the right way, at the right moment, consistently with stimuli. He acts well precisely because he felt first that which one must feel (pleasure, fear, anger) and because he is capable of responding actively and in the correct proportion to the requests of the moment.
Liberty is understood as the capacity to conduct one’s life towards the good understood (comprehended, apprehended), and implies mastery of one’s own acts. This mastery depends upon the virtues. Virtue allows for the link between the logos and desires.
Maslow asserts that the self-actualizing individual has “a more efficient perception of reality and more comfortable relations with it”. The practical outcome is that they are problem-centered and good at goal setting, they discriminate easily between means and ends and good and evil and enjoy beauty in ordinary life. Their appetites are attuned to judgments and they take delight in doing good things.
For our Authors, the mature person guides his or her own development, and again they agree in accepting that actions modify character for worse or for better.
Elise Murray - A Matter of Uncertainty: The Berlin Model of Wisdom and its Intersection with Intellectual Humility
Phronesis is the ability to understand why and how to act virtuously, as well as promote such thinking and action in others. Several theories exist within developmental science about how practical wisdom develops; one such theory is the Baltes conception of wisdom. According to Baltes, the basic components that comprise wisdom are (a) factual knowledge, (b) procedural knowledge, (c) life-span contextualism, (d) relativism of values, and (e) awareness and management of uncertainty. The focus of this paper is the final component, and how social science can understand uncertainty from the perspective of character virtue development. I argue that intellectual humility (IH) is a necessary character virtue for managing uncertainty and contributing to the development of practical wisdom across the life span. IH, when embedded within the concept of wisdom as a virtue, explains how an individual approaches novel/unfamiliar information or situations. Although IH has been assessed within the context of personality research, there is yet to be a developmental assessment of IH. Accordingly, I present a developmental model for IH, and preliminary analyses of longitudinal research of IH. I use a life-span, process-based perspective and empirical evidence to add depth to our understanding of IH and its contribution to wisdom.
Kazuhiro Miyashita - A Case Study in the Cultivation of “Practical Wisdom”: The Methodology of the Neo-Confucian Zhu Xi
I wish to investigate the methodology of learning devised by Zhu Xi, a leading neo-Confucian thinker, as a typical example of the methods of cultivating “practical wisdom” in the history of East Asian thought, with the aim of offering perspectives and materials to deepen our thinking about the nurturing of human morality as a contemporary and universal problem shared by the whole of humankind.
Neo-Confucians―advocates of the innovation movement within the traditions of Confucianism―who began to appear in the 10th century A.D., conceptualized a sage, which originally described the ancient ideal of a figure who created civilizations or institutions, as a person of an ideal character or the embodiment of moral perfection. Under the slogan “anyone can be a sage,” they proposed a method of learning or educational methodology that could lead a person to achieve an ideal character. More importantly, for Neo-Confucian thinkers, developing an ideal character meant to obtain the “practical wisdom” that enables one to judge and conduct oneself in an appropriate manner in the face of any type of circumstances.
Antony O’Hear - How to Become Practically Wise: some Aristotelian reflections on moral education
Aristotle argues persuasively that in order to reason well about morality, one needs to be already schooled in virtue. This paper considers some of the implications of this view for moral education and for moral reasoning more generally.
Scott Parsons - How Phronesis and Moral Action Can Improve Character and Virtue in the United States Army
Recent military initiatives have led to better instruction in ethical theory and improvements in general moral reasoning; however, the U.S. Army must simultaneously improve its soldier’s moral will – their moral motivations. Moral knowledge alone will not develop phronesis. In other words, to develop phronesis moral action is required. The proper end of the U.S. Army ethics program is moral action rather than moral knowledge. These are two deliberate, but not necessarily discrete, ends. One might gain moral knowledge without interest in pursuing moral action. In contrast, one cannot act morally without the prerequisite knowledge (ethical reasoning) that allows him or her to discern right action. The U.S. Army must rebrand its ethical training as moral education and implement systematic methods of reinforcement so that the profession interprets its ethic as something each member aspires to be rather than something he or she does.
