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Character and Virtues in the Professions

Character and Virtues in the Professions: An Interdisciplinary Conference

2th – 4th June 2016, University of Birmingham

Most publicly significant professions, vocations and other human occupations in civil and civilized societies have more or less formal codes of conduct or ‘professional ethics’ designed to ensure good or just practice and to protect clients from bad or unjust practice. However, such codes seem insufficient to guarantee conformity to them of individual practitioners. From this viewpoint, many latter day professional failures or ‘scandals’ in such contexts of public concern as (for example) politics, law, medicine, social work, education and commerce would appear to have been attributable more to the personal weakness, irresolution, greed, self-serving and sometimes just plain folly of individual practitioners: in short, to failures of personal moral character. Thus, while institutions and agencies of professional education and training have recently and rightly sought to promote deeper appreciation of the principles of just professional engagement on the part of professional practitioners, it would seem that the no less urgent matter of helping them to acquire the moral qualities of integrity, courage, self-control, service, selflessness and so on for the robust pursuit of such just practice has received less attention.

Working in the spirit of a neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics, which takes virtuous character to be something that may be developed or enhanced by appropriate education or teaching, the Jubilee Centre has been researching various possible approaches to character education in a variety of human occupations and professions, and has published reports on the professions of law, medicine, and teaching. New projects have begun researching the professions of the British Army, nursing, and business, as well as work on developing teaching interventions to put into higher education courses. Such work has been conceived by the Jubilee Centre as a significantly interdisciplinary enterprise to which a broad range of disciplines – including psychology, sociology and theology as well as philosophy – have indispensable contributions to make. This conference brought together the work of scholars from different disciplines to bear on issues of how best to educate moral character for the professions and featured keynote addresses from the following distinguished speakers:

Sarah Banks, Professor of Applied Social Sciences, University of Durham

Ann Gallagher, