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Educating Character Through the Arts

Educating Character Through the Arts

University of Birmingham Conference Centre, 19th-21st July, 2018

From antiquity to the present, the virtues – construed in terms of such excellences of character as honesty, fairness, compassion and courage – have been widely regarded as integral to human moral life. But how might human agents – particularly the young – come to understand, or acquire, virtuous character? While many might nowadays look to empirical psychology or neuroscience for pathways to understanding and cultivating virtuous character, the arts might seem to offer a more time-honoured source of insight into good and bad human character, its relationship to human flourishing, and the development of the virtues. That said, some might doubt – in an age of science – the potential of works of art to serve as credible sources of knowledge. There are, for instance, both ancient arguments for the view that poetry and other arts are more conducive to moral corruption than improvement, and modern claims to the effect that the aesthetic purposes of the arts have little to do with moral value or concern.

While, perhaps in light of these more sceptical considerations, moral education through the arts in contemporary schooling seems to have been somewhat neglected, the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues has sought to uphold and promote such an approach in various projects. Still, there is clearly a need for further clarifying the role of the arts in character education, by considering a variety of questions: Can imaginative art be said to have any moral significance or purpose? In what sense might different art forms contribute to knowledge? How might one distinguish morally insightful from morally dubious art? Can there be character educational value in non-narrative art (such as music)? How might the arts be taught in a moral educational way? And so on.

This Jubilee Centre conference on the arts and character education – which took place on 19th-21st July 2018, at the University of Birmingham – sought to address all of these, and more, questions, with the help of such distinguished keynote speakers as Karen Bohlin, Noel Carroll, Matthew Kieran, and James O. Young.

 

This conference is made possible through the generous support of the British Society of Aesthetics and the Mind Association.

 

 

 

 

 


Dr. Karen Bohlin - Virtue, Vice and Verse: Why Poetry Matters

In a culture of tweets, headlines, and short videos gone viral, poetry is perhaps more relevant now than ever. While poetry may have retreated from the mainstay of the curriculum in schools, it continues to make a comeback as a form of public engagement and expression.  We find Yeats posted in the underground, the America’s Favorite Poem Project regularly updated online, and Poetry Slam competitions thriving around the world.

This keynote explores a few essential questions about the staying power of poetry including: Does poetry “instruct, delight and move” in ways that uniquely contribute to the education of emotion?  Can poetry help pupils develop moral perception and practical wisdom? In our increasingly polarized public discourse, can the study of poetry foster respect, empathy, and dialogue about topics that matter?

Aristotle began a conversation about teaching, learning and flourishing that we continue today. What does this collective wisdom reveal about how we might be better teachers and readers of poetry? Moreover, how do we make connections among and between poetry, emotion and virtue?

As both a visual and performance art, poetry enlists and engages the whole person.  This keynote explores what we can learn from poets and teachers of poetry about providing a point of entry, or pedagogical framework, that builds community and authentic conversation--even among reluctant readers of poetry. 

Prof. Noel Carroll - Art, emotional learning, and character

Emotion is a major constituent of character.  In "Art, Emotional Learning, and Character," I will discuss the way in which art is a leading cultural resource for the cultivation and reinforcement of the emotional intelligence we need in order to navigate social relations in our respective cultures.  In this way, I will attempt to elucidate one of the ways in which Art contributes to the education of character.  Specifically, I will present my theory of criterial prefocussing as the means by which art implements emotional education.  I will also try to show how art can re-educate the emotions by reference to the novel Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Prof. Matthew Kieran - Creativity, Virtue and the Arts

We value creativity in general and in particular artistic creativity. It seems straightforward why this should be so. Artists produce works which afford us new, valuable experiences. This is an achievement. How might this be related to virtue?  And is there any particular relationship between artistic creativity and virtue? The presentation looks at standard characterisations of the nature of creativity and, in doing so, will suggest an alternative view that, in turn, helps to clarify just how and why artistic creativity has a particularly close relationship to virtue. Furthermore, it will be argued, this may be especially true with respect to the arts as contrasted with other domains. The ways in which this is so will illuminate how we should think about artistic creativity, character and virtue.

Prof. James O. Young - Literary Fiction and the Cultivation of Virtue

For many years philosophers have argued that reading literary fiction makes people more virtuous. In the eighteenth century these philosophers included Smith and Batteux. More recently, writers such as Gregory Currie, Martha Nussbaum, and Elisabeth Schellekens are associated with this view. More recently still, psychologists have turned their attention to the question of whether reading literary fiction improves virtue. An increasing body of empirical literature suggests that philosophers have been right in holding that literary fiction improves the characters of readers by making them more empathetic and more inclined to prosocial behaviour. This essay critically examines this empirical literature and concludes that psychologists have provided empirical evidence for the views of philosophers. However, some questions remain about the moral benefits of reading literary fiction. It remains possible that some literary fiction could harm readers’ characters. 

Josu Ahedo - Socrates, His Life and Maieutic: Guidelines for character education through transmedia storytelling

The unjust Socrates´s death has served to know better to this Greek philosopher who dedicated his life to defend the values of the city. The importance of Socrates is that he showed us that the virtue could be taught, and that it is beyond the richness and the opinion of the majority. Moreover, reading Plato´s dialogues many examples of a coherent and flourishing life can be found. Indeed, Socrates taught and lived according to the virtues, and was a fair, committed, and humble man, determined to educate people more than to be famous, as the rhetoricians, or rich, as the sophists. At the same time, he was a firm champion of friendship, knowing that the virtuous man wishes the best for his friend, and therefore a friend is who better can help us to be virtuous. Taking into account that modelling is considered a valuable strategy to moral education (Kristjánsson, 2017), presenting characters as Socrates in the classroom can be an attractive idea. Furthermore, there is a positive relationship between arts, in general, and narratives, in particular, and character education, as it is shown by several recent studies (Jubilee Centre, 2015; Department for Education, 2017). However, reading the classics is not always an easy task in the classroom, where the teenagers use to see an important gap between their everyday concerns and the academic contents. The objective of this paper is to discuss the relevance of an educational-technological proposal aimed to students aged 14-16, based on the character of Socrates, which develops three keys strategies for character education: modelling, dialogue and narratives (Berkowitz, 2011; Carr, 2006; Carr y Harrison, 2015). By selecting parts of texts that present different traits of character of the Greek philosopher, as The Apology, this proposal combines the classic narrative with the modern technology, using what is called transmedia storytelling. According to Jenkins (2010) it ”represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience”. Since Jenkins is not an educator, we should change the word “entertainment”´ for educational, considering the educational value of this proposal (Jover, González Martín y Fuentes, 2015). In this case, the narrative will be in a webpage where students have access to texts selected about Socrates, as well as, to different activities related with the most relevant traits of his character, such as justice, honesty, humility and friendship. The students will take on the role of diverse characters in the stories of Socrates, recreating the narration through a blog that will facilitate a dialogue between students and their teacher. Moreover, they will have to compare the Greek philosopher with current people who have faced similar situations, as well as, the strategies developed to solve them. In this paper, we pretend to argue the compatibility of classic narrations and modern technology and its relevance to character education, proposing an educational application for teenagers based on a virtuous model: the Greek Socrates.

Dr. Arden Ali - Can Comedy Inspire Moral Change?

Few people think of stand-up comedians as bastions of moral enlightenment. As entertaining as they may be, there is usually nothing morally insightful about the kind of observational musings that characterize much of stand-up comedy. And when stand-up comedians do address contentious moral issues, they are often accused of undermining moral progress by making sexist, racist, homophobic, or otherwise insensitive jokes. I am inclined to agree that some, or even most, of stand-up comedy is either morally-corrosive or banal in these ways. My topic in this essay concerns the possibility of morally-instructive comedy. Could stand-up comedy contribute to moral development?
There is reason to doubt that comedy could play any role in moral development. Threats to one's moral outlook are rarely funny. That is, successful jokes appear to reflect one's existing values rather than challenge them. For example, a racist joke will appeal to someone who embraces racist values, but it will fall flat among those who abhor racism. A joke about the regulation of guns in the United States will be met with applause from those with liberal American values, but it will generate resentment from those with conservative American values. Comedy seems poised to reinforce or reflect one's values, whatever they may be.
The problem above suggests a model. Comedy might contribute to moral development by serving as a tool for self-knowledge; in particular, comedy could provide knowledge about one's own values. By responding honestly to a joke, someone might learn about their values, and in the light of this knowledge, decide to change them. But this seems odd. First of all, no one is expected to engage in this kind of reflection after hearing a joke. I gather that someone who did self-criticize in this way would be accused of missing the point of comedy altogether. But, even more importantly, this model would misrepresent the relationship between the comedian and her audience. The comedian is trying to elicit her audience's laughter. If the comedian's success could (in principle) signal a moral failing on the part of her audience, one would wonder how the proper context for comedy could ever be achieved.
Might comedy contribute to moral education just as novels, songs, and paintings do? Many philosophers believe these other forms of art inspire moral development. They deepen moral understanding by providing new examples, viewpoints, concepts, and conceptual schemes. It is possible that comedy might use the same mechanisms to achieve the same ends. But notice that novelists, songwriters, and artists who inspire moral change usually make a concerted effort to do it. This transmission of moral knowledge is one of their goals. In contrast, most comedians would loathe the title of moral educator. Indeed I suspect they would reject the idea that they are trying to do anything but make their audience laugh.
I think that stand-up comedy can distinctively contribute to moral development. Its contribution is not mediated through self-reflection, nor does it require that comedians intend to educate their audiences. When comedy does make a contribution, it does not transmit moral knowledge, nor does it (always) provide new concepts or conceptual schemes. Rather, comedians contribute to moral development by exercising the faculties that underlie their audience's capacity for moral understanding. In particular, comedians can make their audiences commiserate with them. I argue that the limits of one's capacity for commiseration can impose limits on one's capacity for moral understanding. As someone exercises the capacity for commiseration, they widen the scope of their ability to commiseration, and thereby deepen the kind of moral understanding that they can achieve.
Can't other forms of art help someone develop the ability to commiserate? I doubt that comedy is the only way to develop this skill. But I do think that stand-up comedy can be especially good at it. This is in part because of the distinctive kind of intimacy that comedians develop with their audience. The most effective comedians appear to be having an unscripted conversation with their audience. They skillfully tailor their movements, voices, and facial expressions to manipulate how their audience feels throughout their segment. Further, it is easiest to feel connected to those that make us laugh or laugh with us. So it is no surprise that the funniest people are the most capable of soliciting and developing our ability to commiserate. In that way, comedians can make us better people, even if they are only trying to make us laugh.

Tom Baker - In Those Shoes‽ moral learning from fiction and the importance of being excitable

I defend the moral learning thesis (MLT) that we can learn morally from fiction, provided we approach it in the right way. My focus will be on the the role of Character Traits (CTs) in fiction and our deliberation thereof. The standard reaction from a reader of literature is usually in support of the possibility; of course, we gain moral facts from fiction that is one of the key aspects of novels and parables. The slightly more considered response to such a claim is usually to question the possibility of learning anything from fiction; after all it is apparent that it is not true and not intended to be taken as literal assertion of fact. In addition to such prima facie considerations there is also a considerable
amount of scepticism based on social psychological findings which are taken to suggest that either (i) CTs don’t exist and/or (ii) their role in determining action is overestimated by proponents of MLT. Thus, according to this situationist view, engagement with fiction that focuses on CTs will only result in perpetuation of inaccurate folk psychological, moral theory. Further studies on transportation and belief uptake have been interpreted as suggesting that any educative outcome from fiction is likely to be temporary and worryingly inaccurate.
Having provided an outline of the traditional views supporting MLT, such as Carroll’s and Nussbaum’s, I argue that the social psychological findings supporting situationism suggest only limitations in certain MLT arguments and should be taken as suggesting a framework for fiction to work within if it is to teach morally. Second, I discuss the studies on transportation and belief uptake, which I argue suggest further conditions for how we must conduct ourselves if we are to learn morally from fiction.
Finally, I sketch a hybrid approach to aesthetic appreciation which I argue is best placed
to meet the conditions for successful moral learning from fiction.

Michaela Bariselli - Educating with Humour: the Educative Sides of Humorous Literature.

This paper provides an account of the educative character of humorous literature and individuates two educative features that are unique to it.

In the first instance, the well-known practice of using humour as social corrective is analysed in order to capture the mechanism at its heart. Firstly, the view that attributes to humour a corrective character due to its ability to elicit feeling of superiority is rejected. On the contrary, humour is analysed by using the widely accepted framework provided by Incongruity Theory (Carroll, 2014). This paper shows that the corrective character of humour derives from its ability to hold together two images. Humour is often used by literary authors to invite their readers to think about characters or situations as something which merit disparagement. They do so either by highlighting some of their incongruous features or by associating it with something considered of less value.

Secondly, this paper shows that the link between education and humour is not restricted to corrective humour. To do this, it shows that there is humour that is not corrective. It then argues that humour that is not corrective has nonetheless an educative character. Indeed, humour always invites its receiver to compare and contrast different images and there lies its ability to educate.

Finally, this paper explores two possible ways in which humour can be seen as having a distinctive educative side. On the one side, by looking at the work of Vlastos on Socratic Irony (1991), this paper suggests that humour is distinctively educative in its ability to engage readers in processes where they actively take part in practice of questioning. On this view, the educative value of humorous literature does not consist only in what the author wants to convey or in what the book wants to teach, but also in the process that the reader undertakes. On the other side, it suggests that humour is educative in its ability to engage the reader with issues that lie at the borders of language and thought. By looking at examples taken from Samuel Beckett’s works, this paper shows the ability of humour to reflect and capture issues that are linked with the nature of language. Non-humorous language could capture these issues only at the cost of losing some of their aspects.   

Dr. Julia Beauquel - How Art Makes Us Better

Following Aristotle, we maintain that developing some aesthetic virtues (understood as dispositions to perceive and respond appropriately to some aesthetic properties) is not a strict matter of feeling or emotion but that it contributes to deepen our understanding. After Nelson Goodman, we cannot draw a radical distinction between emotion and cognition, or between science and art anymore: understanding how something functions as an artwork is a cognitive as well as an emotional process. 

Relying on this aristotelian and goodmanian tradition of thought, I will suggest that, since aesthetic virtues are plausibly not distinct from intellectual virtues, and probably closely related – in a way that remains to determine – to moral ones, art, as a creative activity and an object of appreciation, widely contributes to the flourishing of human nature and character. This entails, on the one hand, a certain anthropology underlying human being’s “double nature” – both natural and cultural – and, on the other hand, a cognitivist conception of art that refuses to distinguish between sensibility and rationality. 

Though my main illustration of artistic practice will be contemporary dance as a “non-narrative” and often collective way to considerably refine self conscience and the awareness of others, I will propose a wider view of art when addressing artistic interpretation as a process of understanding. 

Firstly, concerning dance practice, we will see that the art form does not only allow to improve one’s own technical correction and interpretive rightness in achieving a sophisticated sense of nuance, but also to develop the perception and understanding of other dancers’ movements, gestures, actions and feelings. Dancing alone and in a group is technically demanding; it certainly takes some admirable skills and (among other virtues) some courage and perseverance. But that is not all. The right execution or the successful performance is not reducible to technical perfection; it requires openness, humility and the will to be, with other performers, in service of a choreographic work rather than to shine as the main star of the show. “Becoming the dance” only is possible through abnegation and a capacity to discipline the immoderate tendencies of the ego.

Secondly, in reflecting upon the merits of our epistemological relation to art, I will refute a pejorative “deontological approach” to interpretation deploring the impossibility to find methods or rules of the justified interpretation. I will defend instead what I call “an ethics of the wise interpreter” (highlighting his habits, qualities and excellences that contribute to the accomplishment of his nature). Against the numerous objections to interpretation – according to which it is an ambiguous concept, an unfinished process, a subjective and relative point of view and arbitrary practice – I will oppose understanding to knowledge, confront rational persons to irrational individuals, substitute a pluralism of correct versions to the unattainable truth and finally highlight the necessity and possibility to find plausible relations between art works to properly appreciate them. In that approach, what matters most may be to cultivate good habits, to be regularly in contact with the art world, to have a sense of responsibility towards it, to try rendering justice to the art works, to be open to the unknown and novelty, eager to discover and learn but also capable of discernment. And these aspects, I claim, contribute to becoming a better person.

Dr. Scott Berman & Ilene Berman - Vulnerability and Moral Formation in Arts Relationships

We propose to examine the role that socially-engaged art has on the morally-relevant
features of the multiple relationships between the artists and the communities within which
they work. One of us is a practicing artist and one of us is a professional philosopher, both
for over 25 years. The artist has had an arts practice for the last 5 years in an area of St.
Louis that has suffered severe economic neglect for at least the last 75 years. It is located
within the footprint of the Grand Center Arts District – “St. Louis’s epicenter for the arts” –
but they do no arts programming north of Delmar, the dividing line in St. Louis between
white and black, investment and neglect. The arts practice does at least two things: it
celebrates the art that is already happening in that area and it critiques the art institution that
chooses to ignore the area in its own footprint but uses it to get funding from foundations
that target underserved populations.
The arts practice of the artist consists of a constructed art studio on a vending tricycle that
arrives in the neighborhood each week to make art on the street, at a seniors centre and at a
youth activity centre. Over the years, the neighborhood artists have developed a heightened
understanding of themselves as creators and an awareness of their work’s political power.
The founding artist has developed her understanding of the role that shared vulnerability
plays in the success of the mobile studio.
A focus of the philosopher’s work for over 25 years has been on the role of the intellect in
moral development, specifically, examining the Platonic/Aristotelian model of nonintellectual
habituation of moral character of the young as compared to the Socratic
intellectualist model.
The focus of our talk will be on the moral formation of socially-engaged artists and art
institutions. Too often, artists and art institutions think of their work as being “for” the
community. We will show the importance of mutual vulnerability for socially-engaged artists
and art institutions that have, as part of their mission, a stated intention to work with
vulnerable populations and how an absence of vulnerability on the part of the initiating
artist/art institution separates them from their community and impedes their own moral
formation and social impact. We will argue that trust, a central concept in moral formation
and in morality in general, can only be achieved when both sides of a relationship allow
themselves to be vulnerable to each other. Moreover, forming those moral relationships that
involve trust do not happen simply with repeated exposure to each other. Rather, each
partner in process needs to be making correct inferences, that is, using reason, if there is to
be any progress in that process at all. We argue that this provides evidence for the
intellectualist explanation of moral development.
We think that a joint presentation with a practicing artist and a professional philosopher
would be a unique and compelling addition to the conference.

Stephanie Briggs - Bigger Than Me

Rising numbers of children are experiencing poor mental health and emotional well-being and young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, are leaving school without the transferable skills required to successfully enter employment and achieve their potential. 

School may be the only setting where a young person experiences the arts, has the opportunity to explore their creative talents and is exposed to the wide range of creative industries and career paths available.   

My research into promoting young people’s well-being and attainment through resilience-building and character education took me to the USA where I observed good practice in schools which focus explicitly on the development of character. The schools I visited adopted a whole school ethos, embedding character education across the curriculum and the arts were central to the delivery of this model. From artwork which prominently displayed the school’s values, to the therapeutic nature of art classes which enabled pupils not only to learn techniques but also to express themselves and represent their experiences through their finished creation, to the mindfulness and mastery honed through learning how to play a musical instrument. Participation in the arts was a key component of this holistic approach to education.

The title of this presentation, Bigger Than Me refers to a project developed by Amy Jared, a dedicated Visual Arts Teacher who I met at Russell Byers Charter School, an independent school in central Philadelphia. The project involved students learning about influential people who had contributed big ideas to their city. The children’s artwork depicting each of the historical landmarks was collated in an inspirational book which is today sold in the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s shop.        

To remove art and cultural studies from the school timetable is to overlook a wealth of opportunities to develop young people’s emotional literacy, empathy and moral judgement and for them to recognise the strengths, talents and accomplishments of others, both historical and modern-day figures. As demonstrated by many alternative curriculum providers in the UK, the arts provide an effective medium to re-engage learners, capturing their interest and imagination in order to generate a sense of curiosity and a love of learning, which can impact their commitment to education.

Emerging Cultural Education Partnerships in cities such as Sheffield, recognise the need for cross-sector collaboration and seek to build connections between schools, art practitioners and cultural organisations in order to promote access to the arts and highlight the benefits of arts involvement on children and young people’s well-being and development.     

Daniel Dennis - The Art of Mutually Beneficial Interactions

I assume we should see the world as such that we can interact in ways which are mutually beneficial. (This is argued for elsewhere). How can we do this?

There are two ways. First, we can see persons (present and future) as sharing the goal of promoting mankind’s flourishing and survival (cf Samuel Scheffler’s Death and the afterlife). To promote this shared goal is to act mutually beneficially. This is not discussed here.

The paper focuses on the second way: where one responds to the person(s) one is interacting with, at each moment modifying the interaction such as to make that interaction as good as possible. There is one interaction shared by both (all) participants in it. Its nature is such that if one is sufficiently open minded and engaged, adequately cognises and understands, and has sufficiently good taste and judgement, then the better the interaction the better one’s higher pleasure. This relies on the traditional distinction between higher and lower pleasures and like Mill sees lower pleasures as comparatively worthless. Thus, if one is faced with a choice between acts A1 and A2, then if A1 makes the interaction better then (given the aforementioned state of mind etc) it gives better higher pleasure to oneself and to one’s interactor than if one had done A2. Friendly, loving, educational, productive, creative interactions can easily be seen as like this.

There is no reason to think that interactions between persons that are mediated by an artwork (the artist-audience interaction) are qualitatively different from any other interaction between persons: they are on the same continuum. As are higher ‘moral-aesthetic’ pleasures produced by them. Shaftesbury is a prominent example of a philosopher who argues for this. And as Nussbaum suggests, one’s interacting creatively in everyday life is analogous to the jazz player responding at each moment to the playing of the other band members, modifying his playing to make the total sound created as aesthetically pleasing as possible.

One may learn to get better at modifying one’s interactions through paying attention to exemplars (eg Bach, Ghandi), reflection (e.g. theorising about the medium of interaction – eg music, social situations; imagining how previous interactions could have gone better) and practice. Nevertheless, in the arts and daily life there are no rules or theory which one can simply follow to generate the best interactions. Rather at the moment when the individual jazz player is modifying his blowing, or the painter modulating his brush stroke, or the converser is adjusting his intonation or briefly pausing before the punchline, we need to postulate a moral-aesthetic sense which is guiding him. This is improved through engagement with the arts. As are associated skills, understanding, taste, quality of attention and focus on the shared interaction rather than arbitrary feelings and desires. As are appreciation of the possibility and moral-aesthetic value of complex modes of interaction (e.g. MacIntyre on the portrayal of constancy in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park). Thus, through engagement with artistic shared interactions one can become better at creating mutually beneficial shared interactions in everyday life.  

Dr. Laura D'Olimpio - Narrative artworks, critical engagement and moral education

Drawing upon Aristotle and Martha Nussbaum, Andrew Peterson and I have argued that we can, through imaginative and compassionate engagement with the stories of diverse others, learn to adopt a moral attitude (D’Olimpio and Peterson, 2018). We can practise this caring disposition when hearing about the experiences of others, even – and perhaps even more so – if these others are fictional characters. One way we can learn, morally, from narrative artworks, is by practising compassionate responses that eventually becomes a rational habit ingrained in our character. Yet when we acknowledge the emotional impact narrative artworks may have upon those receiving them, ethicists may question whether the affects produced are appropriate, or virtuous, or educationally significant. Given that the creation and reception of narrative art is a socially situated activity, there is a need to focus on the critical attitude of the spectator as well as the moral messages of the medium. While there are many different stories being told in contemporary culture, the focus on the critical thinker, the interpreter of the narrative, is vital.

I will argue that compassion is an important part of a moral attitude one should adopt when making ethical decisions. I will also claim that moral agents must be critical of what they see and hear. Critical perspectivism is a moral attitude I defend that requires a moral agent be both critical and compassionate. The idea that we can learn from aesthetically and ethically good narrative artworks has been explored and supported, yet this claim is narrow and only defends the inclusion of certain artworks as central to the educative curriculum or moral philosophy. The majority of people, including children, engage with mass artworks and thus moral educators have an important role to play in supporting young viewers to be critical as well as caring. The balance required or the weighting given to each is to be determined contextually, by the moral agent, in a particular time and place. Critical perspectivism allows for such situational discernment. In this way, the moral agent uses their rational mind and their imagination alongside rational emotions such as compassion when ascertaining the ethically relevant features of a scenario. Such appropriate responses can only be learnt through practice, as it is habituated. In this way, narrative artworks provide good training grounds for the habituation of morally and critically engaged spectatorship.

Given that narrative artworks can be evocative and powerful - for either a positive or detrimental effect - we need to teach young people to be critically engaged with the scenarios, characters, and emotions evoked by such works. I shall defend this claim with reference to popular teen novels and films such as the Twilight and Hunger Games franchises. Critically discussing appropriate responses to such fictions in safe educational environments offers young people the important opportunity to reflect upon, and discuss, such works and associated ethical dilemmas.

Matthew Farrelly - The Poetry of Moral Perception in Plato, Dewey, and Wordsworth

In an age of ever-increasing distraction, moral educators face very real challenges in maintaining students’ attention in classrooms of all grade levels. Student inattention is a far deeper problem than those touching productivity outputs and maintaining proper respect toward teachers and peers (however important).
Unconstrained habit formation with digital technology threaten to further detach us from unmediated
experience with the concrete reality of the now, here, this. Helping students recover their innate capacity to attend to the world and their experience in relationship to it is foundational for moral educators to build a holistic virtue education.
Ideally, students possess the capability of closely attending to what is presented to their immediate
experience (whether a text, dialogue, or an immersive experience in nature). Although this ability to attend could itself be characterized as a virtue, virtue is only more fully realized when the student can begin to have moral perceptions of what they experience. Qualitatively, moral perception goes beyond mere experience insofar as the student better perceives how to act in response to what she experiences. On this view, moral perceptions form the basis of just action. What can moral educators do to strengthen (or even rehabilitate) this innate capacity?
Considering the moral domain of environmental education specifically, it is true that student awareness and activism for environmental protections and stewardship has increased. However, it remains to be seen how well students are equipped to have rich personal experiences in nature that transform their ability to perceive it and their responsibility to the natural world. Drawing on Plato’s poetic theory, John Dewey’s theory of art as experience, and English Romantic poet William Wordsworth, I argue that the art of poetry has a unique power to (re)train students’ perceptual capacities in such a way that allows them to experience the world with greater moral acuity. Although Plato does express concern for poetry’s ability to shape students’ perception in ways that could lead to moral decay, it was precisely poetry’s “charm” that led him to encourage its use, so long as it proved beneficial to both the individual human and the city’s “constitution.” Assuming the poet’s own virtue (which Plato especially helps us navigate), poetry’s aesthetic power is its ability to help readers/listeners perceive the nature of the world in whatever state it is, which determines how human persons should respond. For Dewey, the “germ” of art is located in even the most simple of human experiences with nature, and that created art, including poetry, is the mature product of that human creative impulse that arises from aesthetic experience of the natural world. Here, we find the touchpoint between Dewey, Plato, and Wordsworth. Although each were operating under different
metaphysical assumptions, they each argued that humans had latent capacities to experience the world in this way. Wordsworth saw poetic art as the creative communication of that experience in which the artistpoet fashions their holistic experience and perception of the world and its needs in relationship with humanity’s needs that promotes the mutual flourishing of both. In so doing, the artist-poet invites us to train our moral perception for the same.

Prof. Patrick Frierson - Character Development Through Art: A Montessori perspective

In this paper, I defend the claim that arts are among the best means of intellectual and moral character formation.  I start with a defense of Maria Montessori’s conception of “character” as the tendency to seek perfection through focused and attentive work that one chooses for oneself.  I then highlight several different ways in which the practice of making art provides an occasion for the development and exercise of character.  In some cases, the low bar for entry – for instance, in free form drawing or coloring – is an advantage of art, in that students can immediately begin focused and engaging artistic work.  In other cases – musical instruments or advanced visual or performance arts – the rigorous and demanding norms governing excellence in art is an advantage, by providing increasingly stringent standards of perfection to which students can aspire.  From these general observations, I turn to discuss Montessori’s own approach to art in her pedagogy, highlighting the value of art for the cultivation of character, the importance of beauty in education, the ways that art and “traditional” disciplines (reading, writing, arithmetic, science, etc) feed into one another, and the value of “art” as a stand-alone discipline.  The discussion of art provides a context for explaining Montessori’s approach to character education more broadly, including the central roles of individual student choice, concentrated work, and acquisition of culture for the development of character.  In the context of this approach, I highlight some specific pedagogical practices for teaching art in order to best facilitate the development of character in this Montessori sense. 

Karleen Gardner - Fostering Empathy and Global Understanding Through the Visual Arts

In our increasingly divisive world, polarized by issues of politics, racial inequities, income disparities, and immigration policies, it becomes clear that our failures to understand other people’s feelings are exacerbating prejudice, conflict, and inequality. If we wish to develop, not only a more equal society, but a happier and more creative one, we will need to look outside ourselves and attempt to identify with the experiences of others. This critical skill is called empathy, which “has the power to transform relationships, from the personal to the political, and create fundamental social change” (Kznaric, Roman, Empathy: Why It Matters, and How to Get It.)

Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) posits that art museums can play a vital role in helping people understand each other in an increasingly connected yet fragmented world. Mia  holds a belief in the power of art—and the responsibility of art museums—to spark curiosity and creativity, connect people across cultural differences, and engage our individual and shared values. Art museums, with our collections filled with the stories of humanity, are well poised to play a vital role in helping people understand each other.

In 2017, Mia established the Center for Empathy and the Visual Arts (CEVA), and is taking a leading role in collaborating with fellow museum colleagues as well as researchers, scholars, content experts, educators to research and explore best practices for fostering empathy through engagement with art and to share these finding with the field. Our research focuses on how object-based engagement can be a catalyst for fostering empathy and compassion among visitors of all ages. With a global collection, spanning 5,000 years, Mia is developing and experimenting with practices that engage visitors/students with art and use critical thinking, communication, and visual literacy skills to foster values and attitudes that are crucial for the 21st century: 

•           Openness to new opportunities and ways of thinking

•           Self-awareness about identity and culture, and respect for differences

•           Appreciation of the value multiple perspectives

•           Empathy and Compassion

Partnerships with University of California, Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and Social Interaction Lab, and others such as World Savvy, a national education nonprofit, and Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero have informed Mia’s educational philosophy and gallery teaching pedagogy, resulting in new practices for fostering wonder, empathy, and compassion among visitors and students.

Using objects from Mia’s global art collection and pairing these with specific teaching frameworks and thinking routines, I will also discuss how engagement with art can nurture empathic and compassionate values and new ways of thinking.

The ultimate goal of this approach is to use art as a catalyst fostering 21st century global citizens—people who respect and appreciate different perspectives, ideas, and cultures, and connect the local to the global.

Frits Gavertsson - The Cost of Conviction in John Williams's Stoner

I argue that given a plausible reading of John Williams’s Stoner (1965) the novel throws light on the demands and cost of pursuing a strategy for self-realisation—most famously articulated in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics Bk. 10 but having an important antecedent in Plato’s tripartite division of the soul—which seeks unification of one’s life through the adoption of the single exclusive end of contemplation. The novel does not explicitly argue either for or against such a strategy but rather vividly depicts its difficulties, appeal, and limitations thus leaving the ultimate evaluation up to the reader. 

Dr. Liz Gulliford - The Word Thief and The Role of Allegory in Conveying Moral (and Other) Truths

An allegory is an extended metaphor. As such, allegories use figurative language to allude to deeper meanings. This means that they can be used to convey complex concepts in an accessible way. For this reason, allegories are particularly well-suited to communicating complicated ideas to young people. Far from the aesthetic purposes of the arts having little to do with moral value or moral concerns, this particular literary genre can be used to enable learners to grasp complex ethical ideas and to be inspired to acquire virtuous character.

One example of the use of allegory in virtue education is the Narnian Virtues project at the University of Leeds.  C. S. Lewis’ Narnia novels ultimately show the triumph of good over evil. Other famous allegories include Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. The play is manifestly about the Salem witch trials. However, its latent meaning is the blacklisting of Communists in the USA.  Political allegories arise when it might be difficult to speak plainly about current affairs.

My short story, The Word Thief uses symbolic fictional figures to communicate to a young audience the significance of Wittgenstein’s plea for the importance of ordinary language philosophy. It was written during a seminar, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, held from 8th – 15th March 2014 at the University of Tubingen, Germany. Much to our initial shock, participants were told on Day One of the symposium that the culmination of the week’s seminar would be a public ceremony at which each of us would need to convey the essence of our academic papers to an entirely lay audience.

In the story, the word thief (characterised as a bird) comes in the night to take away a village’s virtue-based vocabulary. She substitutes the words she finds growing on the word trees with ones she believes are better and more erudite. One of the children of the village (a boy called Ludwig) leads his own personal crusade to get the villagers’ words back. The story encapsulates the idea that ‘experts’ should hold no privileged place when it comes to defining the terms of language as it is actually used. The focus of the story is words associated with the virtues (of gratitude and hope in particular), though the moral of the story is relevant beyond purely ethical vocabulary.

Interestingly, and as is often the case with allegory (which in many ways functions like the famous Rorschach inkblot test) other meanings have been discerned in this story which I had not had foreseen. For instance, an Irish reader and an Indian reader independently supposed the story was an allegory of the attempt to silence indigenous languages imposed by colonialism – raising an entirely new set of moral questions. Allegory can be used to good effect to stimulate the moral imagination of young people, which is in itself an important element of character education. To whom do words ‘belong’, who has the right to use them and to what purpose?

Kristian Guttesen - Poetry Catching Emotions and the Scope of Character Education: Enabling discernment beyond the visible spectrum

In the first part of Philosophical Investigations (Wittgenstein, 1974), Wittgenstein displays his method and tries to decipher the use of language. Throughout his career, he develops a philosophical approach and a way of thinking that can be interpreted as an educational method.

This presentation will consist of 3 sections:

A.Wittgenstein's Method and Use of Language

B.The relation of Language and the Arts

C.The relation of Language and Poetry – and implications for the education of personal character.

As a starting point, the presentation asks: 

             1) What is a poet?

Three subsequent questions the presentation asks, are:

             2) What does poetry do?,

             3) How does it do it?; and,

             4) To what end does it do it?

The last question, in particular, will convey the scope of character education within the relation of language and poetry.

According to Søren Kierkegaard, a poet is '[a]n unhappy person who conceals profound anguish in his heart but whose lips are so formed that as sighs and cries pass over them they sound like beautiful music' (Kierkegaard, 2000, p. 38). The last part of this quotation is an example of an act, which as so many cultural phenomena, according to Wittgenstein, can only be shown but not described.

In this presentation, I will explore the poetic element contained in this sentiment. Furthermore, I will compare this observation with Wittgenstein's belief that the study of philosophy, in and of itself, can only 'enable you to talk with some plausibility about some abstruse questions of logic, etc., [but] does not improve your thinking about the important questions of everyday life, […] it does not make you more conscientious than any […] journalist in the use of the DANGEROUS phrases […] people use for their own ends.' (Malcolm, 2001, p. 93).

Here, Wittgenstein’s remark is made in reference to a discussion with Norman Malcolm on whether something such as the British ‘national character’ would permit an evil act that could be justified for a greater good. This, I hold, suggests that while philosophy would in such a case perhaps offer a deeper understanding of ‘national character’, there is a deeper layer to the individual character (consisting in virtues and vices and personal states of character), and that this something can be identified as ‘shown’ (in Wittgensteinian terms) through the display of emotions.

In other words, Wittgenstein insinuates that philosophy, in and of itself, does not make one a better person. Something more is needed, and I argue that poetry may, at least, push us in the right direction by catching emotions within its net. If that is true, various implications follow about the practice of effective character education, and some of those will be elicited in my presentation.

Prof. Michael Hand - Teaching the Justification for Morality: a role for narrative artworks

Common morality comprises, at a minimum, prohibitions on killing and causing harm, stealing and extorting, lying and cheating, and requirements to treat others fairly, keep one’s promises and help those in need. We all have good reason to hold ourselves and each other to these basic moral standards: their currency in society effectively averts the breakdowns in cooperation and outbreaks of conflict to which human social groups are permanently liable. A central task of moral education is, therefore, to bring it about that children subscribe to the standards of common morality and understand what justifies their subscription.

Teaching the justification for morality raises some interesting pedagogical challenges. The features of the human condition that combine to generate conflict and undermine cooperation – rough equality, limited sympathy and moderate scarcity of resources – are carefully examined in works of moral philosophy (by, for example, Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, H.L.A. Hart, G.J. Warnock, John Rawls and J.L. Mackie); but such treatments are not readily accessible to large numbers of children and young people. Giving children a vivid sense of the circumstances that threaten to make human life ‘solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short’, in a way that brings home to them the necessity of morality, is unlikely to be achieved by philosophical exposition alone.

I will argue that moral educators can profitably draw on narrative artworks to assist them in this task. William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies, and its various film and stage adaptations, offers a particularly powerful portrayal of a social group unravelling under the pressures of scarcity, competition, envy and distrust. The rapid descent into savagery of ordinary boys marooned on an uninhabited island illustrates, accessibly and compellingly, the problem morality exists to solve. That makes Golding’s story an invaluable resource in our efforts to help children see why they should hold themselves and each other to basic moral standards.

Dr. Stuart Hanscomb - What Would David Do? Critical Thinking Virtues and Vices in Twelve Angry Men

‘It’s not easy to stand alone against the ridicule of others … I respect his motives’ (Juror 9 on Juror 8)


Critical thinking can be understood as a set of abilities concerning reasoning and argumentation, supported by various epistemic and social virtues. These virtues include open-mindedness, commitment to truth, flexibility of thought, perseverance, metacognition, humility, and what have been called ‘group-deliberative virtues’ (Aikin and Clanton, 2010): ‘deliberative friendliness’, ‘deliberative wit’, sincerity, temperance, and courage.
The stage play and film Twelve Angry Men is set in a jury-room in a New York law court in 1954 where an ethnic teenager is on trial for the murder of his father. The plot involves a lengthy and complex dialogue in which one of the jurors (Juror 8, named ‘Davis’ as we find out at the very end of the film) confronts the prejudices, poor reasoning and under-developed argumentation skills of most of the rest of the jury. From a critical thinking perspective the relevance of the film lies not just with Juror 8’s ability to formulate and challenge arguments, but with his capacity to stay calm, tolerate uncertainty, not jump to conclusions, resist rhetoric and remain independent from the pressure of the majority (which often takes the form of personal attacks and bullying). This contributes to his ‘ethotic authority’, a form of social power based on a person’s broadly virtuous or ‘good’ character, rather than on expertise or position. From an educational perspective it is hard to find, or even imagine, a better candidate for a critical thinking role model.
Relevant virtues can be found among the other members of the jury, but the conspicuous flaws (vices) these characters also exhibit limit their ability to reason effectively and serve to highlight Juror 8’s overall excellence. These vices include dogmatism (Jurors 3, 10), ‘unwillingness to engage in argumentation’ (Aberdein, 2016, p.4) (Juror 7), disrespect and bullying (Juror 3), hubristic pride (Juror 4), low tolerance of uncertainty (several), and absence of inquisitiveness and wit (most).
I will argue that it is the richness of context Twelve Angry Men provides that allows it to bring to life and do justice to the multiple facets of critical thinking, including epistemic virtues. Reasoning, reasonableness and their opposites are placed in sharp focus by the highly recognisable behaviour of the characters, and a complex, visual narrative enables an appreciation of the constructive and unconstructive interpersonal (including non-verbal) elements of group deliberations. Reasons will also be suggested (after Sartre, 1947; Nussbaum, 1990; Kearney, 2002) for why works of fiction can have educational and communicative advantages over real life examples of argumentation (such as those that might be found on shows like Question Time), and a case is made for film being the optimal medium. One reason is shared experience, and another concerns the role of non-verbal communication. For example: The implicit ad baculums (arguing using threats) expressed by Juror 3; Irritation and superiority expressed by Juror 4, and Glibness and boredom expressed by Jurors 7 and 12.

Prof. Atli Hardarson - Democratic Schools and Practical Wisdom

The wrap of this paper is made from three different strands of thought: (1) Aristotle’s account of practical wisdom in book VI of The Nicomachean Ethics, (2) Dewey’s plea for more democratic schools in Democracy and Education, and (3) Maxine Green’s idea, expounded in The Dialectic of Freedom, that ‘a teacher in search of his/her own freedom may be the only kind of teacher who can arouse young persons to go in search of their own.’ The woof is spun out of current research on the use of a medieval saga as a vehicle of character education in three Icelandic schools.

The first half of the paper presents an interpretation of what Aristotle said about practical wisdom in Book VI of The Nicomachean Ethics. The main conclusions are that:

a) Aristotle described practical wisdom as an intellectual ability that good people acquire, to some extent, typically rather late in life, provided they enjoy ample opportunities to learn from their elders. On his account, acquiring practical wisdom is a lifelong quest, and this very pinnacle of moral development requires, not only cooperation between children and adults, but also between young adults and people of more advanced age. (It is at least plausible, that Aristotle held a view similar to Plato’s, namely that young persons are enlightened by communication with older people, who are also learners and progressing towards maturity of character.)

b) According to Aristotle, learning to become practically wise is stunted by wickedness, and also by wretchedness, i.e. lack of opportunities to deliberate and exercise moral agency. What he says, about practical wisdom, involves the notion, that in order to become practically wise, people need both moral goodness and freedom.

The arguments of the second half provide reasons to think that:

c) Aristotle’s account applies to teachers, no less than other people. So, teachers who enjoy freedom, and opportunities to use their own wits to get ahead with their work, are more likely to support their students’ moral development than teachers who work under conditions that Aristotle described as ‘inimical to excellence’ (Pol, 1328b).

d) The conditions that enable teachers to teach practical wisdom have much in common with the type of workplace democracy that Dewey advocated in Democracy and Education. The crux of his argument was meant to show that teachers are too rarely free from the dictation of external authorities. These conditions are also conductive to the self-realization that Greene wrote about.

Granted that Aristotle was right, or almost right, about moral development, highly-regulated schools, where teachers have little control over their work, are not likely to foster practical wisdom. If we take his message to heart, we should, first and foremost, think about how to steer clear of wretched work conditions, where teachers’ moral agency is narrowly circumscribed.

In the light of what Aristotle said about practical wisdom, we can see why character education, through open dialogue about the conduct of fictional characters, calls for the types of freedom and autonomy Dewey and Greene were concerned about. 

Richard Hughes - Judging the Judge: Applying virtue, vice and verse to Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian

Taking inspiration from the Jubilee Centre’s Virtue, Vice and Verse pack, which is designed to develop the virtue literacy of schoolchildren through analysing such texts as the Wild West narrative poem The Shooting of Dan McGrew, this paper intends to examine the moral lessons situated within the amoral narratives of Cormac McCarthy’s Westerns. It is my hope that a discussion of Blood Meridian and The Border Trilogy could develop the ‘knowledge and understanding of the character virtues’[1] within adult readers, just as The Shooting of Dan McGrew did for the schoolchildren who engaged with the Virtue, Vice and Verse project.

I will begin by looking at how the ‘self-made and self-sustaining men’[2] in McCarthy’s Westerns are frequently depicted as having highly developed Intellectual and Performance Virtues.[3] For example, Judge Holden in Blood Meridian epitomises the Intellectual Virtues, frequently waxing lyrical with his philosophical reflections, indulging his warped curiosity by cataloguing artefacts in his notebooks before destroying them, and exercising masterful resourcefulness, producing gunpowder by mixing urine and volcanic sulphur. ‘The kid’ on the other hand typifies the Performance Virtues; his determination, resilience and perseverance sustain him through his violent youth. I aim to explore how Blood Meridian deftly illustrates the danger of highly developed Intellectual and Performance Virtues that are unrestrained by the Moral and Civic Virtues. Furthermore, how these characters act as immoral exemplars that provide a blueprint of how not to act if you want to live a virtuous life.

Secondly, I intend to argue that one of the lessons to be drawn from The Border Trilogy is the potential pitfall of outdated (mis)understandings of virtuous behaviour. The notions of character and virtue have been criticised as being conservative, old fashioned and individualistic.[4] Though these criticisms were effectively debunked by Kristján Kristjánsson in his article ‘Ten Myths About Character, Virtue and Virtue Education – Plus Three Well-Founded Misgivings’, I believe the grizzly fate of the protagonist, John Grady Cole, serves as a visceral and symbolic reminder of what character and virtue education should not be. For as Natasha Mayne puts it, the protagonist ‘John Grady Cole is brutally murdered trying to uphold a dangerously outdated sense of western honour’.[5]

It is my intention that this conference paper will be a synthesis of my current Masters by Research analysing the Westerns of Cormac McCarthy with my current employment at the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues.

 

[1] Jubilee Centre (2017) Virtue, Vice and Verse: Pupil Poetry Anthology, Birmingham: Jubilee Centre.

[2] Malewitz, R. (2009) ‘”Anything Can Be an Instrument": Misuse Value and Rugged Consumerism in Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men’, Contemporary Literature, Vol. 50, No. 4, p. 721.

[3] Jubilee Centre (2017) A Framework for Character Education in Schools, Birmingham: Jubilee Centre, p. 5.

[4] Kristjánsson, K. (2013) ‘Ten Myths About Character, Virtue and Virtue Education – Plus Three Well-Founded Misgivings’, British Journal of Educational Studies, vol. 61, no. 3, pp. 269-287.

[5] Mayne, N. (2001) ‘ As Far as the Eye Could See: Cormac McCarthy, Myth and Masculine Visions in the ‘New’ American West, Australasian Journal of American Studies, vol. 20, no. 2, p. 4.

Dr. Martina Kasternova - Poetry as 'Speaking Pictures' of Virtue: The genesis of Philip Sidney's renaissance poetics in the context of his intellectual correspondence

In the Elizabethan context, the Renaissance poet is traditionally perceived as a complex figure, an ideal person; not just the creator of fictional worlds but an outstanding rhetorician, a moral beacon, a learned intellectual in art and literary culture. Philip Sidney was such a poet: well educated, a courtier with good manners and an important aristocrat, soldier, envoy and politician. Indeed, Sidney’s poetry can be seen as assuming a wider significance beyond merely delighting the soul and intellect: not only did it offer a moral example for the Elizabethan age (important for its social and political impact) and a source of education to readers, it also contributed to the cultivation of a national and popular language.

 

Philip Sidney’s The Defence of Poesy represents a fundamental step in the poet’s attempt to establish poetry as the creator of its own world, one that he termed a “second nature”. Through his accentuating of poetry’s ability to create figures and imitate reality, its main value lies in its depiction of rhetorical images of moral truth. Similarly, Sidney’s poetics play an important role in establishing English poetry as a device of national, cultural and social autonomy. In this context, I explore the relation between Philip Sidney and the intellectual circle on the European continent. I examine the influence of that circle, which mainly comprised Protestant scholars and aristocrats, on Sidney’s poetry and look at how the Czech cultural milieu with which Sidney corresponded impacted on his work. I also argue that Sidney’s “grand tour” of the continent is crucial for the formation of his concept of poetry as an ideal form of learning designed to move the soul to virtue through beautiful and delightful images and to set a moral example, to hold up a mirror to society.

 

On 25th May 1572, Queen Elizabeth granted the then 17-year-old Sidney with permission to travel to Europe with the purpose of refining his knowledge of foreign countries and languages. As a nephew of the Earls of Warwick and Leicester and a graduate of Shrewsbury School and Christ Church, he was a young man on the cusp of realising his abilities at court and in both domestic and foreign politics. Initially, he was placed in the charge of Elizabeth’s important courtier and envoy Sir Francis Walsingham in Paris, where Sidney witnessed the St. Bartholomewʼs Day massacre. Sidney remained in Europe for three years, during which time he developed an active interest in political and religious affairs, particularly in connection with continental Protestantism. He met many of the leading aristocrats and intellectuals of the day, including the Czech milieu, during his “grand tour” of the continent. While at the Vienna court and probably with the help of the famous protestant scholar Hubert Languet, Sidney became acquainted with the important Czech astronomer and physician at the Emperorʼs court in Vienna, Tadeáš Hájek (Thaddeus Hagecius ab Hayek). Languetʼs letters and the fact that Hayekʼs three sons later studied at Christ Church under the patronage of the Sidneys (the eldest son Johannes became a companion of Philipʼs younger brother Robert and his future secretary Rowland Whyte) attest to the friendship between Sidney and Hayek. This paper will investigate this Sidney-Czech connection, particularly on the basis of Sidneyʼs correspondence – which involved the exchange of letters with Languet, Jean Lobett from the Strasbourg Academy and Robert Dorsett from Christ Church – and decipher its role in the genesis of Sidney’s poetry as a force of educating and stimulating character in pursuit of the common good.

Marcin Kazmierczak - The Discourse of the 'Metanoia' in Literature and Cinema Narrations as an Effective Moral Character Education Strategy

The purpose of this paper is to propose the analysis of certain narratives from the perspective of the discourse of the "metanoia" -a term used in the ancient Greek in the sense of moral regeneration- and the use of this discourse as a model of moral character development especially for the students who face difficulties believing that a way towards moral virtue could ever be possible in their lives.   

Chosen characters from literature are taken as an example of the process in which there seem to be a relatively established structure composed by four stages (previous situation; triggering event; change of mindset; behavioural outcome of the metanoia). Exploring this process is intended to help the students who are in particularly extenuating moral circumstances to realize that the human potential of moral greatness remains despite the circumstances and can be actualized through the process of metanoia, therefore giving them hope and desire to imitate the characters who go through this process. Regarding the students who are more advanced in moral literacy it may help them to be less judgmental with those who are in a more difficult situation and hopefully awake in them the desire to help to trigger the process in those more disfavoured ones.

The examples used to illustrate the process of the metanoia can be found in the literature of all times. The ones chosen for this paper, proceed from some of the great XIX century’s classics, such as The Death of Ivan Ilyich by L. Tolstoy, Crime and Punishment by F. Dostoyevsky, Les Miserables by V. Hugo, Quo Vadis by H. Sienkiewicz, as well as some contemporary works, such as Dies Irae by R. Brandstaetter, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest by K. Kesey or a quite recent juvenile literature bestseller, A Walk to Remember by N. Sparks

The second, more practical part of this paper, is dedicated to some cinema adaptations and the potential use of those in the case of some novels whose reading might result to be more demanding and perhaps, in some cases, even discouraging due to the large extension, anachronistic language, more sophisticated concepts introduced by the author or simply by a problem frequent nowadays, which is that of the lack of reading habits among the students. The point is to demonstrate that the partial reading of these novels and completing the process with the cinema adaptations, no matter how controversial it may sound to a purist, may be a more realistic and efficient proposal from the point of view of an effective moral character education. However, this can be fulfilled on the condition that those adaptations are carefully chosen, and the activities related with them well prepared. Some examples of such activities, together with the students’ evaluation results, carried out in the Universitat Abat Oliba CEU in Barcelona over the last decade, will be provided in the final part of this paper. 

Dr. Sarah Kennedy - Word Play: lyric reading as attentive practice

How does poetry speak to questions of character in education? How might we articulate the pedagogical function of reading and interpreting poetry in our contemporary, attention-starved moment? These questions frame my exploration of the place of poetry in the construction of personhood, and my reading of lyric poetry as codified play. For the individual reader, the practice of literary close-reading is foremost a matter of attention. Attending to what in a text is proffered, what deferred, and what subsumed or withheld is a critical method for generating what Marina Warner has called ‘Good knowledge’. She adds that ‘to be attentive to the point of self-forgetfulness also lightens discontents.’ This subsidiary claim hints at a crucial but under-examined relationship: that between the absorbed attentiveness of close-reading and play. In 1938 the Dutch historian and cultural theorist Johan Huizinga identified five characteristics of play, all of which, I suggest, are present in the experience of literary close-reading: Play is freedom; play is removed from the quotidian; play is an activity displaced from the ordinary in both time and space; play creates order but does not arise from it, and play is unconnected with material interests or extrinsic goals. Necessarily limited in scope, this paper focuses on lyric poetry for two reasons. First, because there is in lyric poetry the expectation (if not the reality) of individual subjectivity. This opens up questions of how texts might mediate or make meaning between the individual and the world they inhabit. Second, lyric’s long and tortured relationship with form introduces the generative potential of constraint. In its combination of strategic difficulty and interpretive openness, lyric poetry might be usefully thought of as offering the reader an open form of game (a ‘play-function’, in Huizinga’s terms) that is, an open-ended interpretive practice at once receptive and resistant to definition. Such practice has both individual and social implications. In Being Numerous: Poetry and the Ground of Social Life (2011), Oren Izenberg argues for a philosophy of poetry as an ontological enquiry about social life: ‘What is a person and how is a community possible?’. Izenberg suggests that ‘in its orchestrations of perception, conception, and affect, a poem elaborates upon or expands the possibilities of what a person can see, think, and feel.’ Situated at the disciplinary crossroads of aesthetics, pedagogy, and philosophically-oriented literary criticism, this paper seeks to relate Warner and Izenberg’s claims to a vision of the reading and interpretation of poetry as an attentive practice, and, more specifically, as one involving key elements of play. In addition to evaluating lyric poetry as a vehicle for humanism along the lines suggested by Warner and Izenberg, this paper will engage in an illustrative close reading of selected poems by Elizabeth Bishop (1911–1979).

Asha Lancaster-Thomas - The Development of Courage and Perseverance Through the Fine Arts Program of a Classical Charter School

This paper will report the findings of a predominantly qualitative study that explores the development of a school’s core virtues through its fine arts program. The purpose of the study is to investigate how the music and art curricula at a classical charter school in the United States can be a conduit for the cultivation of two of the school’s core virtues—courage and perseverance—with the overall aim of exploring how educational institutions can foster the development of positive character traits through their arts programs. Music and art have long been linked to the development of virtuous traits in the young people who study them, but there is a noticeable lack of research focused directly on the relationship between fine arts education and the development of the specific virtues a school desires to foster in its students. The school in question has six ‘core virtues’ and aims to educate students in both mind and character as part of its mission. Its objective is, consequently, to promote the evolution of these specific virtues in its students through both the curriculum and extra-curricular activities. The overall research question posed will be: ‘how does the fine arts program affect the development of virtues in upper school students?’. The research sub-questions will be ‘how does the fine arts program affect the development of courage in upper school students?’ and ‘how does the fine arts program affect the development of perseverance in upper school students?’. The methodology of the project will be mainly qualitative. Middle school students (aged 12-14) will complete questionnaires to record their own perceptions of their character development through the fine arts program they participate in, and both students and fine arts teachers will be interviewed. Data will be collected through questionnaire response sheets and recordings of the interviews, and it will be analysed thematically. Findings are tentatively expected to reinforce the notion that study of the fine arts has the potential to aid development of the qualities of courage and perseverance in the students who partake in it. The research will benefit the school where the research takes place by giving it an awareness of the potential connection between the fine arts program and the development of the core virtues the school desires to endorse and nurture. More broadly, the study will give insight into the question of if and how the fine arts can foster character development in an educational setting.

Wilson Lee - Virtue and Virtuosity: Xunzi and Aristotle on moral education and the arts

Eric L. Hutton notes that Han Feizi’s criticism of Confucianism—that appealing to virtuous agents as ethical models provides the wrong kind of guidance for moral reasoning—also cuts across the virtue ethics of the Aristotelian tradition. Hutton, however, without going into details, notes that the notion of rituals in the Confucian tradition may be able to sidestep Han Feizi’s criticism. In this paper, I wish to explore not only how the notion of rituals, alongside its corollaries in Xunzi’s Confucian programme
for ethical cultivation, indeed addresses Han Feizi’s criticism, but also observe that Aristotle’s tragic poetry plays functionally equivalent roles in his own understanding of ethical upbringing. I will begin by considering Han Feizi’s critique of ethical cultivation in virtue ethics as such and how it poses a specific problem for the acquisition of the ‘constitutive reasoning’ shared by Aristotle and Xunzi. I will then briefly note that this problem trades on the synthetic structure of human nature found in both Aristotle and Xunzi (the rational/irrational parts of the soul and the heart-mind/five faculties), which
grounds the way they understand ethical action and agency. Finally, I will suggest how both Aristotle and Xunzi understand the role of the arts in their extensive programme of ethical cultivation, allowing them to respond to Han Feizi’s attack as too narrow a construal of their respective ethical projects. It is hoped that, through this, we may have a better sense of how more recent virtue ethicists may similarly draw on aesthetic resources for ethical development—in response to criticisms by proponents of rule- or principle-based ethics (against the former’s uncodifiability thesis) made on the basis of a lacking ethical pedagogy in the former.

 

Dr. Molly Ogunyemi - Narrative Lives, Music, Virtue and Character: Perspectives from philosophy and psychology

In today’s world, the ease of having paused rational reflections seems to decrease as the tendency to live continuously connected to a virtual digital space increases. Often times, one needs to make a conscious effort to stop for reflection if one recognises its importance for making deliberated choices needed for self-development. For many people, such a break from the frenzy of activities is facilitated by listening to soft music. Ancient philosophers affirm that music tempers the soul, calms our troubles and gives rest. Music calms the passions making their subject more open to the influence of reason. Such an influence would facilitate conscious character formation. In fact, Plato affirmed that music is helpful in education to virtue as it tempers the emotions of a child to raise it towards the good. However, such high regards for art and music in character formation is often forgotten today.

When considering the role of musical arts in education, a few questions come to mind: How can music contribute to wellbeing of the individual? Can music help students to improve their study habits and increase their capacity reinforcement learned habits? Could classical music or natural sounds be an antidote for bombardments form social media or a means to facilitate the peace of mind that one needs for study, for calmness, or for the serenity that is required for reasoning and making sound judgements? Could the aesthetic experience contribute to the psychological preparations for learning as it rests the mind?

From the perspective of narrative philosophy, each action or choice which builds up into the habit is best understood as part of a continuous narrative. One understands the self better when considering it as the protagonist of a narrative moving from a beginning towards an end, guided by chosen goals which are good for the acting subject. I propose that the appreciation of the on-going construction of the plot of one’s life-story guided by the intrinsic goods that promote human flourishing (including aesthetic experiences), may serve as a foundation for understanding the importance of coherence and unity of life for character formation and value education.

For example, being part of a choir and training one’s voice may help one learn to persevere in the practice of actions which may be arduous and, in themselves, amount to little but which are essential for the mastery of one’s art and excellence in performances. An application of narrative philosophy to this example makes us infer that the self- mastery control necessary for developing in the chosen art could be applied to other areas of one’s life which require such habits. Such habits are formed in one subject whose action are interrelated through a continuity that takes the form of a narrative being lived. Thus, those temporally dispersed actions come together with the plot giving rise to a meaningful narrative.

Additionally contemporary psychologists acknowledge the role of the arts in character formation. Positive psychologists, Peterson and Seligman, list the “appreciation of wonder” as one of the signature strengths that lead to human flourishing through virtue. One may ask: Could this “appreciation for wonder” be a counterpart of the aesthetic experience which philosopher describe as an intrinsic good, a part of human fulfilment?

This conceptual paper brings together ideas from positive psychology, aesthetics and narrative philosophy in order to explore the role of the aesthetic experience in attaining human fulfilment and flourishing. Introducing the aesthetic experience into college education could promote a habit of self-reflection or examination and also help students grow in virtue. For example the dedication necessary to produce a musical masterpiece could train the mind to have the strength to do what contributes to one’s true good even when that good is difficult to attain.

Jeremy Page - Work, Reader, and Ethical Learning Through Literature

When giving an account of how our engagement with literature can deepen our ethical understanding and enable the development of our character, three related questions arise:

  1. Why look to literature for educative purposes, rather than to modes of inquiry which more obviously provide evidence and argumentation for the views they attempt to convince us of.
  2. Given the lack of evidence and arguments in literature, can we (a) assign a significant role to the literary work and its aesthetic features and (b) explain how engagement with the work leads to a genuine deepening of the reader’s understanding?
  3. What justification do we have for allowing our understanding of a subject matter, or our character, to be changed by an author through a literary work?

In this paper, I take Noel Carroll’s response to (1) as a point of departure (Carroll 1998 & 2016). Carroll has argued that the plausibility of arguments against literature’s educative power on the basis of its disanalogies with other modes of inquiry lessens once we realise that the primary cognitive value of our engagement with literature lies – not in its adding to a body of knowledge – but in the opportunity it provides for us to reflect on, and deepen our understanding of, knowledge we already possess. This response to (1) also eases worries related to (3), as the justificatory burden on literature is significantly eased.

However, accounts such as Carroll’s are in danger of placing too much emphasis on the reader’s pre-existing knowledge and the reader’s own reflection; that is, they are in danger of marginalising the role of the work and its aesthetic features (2a). This leaves us with an account of the relation between the reader’s reflection on the subject matter of the work and the work’s aesthetic features, which seems lacking in its ability to meaningfully link these two things.

The account of John Gibson (2009) responds to (2a) by treating the work itself, and its aesthetic features, as the location of cognitive value and ethical insight. However, accounts of this nature need to provide an explanation of how it is that the reader genuinely learns from – rather than merely passively witnessing or being conditioned by – the work (2b).

In this paper, I take Carroll’s analysis of literature’s contribution to understanding as a point of departure and adopt Gibson’s position on the centrality of the work. I present a model of the reader’s engagement with the work which can account for the reader genuinely learning from this engagement. This is done through a Gibsonian reading of a short story by David Foster Wallace: ‘Octet’.   

Following Gibson, I understand the author to be involved in the creative activity of acknowledging – and demonstrating understanding of – aspects of our shared world in the work; by placing them in certain relations to each other and by, for example, foregrounding certain aspects through the use of literary devices. By inviting the reader into the creative position of the author, ‘Octet’ guides the reader to appraise the aesthetic choices of the author as ways of accurately and intelligibly weighting the relevant aspects of the subject matter under discussion. I will argue that thinking about the reader’s engagement with ethically insightful works on this model enables us to explain how the reader can genuinely deepen their understanding (2b). I will also argue that the reader’s appraisal of the author’s choices in constructing the work removes worries related with (3), and will defend the efficacy of engagement with literature as a source of ethical education (1). 

Prof. Andrew Peterson - Representations of ‘everyday suffering’ in narrative art and the education of compassion

Children today are exposed to the suffering of others through a range of media, including television news, newspapers, and social and digital networks. Education and schooling play a crucial role in both initiating and mediating such exposure. Given this, central demands for educators necessarily focus on the content, process and desired outcomes of children learning about – and potentially from – the suffering of others. Crucial to learning about suffering, one would assume, are questions which focus squarely and precisely on emotional responses to suffering, which in turn bring into focus the virtue of compassion.

I will argue that exposing children to narrative art which represents what might generally be termed ‘everyday suffering’ provides a meaningful focus for educating about and for emotional virtues such as compassion. The exploration offered will comprise three parts. First, I will draw on my previous work on compassion to justify compassion as a moral virtue – one which involves a concord of reason and emotion. Second, I will present, examine and justify the morally educative value of two pieces of narrative art which depict everyday suffering: Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop and Loach/Laverty’s I, Daniel Blake. Third, I will explicate some ways in which these two narrative artworks may be employed in order to educate about and for compassion. Specifically I will focus on cultivating empathic concern and care for others, examining the way in which narrative artworks can support children (and indeed adults) to move between self-focused and other-focused role-taking.

Prof. Piotr Roszak - Moral Aspects of Imaginative Art in Thomas Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas whose virtue ethics is used by many modern theories of education emphasised the key role of well-configured imagination in moral life. Being one of the “inner senses” of his realistic anthropology it remains the indispensable feature to gain true knowledge although there might be some disturbances which Thomas describes as imaginatio confusa or falsa imaginatio. It corresponds with what R. Williams describes as “illiteracy of imagination” which views the world only from a two-dimensional perspective. In his didactic practice Thomas constantly refers to the imagination of the listener trying to stimulate and direct it. Taking all this into consideration the presentation will be divided into two parts.

The first part will be devoted to Thomas’ approach to imagination as the matter of the operation of virtue, namely intellectual virtues which facilitate cognition and judgment. The development of imagination (imaginabilia) is the foundation of his vision of education not only on the natural but also on the supernatural level. Aquinas reflects on the “imagination of Christ” and underlines that the faith is a “seminal virtue” which develops imagination as there is no other way to render the mystery of God. Imagination plays an important role in Aquinas’ epistemology, stimulating cogitatio in particular  but also moving the sphere of passions as its aim is to serve the truth. Describing the educational role of aesthetic cognition Thomas speaks of a special virtue which perfects reason and it is the virtue of art (ars).

In the second part, the question of moral assessment of products of imaginative art and its influence on shaping character will be discussed. Although Thomas does not refer to this issue directly it is possible to indicate several principles which might be pertinent to non-narrative art. Its role is to “transgress” (transcendere), which corresponds with the fifth category of knowledge (speculari). Beauty, good and usefulness understood from a metaphysical perspective are the assessment criterion. Aquinas does not wish to focus on “impressions” towards the work of art but on its objective good. The criterion is based on to what extent a given manifestation of art leads to “the ability to act well and create.” That is why, the assessment of imaginative art by Aquinas occurs on two levels: it is assessed from the perspective of (1) charity, justice, prudence and purity, namely to what extent the art serves these values, whereas the second criterion is beauty (2). Imaginative art which is morally good not only develops virtues but also beauty (claritas, integritas, proportio) revealing the imperfection of natural forms and directing man towards future. To make art morally good the artist needs good will, namely moral virtues. However, the work of art is assessed indirectly in relation to morality, to what extent it refers to the absolute human good. That is why, prudence plays an important role as it refers to the inner good whereas art refers to the outer good. Moral good of man is more precious than the value of the work of art.

 

Matthew Rowe - Ethical Learning Through Built Environments

The paper concerns the different kinds and sources of potentially ethical knowledge available from the built environment (in particular architecture). It also discusses how character and behaviour influencing aspects of architecture can emerge from a building's design, use, history and, considered as an intervention in an existing environment, from the nature of that intervention.

The paper sets out a characterisation of built environments that are necessarily cited in, and modifying of, an already existing environment, either natural or previously built. New buildings will have a specific design and/or use which might be impacted upon by ongoing adaption and mutation. Their construction will have depended upon certain economic and political conditions (financing, materials and labour) and their purpose and/or actual use will have a cultural history and impact. Lastly, they will have a functional fitness, as a built environment, to fulfil any use (designed or otherwise).

It's suggested that each of these factors can be a source of various kinds of ethical knowledge. Further it's argued whilst some are common for artworks across all art forms, some are specific to built environments (including architecture), as is how and why they can be ethically impactful. It's argued that ethical knowledge and education can emerge, through the design, use, history, construction, treatment and access to built environments and that the potential combining of these in a single built environment is unique among the arts. The paper argues then that since built environments (I) are used and experienced repetitively by a variety of agents, (ii) are situated in, interact with, and impact upon, an existing environment, and (iii) have a necessarily public character and history, they can engage ethical questions, influence behaviour and educate character differently than other kinds of artwork – through a practical, embodied, situated, sustained and ongoing reflective experience of each of these diverse ethically relevant factors.

The paper discusses specific (non-exhaustive) examples of how, when and why these factors might occur and what how and what kind of ethical information and/or knowledge they might prompt to suggest that each alone, and in combination, can provide opportunities for complex ethical discussion. So, design may encourage mutual respect and inclusivity among users, or may exclude: Construction methods may prohibit actual use (sick building syndrome), or may impact on use (asbestos, lead etc.): The actual construction may have been unethical (world heritage sites built on slave labour): Financing, irrespective of use, may have come from problematic sources (country houses built on slavery): A building's use may be morally complex (abattoirs, prisons, concentration camps): The history of a site may be problematic, (the erasing or 'cleaning' of past sites of horror): The preservation or decay of a building of architectural or cultural importance, may call into question explicit and implicit cultural values: The environmental impact of a building's construction, presence and ongoing use may be variously negative and positive (dams and roads etc.): And economic impacts of an intervention may highlight previously hidden social and cultural problems (regeneration).

The paper concludes that any built environment, as a site-specific environmental intervention will necessarily be impacted upon by one or more of these factors meaning that the ethical focus of the 'text' of a built environment is unique among the arts. Also unique is the tight weaving of this ethical focus into the aesthetic evaluation of their worth as built environments, through direct experience, and applied knowledge of  their design, use and cultural and environmental impact. 

Dr. Jorg Schulte-Altedorneburg - Character and Action in Ancient Greek Historiography

Over the past two centuries, at least, philosophers and historians have had several arguments on the question if and how we can learn from history: Is it possible at all to learn from the past if it consists of singular historical events which are “immediate to God” (Leopold von Ranke), is the historiographer able and willing to distinguish facts from fiction in his work and to what extent is “narrativity” as a key element of historiography (Hayden White) endangering the claim of historical truth?

In contrast to these approaches which were properly elaborated in the 19th century’s theory of Historicism, there is a different way of thinking about history and historiography from Ancient Greece and Rome until the early Modern Age: As the Humanists described it under the heading of “historia magistra vitae”, ancient historiographers, as Polybius, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Diodorus Siculus, and, not least, Herodotus of Halicarnassus (the “pater historiae”, according to Cicero) understood history as a teacher, as a philosophy which is based on examples, or as a fruitful alternative to own painful experiences. Learning from history in this way is only feasible if the historical experiences, i.e. the concrete experiences of historical figures, can be transferred to one’s own life – which is impossible without two fundamental preconditions: The historical figure and the reader or recipient must have something similar or in common, and the historiographer must be able to focus on this identity and the transferable insights in the way he is understanding and writing history.

According to the above mentioned ancient historiographers, this connecting element is a focus on the concrete historical character: As Dionysius of Halicarnassus, e.g., is pointing out, it is the historiographer’s aim to make individual preferences and motivations visible and to show how a specific character and a specific set of habits are affecting historical human action - and how these traits are causing concrete failures or success. In the light of this, historiography is not understood as the objective presentation of a certified series of facts and events, brought into light by the proper use of scientific tools which are used in empirical science – on the contrary, it is about how to highlight the human factor within the complex causality of historical events: For this reason, Dinoysius of Halicarnassus calls the historian’s work an act of “mimesis”, i.e. an art, following up on what Aristotle is alluding to in the famous chapter 9 of his “Poetics”, distinguishing the arts of poetry and historiography from each other gradually, not fundamentally.

In this respect, Herodotus of Halicarnassus is the legitimate “Father of History” as he is presenting the Greco-Persian wars of the 6th and 5th century BC by focusing on the Persian Kings in the manner of “Tragic Historiography”: Kings like Xerxes, e.g., are presented as characters, not as a mere type of an imperialist or the personified evil - Herodotus concentrated and ‘composed’ situations, encounters, conversations which are showing Xerxes as a multi-faceted character with virtues and vices who, not least from the perspective of a reader knowing about the actual events, had the intellectual abilities and opportunities to avoid his historical failure, caused by a very dominant character trait which is making him unable ‘to turn his head’. For the reader, it is an impressing learning about how a good or virtuous character can fail by a temporary inability to apply the virtues or to act as a “phronimos”, i.e. in line with the habituated rules of practical wisdom.

Theresa Smart - Poetry and Phronesis: the educative function of public theater in Aristotle

The linchpin of good character is prudence, that disposition enabling agents to operationalize their excellences of character via concrete rational choices, amidst the morally murky circumstances of ordinary life. Though crucial, education in prudence is a remarkably complex task, given its unique fusion of cognitive with affective dimensions, and universal with particular knowledge. Few scholars have captured the complexities of practical judgment better than Aristotle. This paper proposes to explore the resources available in his corpus for understanding art as a vehicle for education in prudence. Specifically, I argue that Aristotle grants public dramatic performances a privileged role in educating citizens in prudential wisdom, and an analysis of his Poetics brings to light both the educative possibilities and the limitations of this medium.

          The first section of the paper offers a close analysis of the virtue of phronēsis (practical wisdom or prudence) as presented in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. I draw attention to two key features of the virtue that complicate the process of education. First, phronēsis requires a complex form of intellectual understanding that grasps the universal of ethical action that is to be embodied in a given set of circumstances. The “ultimate variable particular” at which prudence aims is not fully communicable in words, but grasped through a kind of “vision” characteristic of a practically wise person. If thus incommunicable, how might practical knowledge be taught? Second, Aristotle holds that prudence and moral virtue are interdependent: only the virtuous can perceive the ultimate particulars of right action, yet the mean of virtue itself is defined in terms of that which the prudent person would choose. If virtue requires phronēsis and phronēsis requires virtue, then Aristotle raises a serious question as to how one might come to acquire either disposition in the first place.

          The next section of the paper offers theater as an artistic medium well suited for educating citizens in phronēsis, to the extent that it responds to the difficulties raised. The Politics confirms that Aristotle included public drama in his model of civic education, and the Poetics helps explain why. He there addresses the first complexity of education in prudence by characterizing poetry as an art that conveys universal wisdom through the mediation of particulars. The spectator sees particular character types make choices and learn wisdom through mistakes, mimicking the “vision” of the prudent person and gleaning universal principles of human action by way of particular dramatic events. Further, I argue that katharsis, a term for the purification that a tragic drama produces in its spectators, consists of both intellectual clarification and emotional purgation. Its educative effect has both cognitive and affective dimensions, simulating the unity of intellectual and emotional dispositions required for right choice on Aristotle’s account.

          However, the very examples that Aristotle raises in the Poetics draws attention to the limitations of tragic drama in forming citizens in practical wisdom. The third section draws upon Sophocles’ play Oedipus tyrannus to suggest that the educative function of tragic drama primarily takes a negative form: it can caution against grievous mistakes and injustices, but it falls short of teaching prudence in a more constructive manner. That requires both habituation and the kind of philosophical education that Aristotle himself seeks to impart.

Sarah Smith - Educating Character Through the Arts: The moral significance of the English curriculum in Secondary Schools

The English curriculum is afforded a privileged position, alongside Maths and Science, within compulsory education, with all students in mainstream schools being required to study it up to GCSE level. Furthermore, English Literature is considered as a ‘facilitating subject’ by universities   which may in part account for its popularity with students at A Level.  This means that English is the arts subject that students will have the most exposure to during their compulsory education. The role of the arts in the moral formation of young people has been considered controversial from ancient times, with Plato decreeing that only certain art forms were suitable within his utopian Kallipolis. However, in more recent times philosophers and theologians have expressed the belief that the stories we are told and tell may serve an important moral purpose. In Contingency, Irony and Solidarty, Richard Rorty states that in contemporary society artistic endeavours such as novels, films and television programmes are vital to bringing about moral progress and change. In A Community of Character, Stanley Hauerwas notes how people and communities are formed by the stories that they tell. If Rorty is correct, and the arts do have an important role in bringing about ethical change, and if Hauerwas is right, and individuals and communities are shaped by their engagement with stories, then the content of the English curriculum in secondary schools is likely to be of primary importance in the moral education of students.

As part of research undertaken to explore the religious identity of state funded schools, two teachers of English at separate schools were observed and interviewed. One text was studied extensively in GCSE classes with both teachers: William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The findings highlighted the strong moral content that is included in these curriculums, with both teachers stating that they felt the subject had a strong moral message. This paper will explore the findings from both the observations and interviews with these teachers and will argue that the arts do have an important part to play in the moral education of students. As Rorty argues, the arts can help us to build empathy with people who, for whatever reason, we do not see as being like us and also help us to realise the cruelty that people like us are truly capable of. I will argue that the works of literature included in the English curriculum, drawing especially on Macbeth, reflect this dual moral purpose, providing students with both exemplars to emulate, and fictional warnings to learn from: a key element of character education.

Dr. Ana Sobocan - The use of fiction in social work ethics: education to stimulate moral character development

Social work is a very demanding profession; often following the law, organisational rules,
applying professional work methods etc. is not enough to work through dilemmatic situations
and making ethical decisions. In addition to the mastery of a wide range of skills and expertise,
sound professional practice requires also adhering to professional values and a reflexive
use of professional self. It is thus necessary that social work education stimulates also the
cultivation of character strengths and virtues. In our paper, we will present an example of
integrating fiction as a learning tool in social work ethics curriculum.

Aidan Thompson - Finding a Purpose in the Poetry of Pop: Educating Character Through Song Lyrics

This paper intends to build on Adam Bradley’s Poetry of Pop (2017) by extending the premise that pop song lyrics can be treated as pieces of poetry, de-coupled from their musical accompaniment, and used specifically as educational tools in the development of positive character in schools. Bradley explores the relationship between words and notes, lyrics and music to ‘produce’ poetry for the people. Whether considering the mass-produced, recycled imagery and metaphor that satisfy the ear more than the eye of many pop songs, or the specifics of more niche works, Bradley asserts that he ‘listened for hours, really for years, to the detriment of my ears and the betterment of my being.’ (Bradley, 2017: 5). This paper considers the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ listening to, and more specifically reading of, pop song lyrics can ‘better ones being’. Adopting the Jubilee Centre model of character development (Jubilee Centre, 2017) as a way of defining the ‘bettering of one’s being’, and extending the implications of the research conducted by the Centre into the education of character through literature (Knightly Virtues, 2014; Carr and Harrison, 2015; Virtue, Vice and Verse, 2017; Carr, Bohlin, Thompson, 2018 [forthcoming]), this paper aims to offer insight into the use of popular music as a tool for character development. In a similar way that the Jubilee Centre used well-known tales from classic written literature to educate for good character with the Knightly Virtues, and poems by well-known poets in Virtue, Vice and Verse, so this paper asserts that adopting a virtue- or character-led approach to the teaching of poetry (and to teaching more broadly) can facilitate the use of different tools and forms of art, literature, and music in introducing concepts of virtue literacy and virtue reasoning. In making themes of virtue applicable to the reader’s own life, through the use of song lyrics already familiar to them, the extension, as other Jubilee Centre work maintains, is that one can develop a sense of moral purpose and understand what living a ‘good life’ means (see Arthur et al., 2017). This paper draws on particular examples of well-known pop songs, or songs by well-known artists and groups, that can be used in this vein. 

Dr. Sophia Vasalou - Lessons From Middlemarch: Admiration, virtue language, and the experience of greatness

The old philosophical recognition that art, and especially literature, can shape character for the better or worse has been undergoing a gradual recovery in recent times. My aim in this paper is to contribute to this development through a close engagement with George Eliot’s most celebrated novel, Middlemarch. Unlike other forms of story-telling governed by strong moral concerns (such as the hagiographical tales of different religious traditions), novels do not typically present us with purely emulable exemplars of virtue, but with all-too-human figures whose limitations provide necessary grist for the mill of dramatic momentum, triggering possibilities of conflict and development. The presence of vulnerability and limitation is also implicated in the affective response whose evocation in the reader has often formed a key pivot in discussions of the educational role of literature, namely sympathy. Eliot herself viewed the cultivation and expansion of sympathy as central to her artistic mission. Sympathy for developing, all-too-human characters, not admiration for extraordinary pillars of virtue, would seem to form the paradigm response in this context. Yet it is clear that Middlemarch (not indeed alone among Eliot’s novels) sets before its reader characters that speak rather more unreservedly to the paradigm of admiration—characters whose moral beauty, and indeed moral greatness, we are invited to attend and respond to. My aim is to highlight and explore two key insights that reflection on these cases brings to light, insights that concern the moral significance not only of literary art but also of the experience of admiration more specifically.

One insight concerns the evaluative language—the language of the virtues—that we are driven to deploy in characterizing these figures. Brought to some of these outstanding protagonists, the vocabulary of the standard virtues seems to confront us with its limitations. Admiration without articulation, Kristján Kristjánsson has argued in several writings, can be a dangerous thing. Yet meditation on these cases recommends a more qualified view, in doing so pointing to a more fine-grained understanding of the role of concepts of the virtues in moral experience. Taken most positively, reflection on outstanding exemplars teaches us that the description of (the best kind of) character is ultimately an artistic kind of task.

            Another, related, insight concerns the educational significance of such experiences—experiences of admiration provoked by literary portrayals of moral beauty—more broadly. Although the causal influence of such portrayals cannot, in my view, be established in straightforward terms, they seem crucial for nourishing a capacity for representing and appreciating beauty of character which is not merely a means to cultivating virtuous character, but as Hume aptly observed, one of its very constituents. Their effect may in this regard be interestingly compared to Adam Smith’s (highly aesthetic) account of the emergence of what he called the “standard of absolute perfection” against which the best types of agents judge their own character. This standard develops through slow and gradual brushstrokes from experience that eventually assemble an image of “exquisite . . . beauty” which can serve not only as a measure for character, but also as a focus of aspiration. Yet if the first insight is accepted, one of its entailments is that this standard must always remain at least in part immune to explicit articulation, and that our aspiration must be directed toward something that surpasses any well-defined categories we might wish to impose. 

Ingimar Olafsson Waage - Arts, Emotions and Virtues: Character education through visual arts

This presentation describes a research project aimed at developing educational methods and materials for visual arts education in lower secondary schools (age 13 to 16) which serve to cultivate virtue literacy among the pupils. The increased interest in the field of character and moral education reflects the urgency of expanding those dimensions in education (Kristjánsson, 2007, 2015; Sanderse, 2012; Carr & Harrison, 2015). Similar “socio-moral” objectives are consistently expressed throughout the recent Icelandic National Curriculum Guide, implying a holistic and pluralistic educational paradigm (Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, 2014). 

            Since ancient times the relationship between the arts and ethics has been controversial; in ancient Greece, the arts were widely seen to have moral significance and their service for political and divine authorities was uncontested (Carroll, 2010; Carr, 2010). However, this role of the arts was also contested even in the classical period in Ancient Greece as Plato (1941) considered the arts as subversive of knowledge, truth and morality in the ideal state. In contrast to Plato, Aristotle (1988) described imitation as an important educational feature of the arts. Artworks, through imitation, would arouse morally appropriate emotions and thereby enable practical wisdom to develop without direct experience, drawing on the human ability to relate to experience through imagination. Noël Carroll (2003) argues, in a similar vein, that the educational value of artworks can be found in elements that are elicited through a shared human experience, promoting inquiry, reflection and emotional responses that remind us of our shared humanity.

            The project described here involves a six-week classroom intervention grounded in Aristotelian Action Research (Sanderse, 2016; Eikeland, 2006), using specifically designed pre- and post-tests to evaluate pupils’ progress. In addition, a mixed-method design will be used by inspecting participants’ portfolios, by means of focus-groups, interviews with participating teachers, and logbooks.

            Preliminary results show evidence of artworks being well suited to work with emotions and virtues in education. This can be seen in pupils’ written analyses, discussions and artworks. Upon encountering artworks, pupils draw upon a significant vocabulary associated with virtues, emotions and moral life. Such projects give students opportunities to practise the use of such a vocabulary and enhance their command of concepts that allow for enriching virtue literacy and conceptual understanding of moral issues. Artworks can also induce emotional experiences that can give insights into real situations, suggesting educative elements; a precursor for moral development. Pupils’ own artworks, inspired by questions like “What does a good friendship entail?” or “What is courage?”, show that they can elicit complex representations of their own ideas on the respective subjects and justify their artworks, paving the way for further discussions in the classroom. During the creative process, visual literacy is central in an ongoing discussion about how and which methods or pictorial elements are connected to the expression of moral issues and virtue literacy. Pupils have shown considerable commitment in their tasks as those appear to be meaningful to them, permitting for a deeper reflection and conceptual exchange during discussions about their own artworks. In general, giving moral issues an educational focus through creativity and pictorial/philosophical analysis appears to be helpful in putting character on the educational agenda.

Dr. Nathan Wildman & Amanda Cawston - A Moral Argument for (Some) Video Games

Many have offered various moral objections to video games, with various critics contending that they depict and promote morally dubious attitudes and behaviour. However, few have offered moral arguments in favour of video games. In this paper, we develop one such positive moral argument. Specifically, we argue that, when it comes to some ethical knowledge, video games offer the only morally acceptable method for acquiring such knowledge. Consequently, we have (defeasible) moral reasons for creating, distributing, and playing certain, morally educating video games.
We begin by assuming that (1) video games are interactive fictions, in the sense that they allow players to fictionally take up an agential role within an associated fictional world, and (2) that it is possible to learn from fictions. Then, borrowing an insight from standpoint epistemology (Anderson 1995, Hartsock 1987), we demonstrate that some specific ethical knowledge requires undergoing certain agential experiences – that is, if you do not have the right experiential standpoint of being an agent in such-and-such a circumstance, then certain ethical facts will remain beyond your epistemic ken.
Many of these experiences will be such that actually undergoing them is morally problematic. Similarly, because they are essentially agential experiences, non-interactive media like testimony, documentaries, novels, etc., are unable to convey them. At best, this media can describe or display the experience, but, to satisfy the necessary condition for knowledge, one needs to experience doing something.
One immediate upshot is that there is some ethical knowledge that is epistemically inaccessible to the unexperienced, and there are either ethical or epistemic problems with the most obvious routes we might use to acquire it.
However, we argue that, via engaging with specific serious games, it is possible for players to fictionally undergo the relevant experiences. Then, having fictionally taken up the relevant standpoint, players are thereby in a position to grasp the relevant ethical knowledge. Given that we’ve a (defeasible) moral duty to assist in the moral education of others, this result entails that we’ve a similar duty to create these serious games, and push individuals developing their moral character into playing them.

Prof. John F. Whitmire Jr. - Moral Exemplarity in Myth and Fantasy

In this work, I utilize the phenomenological and hermeneutic insights of Kierkegard, Gadamer, Ricoeur, and J.R.R. Tolkien to argue for the fundamental primacy of myth – especially as understood in its modern incarnation of fantasy or fairy-tale stories – for the presentation of moral exemplarity in literature, and to demonstrate how this literature may be utilized pedagogically to reveal both the potential beauty of virtue and ugliness of vice. Tolkien famously remarks that “the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism” of The Lord of the Rings (Letters #142). This “absorption” is evident, inter alia, in the overriding importance of the development of various virtues in the story, built into the narrative structure and extended metaphors of the text. To a substantial degree, this is achieved by way of key characters who serve as exemplars of virtue (cf. Zagzebski) – both as models of fulfilment and in the process of edification – and also of vice. In this way, Tolkien shows how a fairy tale can be deliberately designed for the non-dogmatic demonstration and inculcation of virtue.

There is nothing new about the idea that mythos could be designed to foster virtue, as Plato explicitly argues for in Republic II-III (376e-394e). However, Tolkien’s insights regarding the role of what he calls “fairy-story,” extends that idea via his own notions of fantasy and recovery, two crucial structural aspects of the fairy tale. Tolkien argues (in “On Fairy-Stories”) that “fantasy,” with its strange unlikeness to the real world, is actually “not a lower but a higher form of Art, indeed the most nearly pure form, and so (when achieved) the most potent.” I take him to be making a phenomenological point here similar to Gadamer’s argument that, phenomenologically speaking, art is the “raising up of this reality into its truth” (Truth and Method 113), and that “the presentation of essence [in literature and other arts], far from being a mere imitation, is necessarily revelatory” (TM 114-115). My claim is that myth –following Ricoeur, metaphor writ large – does this paradigmatically by way of “recovery,” whereby aspects of our world (e.g. the virtues of hope or mercy) “are made all the more luminous by their [fantastic] setting” (“On Fairy-Stories”). Old or trite ways of thinking about virtue (the dead metaphors and concrete examples from everyday life) are thereby made new and inspiring again through poetic exemplars in fantasy and fairy tale literature; or, as Gadamer puts it, “the joy of recognition [in art] is rather the joy of knowing more than is already familiar. In recognition what we know emerges, as if illuminated, from all the contingent and variable circumstances that condition it; it is grasped in its essence” (TM 114). In this way, a work of fantasy can serve to “elevate” the real world into a kind of hortatory truth by revealing to us the essence of the virtues in mythic exemplarity, and (via this illumination) inspire us to aspire towards these aspects of character in our own lives.

Stein M. Wivestad - Upbuilding: A database of art works for adults who are close to children

The conference invitation questions “how … human agents – particularly the young – [might] come to understand, or acquire, virtuous character”. This question may be approached in many ways. Usually one would ask for good and effective didactical materials and methods. However, especially those who are very young cannot avoid being influenced by those grownups who are close to them. This influence includes the presentation of a specific language and life style (Mollenhauer, 2014). The young will certainly emulate adults who they admire. Our approach to the initial question presupposes that learning through mimesis or creative mirroring «might characterise early learning in general, and might therefore represent the fundamental basis to further learning» (Scaramuzzo, 2016, p. 215). The word “character” comes from kharassein = to engrave. Ways of thinking and valuing are “engraved” in the young when they learn their native language and explore ways of living in playful dialogues and actions. We find it important to question our own adult ways of living. How should we live as mirrors and models for the young? How can we struggle with ourselves to live good lives? One possible way is to encourage groups of adults to study works of art and converse over how we ourselves ought to be in our encounters with the young (Wivestad, 2017, p. 9).

In the symposium, we want to present the structure of, and some examples from, an open database on the internet that we develop for a Norwegian target groups: www.oppbyggeligeeksempler.no  A direct translation could be “upbuilding examples”. This is a work in progress, and our aim for the symposium is to share some experiences with participants in the conference. Critical comments may help us to improve the quality of the database, and perhaps our work may inspire others to do something similar in their vernacular language.

We want to start with a picture that is included in the database: Catch by Victor Vaserely (1945), and will invite the audience to explore the picture briefly.

Stein M. Wivestad will present Søren Kierkegaard’s concept of ‘upbuilding’ and the aims that have governed the selection of works of art (pictures, films, music and texts) to the database, and the themes we propose for possible conversations in groups of adults. Possible groups could be teacher students, teachers and other adults in different educational settings (Kindergarten, school and organized leisure activities), and adults in family and neighbourhood. The database could be used by informal reading groups, and even by leaders in workplaces, who see that the chosen style of work and leisure give a pattern for the new generation to emulate.
 

Øyvind Økland - On films as upbuilding examples: A database of art works for adults who are close to children

Øyvind Økland will present some thoughts “On films as upbuilding examples”. In addition to plain descriptions of each film that is included in the database, we raise questions that prepare for the experience of a film in a conscious and critical way: What is the main message, or what kind of worldview can we see behind the actual plot? Does the film present a problem, and does it open for a conversation about solutions? How does the film present positive and negative exemplars? How does the music and the other elements in the film contribute to engender certain emotions? Relevant films can be found in all genres, and it is important to be updated on films that are popular among the young. The presentation will mention some films and consider how they could be used in groups of adults.

Gunnvi Sæle Jokstad - On Texts as Upbuilding Examples - A database of art works for adults who are close to children

Gunnvi Sæle Jokstad will present some thoughts “On texts as upbuilding examples”. Reading can be compared to explorations of an exciting and lively garden. Through different characters, we are invited into a fictional world – a world of significant images, actions and feelings. Texts may speak to us in a polyphony of voices and may start a dialogue with our thoughts, beliefs and values (Mikhail Bakhtin). Texts may give access to “double descriptions” and in-depth view (Gregory Bateson). The inherent possibilities in a text may also be discussed in the light of Martha Nussbaum's moral philosophy and Zygmunt Bauman's moral sociology. In the database “Upbuilding examples” we have selected texts that can be starting points for conversations. The presentation will focus on one text and consider how this text can contribute to ethical and educational reflections.