Margaret Plews-Ogan - Phronesis in Medical Practice: the will and the skill needed to the right thing
What is the relationship between character, wisdom and virtue in medicine? This paper will look concretely at medical decision making in difficult circumstances, identifying key virtues constitutive the character that doctors need to practice well—to achieve the telos of medicine. 1 It will further show that phronesis, practical wisdom, is not just one of these virtues but is the master virtue in such decision making. It is the uber virtue first because it plays an indispensable role in guiding the other virtues and second, because it enables the physician to balance the inevitable tensions and contradictions among the virtues (empathy/detachment, honesty/hope) that are constitutive of decision-making in medical practice. We will present an actual narrative of a tough, but ordinary, decision demanding practical wisdom. We will use this case to identify virtues exemplified in medical decision making and the practical wisdom skills this physician needed to exercise those virtues. Doctors learn these practical wisdom skills by seeing, doing, failing, reflecting and trying again, in a matrix that fosters wisdom formation. We will conclude the paper by discussing the ways in which phronesis might be fostered, and the specific circumstances in which those skills can be modeled and practiced.
Margaret Rhodes and Heidrun Wulfekuhler - Creating 'Contemplative Indecisiveness': a model for facilitating the development of practical wisdom in social workers
Practical wisdom is a necessary virtue for social workers. We explore the nature of this virtue and one possible element of facilitating its development in social work students who are seen as beginning learners of virtue. The pertinent ethical reflections can be stimulated by employing a practically feasible model which is Aristotelian in structure and which is not predominantly outcome-oriented. We emphasize the need for slowing down the decision making process.
Creating “contemplative indecisiveness” is the first step on the path of facilitating the cultivation of practical wisdom. The beginning learner of virtue struggles to figure out the core aspects of a situation and good judgments seem rather fragile. Developing practical wisdom entails that one understand increasingly the gravity of social work situations and the role that ethics plays in them. Therefore, we emphasize the need to deliberate a case thoroughly. Failing to do so could imply damages to clients and to social workers.
We will consider the contents and systematic order of the model with which a deep reflection process could be initiated, one which through repeated use can result in practical wisdom.
Reynaldo Rivera - Developing Wisdom in South American Schools: the role of big data strategies and participatory applied research
In the last fifty years, Latin American countries have experienced a remarkable social and economic development, which included an expanding access to education, but that did not facilitate positive youth development, social capital generation and equality.
Character and virtues education through participatory applied research and knowledge – management strategies may be innovative ways of approaching those challenges.
Wisdom education may facilitate the promotion of decision-making, altruism and ethical behavior in countries with high levels of instability and corruption.
This qualitative study will explore through literature review, observation and in – depth interviews, the attitudes and praxis of experts and practitioners from South American countries regarding the education of virtues (particularly wisdom) and the usage of information technologies and knowledge – management for the improvement of youth education curriculums and processes.
Robert C. Roberts - Emotions and Practical Wisdom
Practical wisdom connects with emotions in at least three ways. First, the perceptions most perfectly characteristic of practical wisdom, whether spontaneous intuitions or results of deliberation, are either emotions or virtual emotions. Second, practical wisdom is a power of judging emotions — one’s own and other people’s. In relation to one’s own emotions, it is an ability to recognize one’s emotions as morally fit or unfit and to understand what is right or wrong about them. As to others’ emotions, practical wisdom turns largely on sympathy, which in turn depends on a breadth of emotional dispositions in oneself and good powers for assessing emotions. Third, practical wisdom is understanding of what to do to correct morally adverse emotions and to confirm oneself in morally appropriate ones, and the motivation to do so.
Dan Russell - Practical Unintelligence and the Vices
When we think about vice, we usually think of bad intent. But that is only half the story, because virtue involves good intent plus practical intelligence in doing what one intends. So while one way of failing to act with virtue is to act for the sake of a bad or corrupted end, another way is to deliberate unintelligently about realizing an end, even an that is good.
This paper focuses on this second, less familiar sort of vice. The first half of the paper looks at what sort of failing it is and why this failing is a vice. The second half looks at several real-life challenges for deliberation and sketches several habits of thought for responsibly managing the inevitable uncertainty and complexity of a constantly changing world. The habits I focus on are not for correcting one’s ignorance about such a world, though. Rather, they correct for such ignorance, making one more responsible in the management of ignorance when it is more prudent to accept it serenely than to eliminate it heroically.
Wouter Sanderse - Habituation as a Lifelong Process?
The formation of virtuous habits through consistent practice is one of the staples of Aristotelian character education. However, there has been some controversy about its meaning and importance in moral development, especially in adults. Neo-Aristotelian philosophers of education, such as Sherman (1989), Kupperman (1999) and Kristjánsson (2006) see habituation primarily as a method for moral education suitable for people on the first stages of moral development, in particular children. Aristotle too gives the impression that habituation is mainly an early method for character education, to be abandoned in favour of dialogues about the good life with character friends. However, there are also passages in the Nicomachean Ethics that hint at habituation as being a lifelong process. For example, he writes that people must “confirm their habit, when they are grown up” (NE 1080a). So, is habituation suitable for all, or mainly for the young? In this paper, I examine whether habit formation can have a role throughout one’s moral development, as a lifelong process. Also, I will try to make sense of ‘childish’ and more ‘adult’ forms of habitation by looking at how critical the process is and who is ‘owning’ it.
Arthur Schwartz - Coaching leaders: A study in practice-oriented phronesis
I’ve purchased many books in my lifetime but only one solely because of its title. The year was 1997 and the book was If Aristotle Ran General Motors by Thomas Morris. Never before or since have I read a book so fast or agreed so passionately with its premise: that the Aristotelian virtues can be woven into the fabric of any enterprise, group, team or organization.
At the time I was working with Sir John Templeton at his foundation. Several years later, I asked Jack Templeton, Sir John’s son, if I could start working with a leadership coach. He immediately said yes. Two years later Jack started to work with his own coach.
My paper examines phronesis within the context of coaching leaders. What is the function of the leadership coach? What methods do they use? Do these methods align with the Socratic notion of maieutics? The Delphic imperative? My core argument is that developing wisdom ought to be at the heart of the leadership coaching profession.
The word “coach” was first used in the 1550s to describe wagons and carriages drawn by horsepower to carry people. Within the context of our conference theme, I use the term to describe the process of transporting a leader from where she is…to where she wants to be.
Alejo Sison - How to recover practical wisdom in corporate governance. A proposal from MacIntyre
Implicit in the title of my proposal is that practical wisdom has been lost in the realm of corporate governance. Why so? If we were to take Aristotle’s definition in the Nicomachean Ethics as basis, by “practical wisdom” (phronesis) we are to understand the virtue or “excellence” of choosing the suitable means to the right end. He goes out of his way to distinguish “practical wisdom” from “craftiness” (panourgia), which consists of the skill of choosing the suitable means to any given end, not necessarily the “right” one or the one that is “good”. (Consistent with Aristotle’s teachings, “good” means not only that towards which one tends, the object of desire, but also that which “perfects” or makes one “whole”.) In its current state, given its theoretical underpinnings in neoclassical economics, there could be no “practical wisdom” in corporate governance because there is no “right end”, and the dominant “given ends” of whatever satisfy individual preferences fail to comply with the conditions of what is “right” or “good”. In place of “practical wisdom” (phronesis), therefore, we can only have “craftiness” (panourgia), oftentimes disguised as “managerial expertise”.
Paulien Snellen - Akrasia as an Intelligent Disposition
I argue that akrasia as a character trait is an intelligent condition and not just a mindless habit. This is important, for if akrasia were mere routine it would not make sense to attribute moral responsibility to the akratēs. Julia Annas’ addresses a similar issue for virtue and vice, but I show that her solution in terms of the ‘skill analogy’ is not applicable to akrasia. Other than the virtuous, and possibly the vicious, person, the akratēs has not learned to act on the reasons he thinks he ought to act on.
