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Virtues: Local or Universal?

Virtues: Local or Universal?

Oriel College, Oxford, January 3–5, 2019

The seventh annual conference of the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, University of Birmingham

 

Issues regarding the cultural specificity or relativity of virtues have been at the forefront of philosophical, political and educational discussions of what constitutes ‘good character’ since antiquity. Aristotelian virtue ethics allows for significant variance in the make-up of virtuous agents according to developmental levels, individual constitutions, social roles and societal conditions. However, Aristotle also insisted upon the empirical claim that ‘in our travels we can see how every human being is akin... to a human being’ (Nicomachean Ethics, 1155a20–22), hence refusing truck with any form of radical cultural relativism. Yet questions about the relationship between virtue and education in virtue, on the one hand, and the great diversity of local and national cultures and sub-cultures, on the other, refuse to go away – and have indeed been heightened with the recent rise of political nationalism and what some people see as the demise of multiculturalism in the Western world.

The main aim of this conference is to explore questions about the locality versus the universality of virtues from a number of theoretical and practical perspectives. At the most practical educational level, questions arise about the extent to which efforts at character development need to be geared towards the specific ethos of the individual school or individual class. Psychologists continue to debate the nature of ‘independent’ versus ‘interdependent’ self-concepts and how those may call for different displays of virtue. Philosophers are interested in epistemological and ontological questions regarding moral relativity. Last but not least, in the current political climate, questions about how well virtues travel across geographical and cultural borders have become more pressing than ever before. The aim of the 2019 Jubilee Centre annual conference is to bring together experts from a range of disciplines to explore those questions and many more. Can theorists from philosophy, education, sociology, theology, history and psychology learn from each other’s work? How can insights from theory and practice be integrated?

The open call for papers for this conference closed on July 1, 2018. Delegates may send any queries relating to the conference to us at jubileecentrepapers@contacts.bham.ac.uk. The conference fee is £200 and covers full board at Oriel College (2 nights), including the formal conference dinner. Details of how to pay the registration fee will be provided to all delegates in due course.


Christian Miller - Moral Relativism and Honesty: A Case Study

Moral Relativism and Honesty: A Case Study

While there is an extensive literature on moral relativism in meta-ethics, little has been said in assessing the view with respect to character properties specifically. Rather than carry out such a discussion in the abstract, I explore in this paper the plausibility of moral relativism with respect to just one virtue, honesty. In the first part of the paper, I briefly outline some of the central conceptual issues which arise when giving an account of honesty, including its scope and motivational requirements. The second part then turns to cross-cultural work on honesty and related notions such as truth telling, to see to what extent there might be a shared understanding of the virtue. The final section of the paper then assesses the plausibility of being a cultural moral relativist about honesty, and argues that there is little plausibility to be found.

Doret de Ruyter - Education and Upbringing in a Superdiverse Society: On Local and Universal Values and Virtues

Education and Upbringing in a Superdiverse Society: On Local and Universal Values and Virtues

Sociologists have begun to typify Western European countries as superdiverse to denote that there is much more diversity in the identity of people than their ethnicity or culture. The lecture will address the question which values and virtues should be part of upbringing and education of children and adolescents to increase the likelihood they will live well together in a superdiverse society. I will particularly focus on the common culture of families, communities and society and explore the values and virtues involved in being able to combine the recognition of diversity of persons’ identities with the similarity of human beings. Special attention will be given to education in schools.

Jonathan Webber - Evaluative Attitudes as the Psychological Structure of Virtues

Evaluative Attitudes as the Psychological Structure of Virtues

How should we model the psychological structure of ethical virtues? And what does this tell us about whether they are local or universal? I have argued that we can ground an empirically robust model of ethical virtues in the findings of the social psychology of attitudes. In this lecture, I explain the relevant findings, show how they model ethical virtues as traditionally understood, and then apply this model to the question of whether ethical virtues are local or universal. I argue that many virtues seem universal when described in traditional ethical language, but the attitudes that form their psychological structures might depend on the local context. But I also argue that some virtues, such as ethical integrity, are fully universal because the relevant attitudes cannot vary with context. I end by asking whether the honest person's attitude towards the difference between lying and merely misleading depends on local context.

Jennifer Wright - Diversity, Deviance, and Virtue within Imperfect Moral Communities

Diversity, Deviance, and Virtue within Imperfect Moral Communities

What is acceptable (even desirable) diversity—and when does that diversity become deviance? This question is critical for creating and maintaining healthy socio-cultural normative structures (i.e., socially “normed” beliefs, values, practices, behaviors, etc.) that allow individuals within a culture to function well (and ideally thrive). It also bears on the question of how virtues develop and which ones will be prioritized—i.e., those necessary for protecting existing normative structures, and those needed for corrective purposes, when normative structures become dysfunctional and change is required. This introduces space for variation, both within and between cultures. It also highlights a problem—the imperfection of our moral knowledge and the vulnerability of our normative structures to error and corruption. The challenge we face is having an understanding of ourselves as moral beings oriented towards “the good” that is stable enough to be meaningfully shared and passed down (as a set of normative structures) to future generations, yet flexible enough to adapt and change as our cumulative experiences bring that understanding into question.

Sarah Banks - Between the Local and Global: Placing the Virtuous Professional Practitioner in Context

Between the Local and Global: Placing the Virtuous Professional Practitioner in Context

International associations exist for many professions, with ethical codes designed to be applicable worldwide.  Frequently codes are principle-based, drawing on norms/philosophical traditions dominant in the global North (individual autonomy, privacy), leading to accusations of ‘ethical imperialism’. Is virtue-based ethics more universally applicable, with virtue-based language/concepts more commonplace in the global South, and similar character traits regarded as important, e.g., trustworthiness, compassion, honesty? This paper explores these local/global issues with reference to moral virtues in social work. It examines narratives of ethical challenges from practitioners in different countries (from Peru to Finland), including how they construct the ‘ethically good social worker’.

Ron Beadle - Local Virtues: The Case of the Circus

Local Virtues: The Case of the Circus

This paper uses historic sources and contemporary empirical data to posit three theses. First, the self – understanding of nomadic circus artistes challenges the notion of ‘local’ versus ‘universal’ virtues. Second, whilst practitioners of different circus arts attest to the importance of different virtues (e.g. contrast the clown with the trapeze artiste), a virtue-redolent understanding of the relationship between character, work and community has marked the self-understanding of circus artistes across continents and generations. Third, that virtues flourish in communities characterised by mutual accountabilities that go beyond the performance of roles. The circus provides such a context.

Matthew Berk - An Approach to Teaching Virtue Ethics in the Classroom

An Approach to Teaching Virtue Ethics in the Classroom

School teachers, parents, and other mentors are responsible for developing character in young people. We advise proper decision making and, in many cases, help construct an overarching ethical outlook. We want them to develop into good people, yet most scholars in modern ethics neglect the massive role teaching plays in developing a person’s character. They focus on developing rigid systems of rules instead of on how the rules are internalized, yet such internalization requires good teaching. This essay offers a defense of the advantages of teaching virtue, beginning with the need to radically adjust the way we use normative language.

Marvin Berkowitz - A Quantum Theory of Virtue: How to Contradict Oneself and Get Away With It

A Quantum Theory of Virtue: How to Contradict Oneself and Get Away With It

There are many apparently contradictory and incompatible perspectives on the nature of character, of virtue, and of educating for them. Holism vs. reductionism of human goodness. Nature vs. nurture as sources of human goodness. Individualism, cultural relativism and universality of the moral nature of virtues. Conscious vs. unconscious processes in moral agency. Etc. It is argued that they are all partially right. Virtue, moral goodness, character are complex systemic phenomena and concepts. They can be seen, as in the parable of the blind men and the elephant, in many different ways, including holistically and in more specific reductionistic ways. So virtue can be seen as universally or as culturally relevant.

Magdalena Bosch - Virtues and Ultimate End: Local or Universal?

Virtues and Ultimate End: Local or Universal?

The aim of this paper is to analyze some essential features of ultimate end as a condition for virtue and to show their universal dimensions. Aristotle defines ultimate end in Nicomachean Ethics book I chapter 1 as follows: it is the only end that "we will for its own sake", in a proper, somehow absolute sense[1] (NE, 1094 a 20). The analysis of diverse kinds of practical life depending on the ultimate end assumed by each individual, reveals the essential features of it as a condition for virtue. Therefore, the concept of Ultimate End must accomplish some requisites. Then we may question: the ultimate end, as condition for virtue, is local or universal? And I would like to offer a very concrete practical answer, that is the result of a teaching experience about The pearl, of J. Steinbeck.

 

[1] "If therefore among the ends at which our actions aim there be one which we will for its own sake, while we will the others only for the sake of this, and if we do not choose everything for the sake of something else (which would obviously result in a process ad infinitum, so that all desire would be futile and vain), it is clear that this one ultimate End must be the Good, and indeed the Supreme Good" (NE I, 1, 1094 a 20)

Roger Bretherton - The Character Course for Churches: Adapting Character Strengths Interventions for a Faith-Based Context

The Character Course for Churches: Adapting Character Strengths Interventions for a Faith-Based Context

This presentation outlines the development phase of ‘The Character Course for Churches’ (CCC), a three year project to adapt, disseminate and evaluate Character Strengths (CS) interventions with church-based small groups across the UK. It will outline the rationale, structure and content of the course, and detail the evaluation methodology to come. The CCC draws from interdisciplinary scholarship in positive psychology, philosophy and biblical studies. The requirement for cultural contextualisation when applying ostensibly universal taxonomies of virtue to local sub-cultures, such as church communities, will be emphasised.

Yi-Lin Chen - Confucian Virtue Ethics and Confucian Character Education

Confucian Virtue Ethics and Confucian Character Education

Confucianism is represented to be a theory of virtue ethics. The paper has two purposes. Firstly, it aims to investigate the whole structure of Confucian ethics and elaborate the characteristics it shares with Aristotelian virtue ethics. To narrow down the scope of analysis, Confucius’s Analects is chosen to be the major text of analysis. Secondly, Confucian character education is expounded in terms of the ideal person of good character and how to become a person with good character. Aristotelian character education acts as an important point of comparison with the aim of illuminating on whether virtues are local or universal and how diverse traditions and cultures shape the plan of character education.

Randall Curren - Socratic Piety and the Universality of Virtue

Socratic Piety and the Universality of Virtue

This paper will argue that the universality of Socrates’ conception of virtue is grounded in his conceptions of piety and human nature. This universality is evident in his defense of norms of respect for persons as rational beings – requirements of non-coercion, honesty, justice, and avoidance of emotional manipulation that corrupts rational judgment. Piety is the cardinal Socratic virtue from which universal features of virtue in general flow, because it is piety that compels us to honor requirements of natural moral law, both out of respect for the divine in others and out of respect for what is best or divine in ourselves.

Oliver Curry - Seven Moral Rules Found All Around the World

Seven Moral Rules Found All Around the World

According to the theory of morality-as-cooperation, morals are solutions to the problems of cooperation recurrent in human social life. Different types of cooperation (helping family, helping one’s group, returning favours, displaying hawkish and dove-ish traits, dividing disputed resources, and respecting prior possession) give rise to different types of morality (family values, loyalty, reciprocity, bravery, deference, fairness and property rights). But are these moral concepts just Western, or are they global? We analysed ethnographic accounts of ethics from 60 societies, and found that, as predicted, these cooperative traits are considered morally good all around the world.

Matthew Dennis - Virtue and Experimental Philosophy: Understanding Excellences Empirically

Virtue and Experimental Philosophy: Understanding Excellences Empirically

Recently virtue theorists have sought to defend the philosophy of virtue against moral psychologists who suggest that empirical data radically undermines the existence of stable character traits. This defence has largely been successful, both insofar as it has rebutted the claim but also in terms of bolstering the philosophy of virtue itself. My paper surveys the extent to which x-phi offers the resources to bring greater philosophical clarity to the question of the cultural relativity of virtue, focusing its potential to contribute to the question of the universality of virtues specifically.

Stephen Earl - Practical Wisdom and Professional Practice: Character, Virtues and Professional Purpose

Practical Wisdom and Professional Practice: Character, Virtues and Professional Purpose

A neo-Aristotelian perspective of virtue ethics posits that professionals’ simultaneous endorsement of moral and intellectual virtues fosters a sense of purpose towards the good end of their profession (i.e. telos). Across a sample of 2,340 professionals, the present research identified four distinct groups that differed in their value of moral and intellectual virtues: an alternative group (n = 491, 21%), an intellectual group (n = 660, 28%), a moral group (n = 836, 36%), and a phronetic group (n = 353, 15%). Analysis of covariance revealed that professionals placing higher importance on moral and intellectual virtues in combination reported higher professional purpose than the alternative and intellectual group but not the moral group. The findings highlight the importance of a professional’s moral compass to be accompanied by the intellectual virtues associated with practical wisdom. Differences across profession type and perceived work-related constraints are also discussed.

Stephan Ellenwood - Cultural Relativism and Educating for Character

Cultural Relativism and Educating for Character

Finding how both individual virtues and cultural values are local or universal is a vital challenge for educators amid rising nationalistic fervours and rapid globalisation. Dangerous polarisations cause schools to shy away from controversial issues with a subsequent loss of good teachable moments. Some bold educators have replaced polarisations and binary models with more nuanced approaches and careful attention to both cultural and moral subtleties. This approach requires and develops key character virtues such as respect for others, humility, generosity, kindness, fairness, and responsibility.

Patrick Frierson - From Universal Virtues of Character and Respect to Local Norms of Grace and Courtesy: A Montessori Perspective

From Universal Virtues of Character and Respect to Local Norms of Grace and Courtesy: A Montessori Perspective

Maria Montessori’s moral theory balances universal virtues of “character” and mutual respect with local norms. There are universal aspects of character, such as persistence, autonomy, and effortful work, and of mutual respect, particularly non-interference, non-interruption, and “help.” But virtue requires culturally specific patterns of respectful interaction – what Montessori calls “grace and courtesy” – in pursuit of culturally specific work. Moreover, human character partly consists in conforming oneself to appropriate local norms. As with language, where children universally absorb particular languages, so they universally seek to absorb particular societies’ norms of propriety and forms of character-driven work.

Ann Gallagher - Final Piety: Eastern Insights Informing Universal Challenges

Final Piety: Eastern Insights Informing Universal Challenges

Demographic changes have resulted in concern about future care-giving capacity of families and communities. This paper provides a critical approach to the ethical underpinning of care responsibilities. It is argued that Eastern discussions of filial piety offer a way forward. An overview will be provided of Chinese philosophical literature. Early stories will be interrogated to illuminate the potential of this virtue for contemporary life. It will be asked if these stories help or hinder arguments that support family care of elders. The discussion will end with an overview of a combined East/West model that respects and provides for elders

Kevin Gary - Consumerism and the End of Liberal Education

Consumerism and the End of Liberal Education

Sociologist Zygmunt Bauman illuminates how consumer culture manufactures and exploits the interior poverty of the human condition. It seeks to make human beings “impatient, impetuous, and restive; and above all...easily excitable and predisposed to quickly lose interest.” The current and prevailing vision of liberal education (understood primarily as the cultivation of autonomy) does not equip students to withstand such forces. Historically, liberal education was as much an education of the sentiments and passions, as it was the development of intellectual and critical faculties. In light of the dynamics Bauman describes, this essay makes a case for retrieving a fuller understanding of the practice of liberal learning as the cultivation of virtue.

David Gonzalez-Ginocchio & Josu Ahedo - On the Aesthetic Dimension of Human Flourishing: Is Moral Character 'Sufficient' For the Education of the Person As a Whole

On the Aesthetic Dimension of Human Flourishing: Is Moral Character 'Sufficient' For the Education of the Person As a Whole

The Aristotelian notion of eudaimonía has been linked to proposals of flourishing and the meaning of life; however, the notion is complex: it can refer to the human composite as an organic being or to the ‘divine’ part of its soul (noús). The latter sense is formally distinct from the kind of happiness brought about by ethical virtues. Aesthetic experiences may provide us with a way to bridge this gap: while they are practical experiences, they may deliver an entry point to our life as a whole. We will discuss how educational programs can build on the relation between virtues and aesthetic experiences.

Igor Grossman & Justin Brienz - Wisdom and Social Class

Wisdom and Social Class

We tested how social class relates to a propensity for wise reasoning in interpersonal situations. Two studies—a survey from regions differing in economic affluence and an in-lab study with stratified sampling of adults from working and middle-class backgrounds—examined this question, indicating that higher class consistently related to lower wise reasoning. The results held across different levels of analysis (regional, individual, and subjective), personal and standardized hypothetical situations, across self-reported and observed wise reasoning, and when controlling for IQ. Class differences in wise reasoning were specific to interpersonal (versus societal) issues, consistent with ecological framework of resource-dependent environmental adaptation.

Liz Gulliford - A Cross-Cultural Examination of the Concept of Gratitude

A Cross-Cultural Examination of the Concept of Gratitude

This paper examines the locality versus the universality of the virtue of gratitude, with reference to the work of the Jubilee Centre’s Attitude for Gratitude project (September 2012 – February 2015). The paper is located in the broader context of cross-cultural research on gratitude. Mendonça, Merçon‐Vargas, Payir and Tudge (2017), conducted a cross-cultural examination of gratitude in Brazil, China, Guatemala, Russia, South Korea, Turkey and USA and reported numerous differences in the way gratitude is conceived and expressed in these very different societies. The current paper investigates possible differences in the understanding of gratitude in two individualist Anglophone countries in the developed world (UK and Australia) through a research project made possible by a grant from the Society for Educational Studies, awarded to Dr Liz Gulliford and Dr Blaire Morgan in 2014.

John Hacker-Wright - Human Goodness and Second Nature

Human Goodness and Second Nature

This paper applies recent developments in Aristotelian metaphysics to the framework of neo-Aristotelian naturalism that is the basis of much contemporary virtue ethics. Neo-Aristotelians such as Philippa Foot and Rosalind Hursthouse want to emphasize the continuity of judgments of human goodness and badness with judgments of natural goodness in other species. Yet, they also hold that the human good is sui generis. Recent work on powers in neo-Aristotelian metaphysics, especially work on powers and essentialism, can help us to understand the metaphysics of goodness in neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics.

Martin Hähnel - Is Impersonal Benevolence a Virtue?

Is Impersonal Benevolence a Virtue?

Benevolence is generally understood as an embracing attitude towards our fellow creatures that we can associate with “love”, “friendship” or „sympathy“. However, it is not clear whether benevolence is really a virtue or not. This case gets even more complicated, if we distinguish personal from impersonal or universal benevolence. In my talk, I begin with some shortcomings of Kantian and consequentialist approaches to impersonal benevolence. Finally, I would like to demonstrate how to reconcile impersonal benevolence with a classical virtue ethics account.

Peter Hart - Local and Universal Virtue in Professional Decision Making: Exploring the Tensions Between Virtue Ethics and 'Professional Boundaries' in the Social Professions

Local and Universal Virtue in Professional Decision Making: Exploring the Tensions Between Virtue Ethics and 'Professional Boundaries' in the Social Professions

Boundaries set the limit of what is deemed appropriate in a particular relationship, often assuming a decontextualizing of the approved practices within an organisation; however it is in tension with the current prevalence of Aristotelian virtue ethics discourses on the training of professionals. This assumes contextualised decision-making rooted in phronesis from practitioners who have internalised the virtues. Recognising this tension, in this paper I use findings from an ethnographic study of youth workers to argue for the formulation of ‘Qualitative Boundaries’ as a framework for ensuring safe practices through a shift in the language we use to define boundaries.

Helen Haste - The Serious Problems, for Science and Education, of Moral 'Universals'

The Serious Problems, for Science and Education, of Moral 'Universals'

I will argue that the pursuit of a culturally transferable model of ‘character education’ is scientifically unsound and politically inept. There is a fundamental tension between prescription and, or versus, description. Devising universal ethical principles which serve universal human wellbeing implies prescription. All cultures and religions do ‘ought-building’; it can be very enjoyable….However this immediately trips over the actual reality of how different cultures fashion the norms and sanctions, the hierarchy and even validity of values. We cannot ignore this if we wish to be effective as educators.

Kazonubi Horiuchi, Kazuhiro Miyashita, Gabriel Archemedez Flores & Belinda Conde - A Comparative Study of 'Gratitude' in Japan and the Philippines: In Search of the Universalities and Localities of 'Gratitude' as Perceived by College Students in Both Cultures

A Comparative Study of 'Gratitude' in Japan and the Philippines: In Search of the Universalities and Localities of 'Gratitude' as Perceived by College Students in Both Cultures

Gratitude, the universal human propensity to recognize, acknowledge and return the benefits bestowed by a donor, arises out of reciprocity and a sense of indebtedness that can range from thankfulness for a small gift from someone to an appreciation of the bounty of nature, Planet Earth or the divine being that blesses us with precious life. This research project aims to identify universalities and localities through empirical studies of college students’ perceptions of “gratitude” in Japan and the Philippines. Data will be collected from undergraduate students enrolled at Reitaku University in Japan and the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA in the Philippines. Our research approach will mirror related studies carried out in the US and by the Jubilee Centre in the UK, and will encompass three studies, including a prototype analysis, that will lead to an identification of localities in each culture and commonalities between them.

Benjamin Huff - Converging Accounts of Virtue: Aristotle and Mencius on the Value of External Goods

Converging Accounts of Virtue: Aristotle and Mencius on the Value of External Goods

In this paper I explore convergence between the Aristotelian and classical Confucian accounts of virtue, specifically on the relative importance of virtue and external goods. Both Aristotle and Mencius maintain that virtue is the most essential and controlling component of human flourishing or happiness, but that happiness can be substantially increased or decreased by external goods such as wealth and social standing. Aristotle integrates these points through his conception of virtuous activity. Mencius integrates them through the closely analogous concept of putting the Way into effect (xing dao 行道), whose scope and scale depends on one’s resources and opportunities.

Robert Jack - How Virtue Is Contingent Upon Human Development: Lessons from Plato

How Virtue Is Contingent Upon Human Development: Lessons from Plato

Thinking about individual virtues we might say that each virtue is a competence in a particular life situation. The common view seems to be that we can all have all the virtues, at least to some degree, which means that all of us have some understanding of all life situations all the time. In my paper I will maintain that a better description of what happens is that as we develop, we gradually become aware of life situations that were previously more or less hidden to us, making virtue possible in the process.

Jonathan Jacobs - Three Types of Challenge Regarding the Universality of Virtue

Three Types of Challenge Regarding the Universality of Virtue

The paper explores The Basicness Challenge, The Anthropological Challenge, and the Political Challenge—each an important source of objections to the universality of virtue. While these issues are large and complex there are important connections between them and exploring those will disclose considerations in favor of the universality of virtue. The way that pluralism is understood is important to the account. I explicate multiple, plausible senses of pluralism and their relevance to the core issue; how they enable us to articulate the textured universality of virtue. Contexts in which pluralism flourishes can help us recognize the universality of virtue.

Eranda Jayawickreme - Morality as a Basic Psychological Need: Preliminary Evidence

Morality as a Basic Psychological Need: Preliminary Evidence

Do people really have a psychological need to be moral? We present a novel theoretical analysis of morality as a basic psychological need against the criteria recently outlined by Ryan and Deci (2017) and by which researchers measure the needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness (ACR). We also present three studies with five samples that examine the status of morality as a basic need, and whether the moral need functions differently in people of high vs. low moral character. Our findings suggest that morality should be strongly considered as an entrant to the list of basic psychological needs.

Mark Jonas - Plato on the Universality of the Intellectual and Moral Virtues

Plato on the Universality of the Intellectual and Moral Virtues

In this paper, I argue that wisdom is an intellectual virtue for Plato, as it is for Aristotle, and as such it can be achieved through discussion and dialogue. It is different for the other virtues. For Plato, again as it is for Aristotle, the virtues of moderation, courage and justice are moral virtues and only come by way of habit. The question then becomes: if the moral virtues come by way of habit and are not innate to the human soul, as wisdom is, does Plato believe the virtues of courage, moderation and justice are conventions of a particular time and place and not universal? I argue that they are universal for Plato and the fact that students must be habituated into them does not mean that they do not apply to all human beings.

Harry Jones - Pursuing Excellence: Global Traits and Character Development Strategies for Leaders

Pursuing Excellence: Global Traits and Character Development Strategies for Leaders

Much work has been done to reply to the situationist position. Following Miller’s (2015, 2016) mixed trait view, I will argue that character is a kind of competence and that we ought to be hopeful about the potential for character improvement. Many available character development strategies focus only on the individual agent. While central, this overlooks other “levels” in which the individual is situated, such as the organizations and institutions in which we live. These contexts shape us for better or for worse, and I will argue that they are therefore opportunities to support our character aims.

Michael Lamb & Michael Prentice - Commencing Character: Teaching Aristotelian Virtue through Contemporary Commencement Addresses

Commencing Character: Teaching Aristotelian Virtue through Contemporary Commencement Addresses

This paper explores how to cultivate Aristotelian virtue within a local university context by considering a new course at Wake Forest University. The course pairs Aristotle’s ethics with commencement addresses that incorporate Aristotelian methods of character development. For their final assignment, students deliver their own commencement addresses on a good life. By combining a study of Aristotelian virtue ethics with pedagogical exercises designed to cultivate virtue, the course aims to help students not only to ‘know what virtue is, but to become good.’ The paper explores this distinctive pedagogy and presents preliminary evidence of its impact on the character of students.

Sabrina Little - The Trivium: Revisiting Ancient Strategies for Character Formation

The Trivium: Revisiting Ancient Strategies for Character Formation

I apply the resources of the classical tradition—the progymnasmata, trivium, and quadrivium—to examine recent strategies in character formation. I think there is forgotten wisdom here. We have a map of a productive pedagogical sequence of mixed methods in virtue education. For example, stories are paired with physical training; virtue concept-learning comes next. In the second part of my paper I answer the critique of classical education as being too Western, privileged, and stilted. I explore ways by which its methods can be made less culturally myopic—through story-telling, exemplars, and an emphasis on virtues in the public square.

James MacAllister - Educating Virtues in a Plural World: In Defence of Revolutionary Aristotelianism

Educating Virtues in a Plural World: In Defence of Revolutionary Aristotelianism

Nussbaum maintains that an essentialist Aristotelean account of human nature should inform international public policy. In this paper I argue that Nussbaum may, like MacIntyre, be classifiable as a Revolutionary Aristotelian. I also consider whether MacIntyre subscribes to the theory that the virtues are culturally relative or not. I argue that while After Virtue has relativistic hues, MacIntyre does, in his most recent work, present something like a non-relativist account of the virtues. I conclude by arguing that Revolutionary Aristotelian’s like Nussbaum and MacIntyre show why it is vital to educate human virtues in a world of pluralism.

Cosimo Manni - Nature and History as Justifications of Universalism in Virtue Ethics

Nature and History as Justifications of Universalism in Virtue Ethics

Here I maintain that homo sapiens has moved towards a universalization of ethical theories and customs. There are two ways to justify universalism: 1) by using the allegedly timeless 'faculties' of human "nature"; 2) as outcome of the historical development. Norberto Bobbio in his 1990 The Age of Rights points to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations of 1948, in which an agreement between concrete and historical subjects (the signatory States in 1948) built a real universal criterion for judging "unjust" some moral behavior, even if they were made “legal” by local laws.

Carlos Dionisio de Marcos - Leadership in School Principals Based on Trust and Virtue Leads to Better Educational Performance

Leadership in School Principals Based on Trust and Virtue Leads to Better Educational Performance

There is research and collective experience to support the idea that virtue and trust in school principal’s leadership is the crucial factor in education transformation processes. Which are these key fundamental habits based on man’s social and relational nature? Six pivotal virtues that school principals should have to generate trust and cooperation and increase student performance will be described using the acronym BICEPS: benevolence, integrity, competence, excellence, presence and service. A nationwide program of principal leadership based on virtue fostering trust and cooperation is currently being applied in Argentina by Varkey Foundation, and will also be described in this paper.

Juan Andrés Mercado & Jerónimo Ayesta - Hope As the Transformation of Positive Emotions Into Permanent Motivations

Hope As the Transformation of Positive Emotions Into Permanent Motivations

Hope is a feeling produced by a positive situation in the future that appears within our reach (Aristotle and Aquinas). Hope is also a basilar strength of character linked to our highest aspirations and our lifestyle. It synthesises experience and prepares us to cope with an uncertain future, integrating desires and pleasures into consistent behaviour. Contemporary psychology has recovered nuclear elements of hope as a virtue, but more often than not, explanations remain at a very functional level. Significant discoveries by Seligman et al., M. Erickson, W. Mischel, C. Dweck will be useful in an updated explanation of hope.

Elise Murray & Jonathan Tirrell - Virtue and the Specificity Principle: An Integrative Approach to Understanding Character

Virtue and the Specificity Principle: An Integrative Approach to Understanding Character

Aristotle noted that virtues are well-defined and categorized as well as dynamic, requiring that specific virtues to be applied in specific contexts for specific individuals—where wisdom regarding such practical action is termed phronesis. This theory of virtue implies existence of both universality of virtues in their structure, and locality of virtues in their applications specific to individuals, contexts, and the bidirectional relations between the two. We use forgiveness and humility as examples to demonstrate a theoretical model integrating the universal and local aspects of virtue. Accordingly, we also discuss implementation of this model into virtue education.

Scott Parsons - Military Ethics: Values or Virtues? Regional or Universal?

Military Ethics: Values or Virtues? Regional or Universal?

There seem to be a core set of ‘values’ that western armies use in their published military values and standards like ‘loyalty’, ‘integrity’, and ‘courage’, but do these values mean the same thing for each country? Are they synonymous, merely similar, or unrelated in meaning? According to Aristotle, words like ‘loyalty’, ‘integrity’, and ‘courage’, are moral virtues. He argues that they contribute toward moral excellence. Are western armies striving for moral excellence? Maybe western armies only ‘value’ the ideas of ‘loyalty’, ‘integrity’, and ‘courage’. If so, they may not be too much different from totalitarian regimes like China, Iran, Syria, and North Korea.

Benjamin Perks - Cultural Relativism is Dead: Children & Societies Flourish Where Global and Local Values Merge & Shape Public Policy

Cultural Relativism is Dead: Children & Societies Flourish Where Global and Local Values Merge & Shape Public Policy

Parenting, education and environment in childhood drive civic and moral behaviour in adulthood everywhere . Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) including neglect, violence and dysfunctional parenting have huge costs for individuals and society. World Health Organisation research has spectacularly illustrated the similarity of ACE prevalence globally, across disparate societies-regardless of culture-and this entering mainstream discourse and understanding globally. A global UN commitment to end violence against children by 2030 provides policy space to promote Character education, universal pre-school, trauma informed schools and early childhood development-including improved parenting and perinatal care globally, which will dramatically improve societal and individual flourishing.

Andrew Peterson & Lucas Walsh - Framing the Moral Dimensions of the Australian Curriculum: A Role for Ordinary Virtues?

Framing the Moral Dimensions of the Australian Curriculum: A Role for Ordinary Virtues?

Despite promoting notions of active and global citizenship, Australian education policy lacks explicit reference to character, virtues or indeed to a clear framework for moral education. In this paper we explore factors which have contributed to the persistent state of ‘unease’ about the moral within Australian state schools. We argue for a sober reflection on the role of moral education in Australian state schooling that is decoupled from any specific religious or other world view, but which promotes ‘ordinary’ virtues. We explore how moralities are implicit and explicit in the moral geographies / moral economies of education policy and practice.

Mark Pike, Thomas Lickona, Peter Hart & Shirley-Anne Paul - Narnian Virtues

Narnian Virtues

The Narnian Virtues research trials a 12-week curriculum consisting of two hours of lessons per week based on The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe where students engage in activities to help them understand, identify, value, and practice the universal virtues of wisdom, justice, fortitude, self-control, love, and integrity seen in fictional characters in the novel. Using a Character Passport students also take the curriculum home, put virtues into practice outside of school, and engage with parents. We will be presenting results on the efficacy of the curriculum through the quantitative control trial including the difference parental involvement made.

Carolyn Roberts - Ethical Leadership Commission

Ethical Leadership Commission

The Commission for Ethical Leadership explores desirable virtues of school leaders in England. Every child has a right to quality schooling but we struggle to find a proxy beyond of accountability outcomes. Good results aren’t synonymous with good education if they were achieved in an atmosphere of fear or functionalism. Virtue is not a servant of accountability: on-target results don’t vindicate any behaviour. My paper will explore the emerging consensus as we seek to universalise an ethical framework Education should change the world. But what virtues build a better world, and who decides?

Jonny Robinson - Cruelty as a Foundation for Character Development

Cruelty as a Foundation for Character Development

If it is difficult to find widespread, cross-cultural, and even theoretical agreement on an appropriate list of virtues for the purpose of education or otherwise, perhaps we might begin with a vice. I present cruelty, often considered to be the worst of the vices, as a candidate for universal, non-controversial, and cross-cultural contempt. The non-ideal side of a picture of ideal character could be clarified, even established. If work in this direction is plausible, cruelty functions as a foundation for character education: one can agree on the sort of person one does not want to be and work from there.

Jennifer Rothschild - The Essential Sociality of Aristotelian Virtue

The Essential Sociality of Aristotelian Virtue

In this paper I argue that the way to read Aristotelian virtue is as essentially social. By this claim I mean that virtue as such is a marker of properly navigated sociality. When I am generous, I neither give too much to others at my own expense nor do I keep too much for myself at the expense of others. What it is to be generous just is giving that appropriately situates me amongst others. This reading insists that individual virtue is universal: its intelligibility as virtue depends upon its pointing to a place it occupies in form we share.