I explore two promising ways to understand that akrasia is nonetheless a sufficiently intelligent condition to serve as a ground for moral responsibility. First of all, I rely on John Martin Fischer and Mark Ravizza’s notion of reasons-responsiveness. The akratēs might be only weakly reactive to reasons, but is still typically highly receptive to reasons. Secondly, and relatedly, I more closely consider the second-order element of akrasia. The akratēs typically disapproves of the way in which he is prone to act. I suggest that this reflective element alters the akratēs’ condition from a mere habit into a reason-responsive and morally relevant character trait.
Kim Stillman - Phronesis; the art of practical wisdom in the day to day working and teaching of GP Trainees
Original Study: qualitative research evaluated the MRCGP learning log (LL) as an educational tool in the development of doctors from GP trainee towards independent practice capable of reflexivity, (Stillman, K. 2012).
The literature indicates structured written reflection facilitates reflexivity but without compulsory assessment students may not engage meaningfully. Experience amongst GP trainees and trainers suggest the LL structured templates for written trainee reflection and trainer feedback is unpopular and time-consuming. Trainees perceived reflective practice as important but thought this prescriptive process and quantitative focus interfered with meaningful reflection; adapting to the task without reflexivity.
Applications and outcomes
A taxonomy for reflexivity and performance was established re-integrating theory with experience. As a model for exploring and shaping professional development the work identified stages of cognition and behavioural evolution: techné, praxis to phronesis. This informed a ‘values-based’ approach in the development and leadership of two GP training programs within HEE KSS and stimulates exploration of the nature of professional identity, ‘flourishing’, and how to
Maria Vaccarezza - An eye on particulars with the end in sight. An account of Aristotelian phronesis
This paper aims at challenging a strong particularist interpretation of Aristotelian phronesis and ethics, in order to defend a weaker form of it.
First, I move from an interpretation that I call the Priority of Particular Reading (PPR), and which I envisage mainly in the work of Nancy Sherman (1989), Martha Nussbaum (1990) and Sarah Broadie (1991). Secondly, I will discuss the transition from PPR to a proper Particularist Reading (PR), which consists in interpreting phronesis and the other virtues merely as forms of practical perception (see McDowell 1998).
Then, I discuss some strategies to “weaken” PR that I claim to be intrinsic to PPR, such as claiming Aristotle to be a “qualified particularist” (Sherman 1997) and appealing to the role of ethical theory to counteract the primacy of practical perception (see Nussbaum 2000).
Finally, I challenge PR directly, by appealing to my own reading of Aristotle’s phronesis, thought of as capable of grasping particulars while having general ends in sight, thanks to its several “parts” and to its relation with the ethical virtues and with other forms of ethical knowledge (see Berti 1989).
Sophia Vasalou - Greatness of Spirit in the Arabic Tradition: a new addition to our taxonomies?
When philosophers consider the “virtues of greatness” these days, their principal frame of reference tends to be the ancient tradition, where greatness of soul or magnanimity received its salient development. Yet there was another intellectual context in which this kind of virtue—or something identifiable as its counterpart—found an important expression, namely the Arabic tradition. In the Islamic world, there was one particular virtue that achieved prominence, best translated as “greatness of spirit.” The product of a complex fusion of influences, greatness of spirit engaged a wide range of philosophically-minded thinkers. My aim in this paper is twofold: to delineate this virtue and to consider its philosophical merit. The core profile of the virtue seems relatively simple to isolate. Greatness of spirit is essentially a virtue of aspiration—of boundless aspiration to what is great, with “what is great” understood chiefly in terms of virtue. As such, it is a virtue foundational to the ethical (and for some, the religious) life, to which it supplies the initial stimulus and continued reinforcement. There are interesting comparisons to draw with more familiar accounts; yet more relevant is a question about its philosophical appeal. How seriously can we take it as a proposal to identify a distinctive virtue worthy of inclusion in our taxonomies?