Miguel Angel Rumayor - The Ilative Sense: Newman's Answer to Aristotelian Phronesis for a Complete Education of Character Conscience

The Ilative Sense: Newman's Answer to Aristotelian Phronesis for a Complete Education of Character Conscience

Newman gives to the concept of Phronesis of Aristotle a great value, however he shows limitations that will contrast with his idea of Ilative Sense. Although both ideas are very compatible, these corner-stone concepts on the formation in virtues in both authors have differences that need to be highlighted in order to understand a true growth in virtues. Phronesis, defined by Aristotle as mother and measure of every virtue, has a universal character, whereas Ilative Sense has a particular consideration. Also, in this paper will be explained how Aristotle associates Phronesis with logical rationality and Newman links Ilative Sense to intuition and with what he calls 'rational instinct'.

Nancy Snow - Neo-Aristotelian Ethical Naturalism and the Universality of Virtues

Neo-Aristotelian Ethical Naturalism and the Universality of Virtues

From the perspective of neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics, questions as to whether virtues are universal or culturally relative are answered as follows: genuine virtues are universal because they are grounded in human nature. The presupposition is that nature and culture combine in the articulation of goods and virtues, with nature stably anchoring them and culture producing variability within limits set by nature. Germline genome editing now provides humanity with the means of effecting heritable changes in human nature, thereby changing human goods and virtues from the natural side of the nature/culture equation. This essay explores challenges presented by genome editing to neo-Aristotelian ethical naturalism.

Matt Stichter - The Universal Virtues of Self-Regulation: Virtue as Skill

The Universal Virtues of Self-Regulation: Virtue as Skill

There are some virtues that are universal, namely those excellences concerned with self-regulation. I defend this proposal based on a skill model of virtue. With this approach, some moral virtues (e.g. temperance and courage), and perhaps some epistemic virtues (e.g. self-inquisitiveness), can be understood more broadly as virtues of self-regulation. Nobody is going to live a flourishing life without these kinds of self-regulation skills. Furthermore, because people can be better or worse at changing their habits and character, virtues of self-regulation will be needed to improve our skillfulness in virtue. As such these virtues have a strong claim for universality.

Natasza Szutta - Beyond Situation: Self-Regulation as an Executive Virtue

Beyond Situation: Self-Regulation as an Executive Virtue

One of the liveliest ethical debates today is that between virtue ethicists and situationists. The latter maintain that moral character has no influence on human behaviour, some even doubt its existence (Doris, Harman, Meritt). In my presentation I will defend the significance of moral character to human behavior. I will refer to empirical research over self-control and self-regulation; present the most influential concept of will and self-regulation offered by R. Baumaister (2011); various methods in enhancing the willpower, as well as empirical data which can be used in the defence of global approach to virtues.

Koji Tachibana - What Astronauts Can Teach Us About Diversity and Universality of Human Virtues

What Astronauts Can Teach Us About Diversity and Universality of Human Virtues

We often have difficulty in identifying the virtuous in our century. Although some enterprises have been put forward to handle this difficulty, this presentation will consider whether an astronaut can be regarded as a typical exemplar of the virtuous. This consideration will suggest that studies on astronauts may advance our understanding of human virtue. It will then examine what space psychology study on astronauts can teach us about human virtue, its diversity and universality, and the mechanisms.

Maria Silvia Vaccarezza, Mario De Caro & Ariele Nicolli - A Threat to Traits: Ethical Expertise and the Situationist Challenge

A Threat to Traits: Ethical Expertise and the Situationist Challenge

In this paper, we argue that there are good reasons to endorse the situationists’ threat to global traits, without ending up with their account of local traits and of situation management as the only possible replacement to character education. In particular, we claim that the virtues, rather than being standardized patterns of behavior, have to do with the much harder job of balancing conflicting invitations issued by the complexity of real-life situations. Then, we introduce a novel account which conceives of phronesis as ethical expertise, which, we argue, better accounts for the effective management of complex situations.

Warren J. von Eschenbach - Are Public Virtues Global?

Are Public Virtues Global?

An important issue within the field of global ethics is the extent or scope of moral obligation or duties. Cosmopolitanism argues that we have duties to all human beings by virtue of some common property. Communitarian ethics argue that one’s scope of obligation is circumscribed by one’s community or some other defining property. Public virtues, understood to be either a property that communities possess to function well or a moral excellence constitutive of that community, offer an interesting challenge to this binary by positing moral goods or excellences that are constitutive of a community yet universal in application.

Dieter Weber & Heidrun Wulfekühler - Social Work in a Pluralistic Society: Realising the Universal Claim of Phronesis

Social Work in a Pluralistic Society: Realising the Universal Claim of Phronesis

Phronesis stands in the tension between universal claim and concrete applicability and genesis. Using a case study from social work, we try to explain that the universal claim of phronesis lies in its capacity for development. Because as hexis it is based on implicit relational knowing that acts like a self-fulfilling prophecy, phronesis carries the potency for further development. It can only show this in its application in concrete situations. Thus, the relationship between universal claim and local application and genesis of phronesis proves to be a relationship of mutual conditionality.