Jonathan Webber - Integrity and Practical Wisdom
How are the virtues of integrity and practical wisdom related?
The standard view of ethical integrity as acting from firmly held convictions mistakes a common feature of people who possess this virtue for the virtue’s essence, which is a firm commitment to doing what is right whatever that may be. This is often demonstrated in acting from firm commitments because, as attitude psychology indicates, an evaluative attitude’s firmness is proportionate to the degree that one’s own reasoning has favoured it in the past.
Aristotle understands practical wisdom as combining a characterological commitment to the right ends with the intelligence required for best achieving those ends. Both the characterological and intellectual aspects of practical wisdom rest on endowments of nature or upbringing, but are refined through rationally guided action and reflection on that action.
The person of ethical integrity, therefore, does not necessarily possess practical wisdom, but is striving towards it. This helps us to identify a character trait required for developing practical wisdom that Aristotle only hints at briefly, a trait that combines a commitment to doing what is right with a respect for practical reasoning as a guide to what is right.
Brian Williams - John Henry Newman's Concept of Intellectual and Moral Phronesis
John Henry Newman, fellow at Oriel College, Oxford, and founding Rector of the Catholic University of Dublin, draws on Aristotle’s concept of phronesis throughout his extensive body of work. This paper explains Newman’s far-reaching account of intellectual and moral phronesis, the latter of which he refers to as ‘conscience’, critically evaluates its decisively personal character, and identifies the ways Newman thought phronesis could be cultivated. Particularly compelling is Newman’s consistent desire to acknowledge the unique ways persons actually arrive at belief or action. According to Newman, we reason as whole persons within the fluctuating contingencies of life rather than as cold logicians within dapper syllogisms. This requires a cultivated conscience as the personal manifestation of prudential wisdom. For Newman, the conscience includes habitual awareness of the first principles of natural law, as well as the work of practical reason prudentially weighing and judging what should be done in the immediacy of the moment. However, though each person possesses conscience, it requires ‘training and experience’ akin to the virtues. Though Newman’s account bears similarities with Aristotle’s and Aquinas’, his extensive use of intellectual and moral phronesis in multiple fields promises to enrich our understanding of the nature and cultivation of wisdom.
Stein Wivestad - A Cultivation of Phronesis through Upbuilding Examples
Adults should “be able to deliberate finely … about what promotes living well in general" (Aristotle, 1985, 1140a26-28). We are models for the younger generation. Therefore, all adults, not only those who have a professional relation with children, ought to struggle with themselves to become phronimoi, learning through many particular experiences “of the actions in life” (1095a3), experiences via plays (1111a9-15; 1146a20), and an “existential soul-searching” activity with some help from a “suitable exemplar” (Kristjánsson, 2015, p. 114). Such a study of ethics, “not to know what virtue is, but to become good” (1103b29), can be done in small groups of adults who exchange experiences and search for insight in ethical themes through dialogue. A database on the internet will facilitate the choice of material and themes. Guided by Kierkegaard's understanding of cultivation as “upbuilding” (Wivestad, 2011), my research group in Norway selects and describes examples of art works (pictures, films, music and literature) for the database www.oppbyggeligeeksempler.no An "upbuilding example" should have possibilities to make us aware of how we actually are, help us to see and accept life as good gifts, to see others without hatred, envy or egoistic calculation, and to share good gifts with others.
Jay Wood and Robert C. Roberts - Humility and Understanding
Virtuous humility bears on its possessor’s understanding, primarily, of self and other persons in their relations to one another. The vices of which humility is the absence (conceit, arrogance, vanity, pretentiousness, domination, invidia, snobbishness, selfish ambition, hyper-autonomy, self-righteousness, racism, ethnicism, homophobia, and the like) are all the self’s concerns for a kind of importance that we call “self-importance.” Concerns by their nature involve some understanding of the concern’s object: one cannot be concerned about something without some understanding of it. Thus, understanding is embodied in the concern. These vices are differentiated from one another by how the concern for “self-importance” is understood to be satisfied or frustrated, and partly by how that importance is conceived. The main ways the vices conceive the self’s importance as achieved or missed have to do with the self as viewed by others, the self as sharing agency with others, and the self as qualitatively ranked relative to others. As an absence of such concerns, humility is also an absence of their modes of understanding. Since human beings’ need to conceive themselves as having importance is fundamental, the humble must conceive their importance otherwise than as “self-importance,” and this understanding is supplied by such other virtues as compassion, generosity and love.
Matthew Farrelly - “Sweetness and Light”: Hellenic and Hebraic Wisdom in Dialogue - Poster Presentation
Moral philosophers in the classical tradition standardly look to Plato and Aristotle as indispensable for guiding the efforts of moral educators. The Hebraic wisdom tradition has often been overlooked or esteemed altogether incompatible with the Hellenic. For Tertullian, Matthew Arnold, Leo Strauss, and more recently, Jon Fennell, the Hellenistic tradition is fundamentally “philosophical” in nature, dedicated to reason and free inquiry, while the Hebraic tradition is “prophetic,” dedicated exclusively to faith and servile obedience to Law or Revelation. These interpretations simplify key elements of both traditions to the point of misunderstanding.
Contrary to some of its caricatures, I argue that the Hebraic tradition offers a compelling vision for wisdom that both compliments and enriches the Hellenistic. To make my case I will examine important and largely misunderstood elements of the Hebraic wisdom tradition. In the same way that the Hellenistic tradition values law, so too the Hebraic tradition embraces free inquiry. In the Hebraic tradition, obedience to the law is wisdom, however persons embody full wisdom to the extent that they cultivate rightly-ordered relationships with all spheres of reality. Toward the attainment of such wisdom, free inquiry is strongly encouraged and even deemed essential for holistic human flourishing.
Manos Rhodes Hatzimalonas - Philotimo: A useful paradigm for studying Practical Wisdom in a Post-Truth era. - Poster Presentation
Widely perceived as the epitome of the Greek psyche, yet complex and often controversial in its interpretations, ‘Philotimo’ – the love of honour or being honourable, remains largely unexamined by modern philosophy and social science. At the intersection of personal and societal, moral and intellectual virtues necessary for both good character and virtuous action, ‘Philotimo’ challenges positive psychology’s moral reluctance to recognize the importance of meta-virtues, such as phronesis, and offers a prototype study paradigm for theorists looking to overcome issues that relate to the situational dependency and moral integration of universal strengths and virtues. 'Philotimo' appears to serve as the adjudicator in choosing the right time, place, feeling and action within which virtue should be exercised dependent on context and agencies of the people involved, and foremost of the self as the main actor. It includes and is often defined by virtues atypical of the VIA strengths and virtues list, such as aspects of social and emotional intelligence of self respect, justified anger, pride, shameful self-correction and emulousness. 'Philotimo' also provides a useful paradigm out of the problem of moral arbitration in that it encompasses character traits universally regarded as virtues, which are in turn known to be self-reported indicators of well-being. At least in the case of Greeks, 'Philotimo' sets forward a living prototype that does not concede to moral relativism, is in line with Aristotelian moral naturalism and makes empirically grounded evaluative judgments of normative behaviour without being normative at passing moral arbitrations. Proposed as a unique meta-virtue encompassing the intersection between the individual and the social self that lies at the centre of the political animal, ‘Philotimo’ can become instrumental in furthering our understanding of practical wisdom within the civic realm. Through a sound understanding of the feats and fails of grand national narratives, epistemological enquiry can arrive at significant conclusions that go beyond merely logarithmic interpretations of mean deviations in virtue and character, and into more algorithmic meta-analytical approaches required of moral education in order to fully interpret the big ‘meta-data’ of private and civic life.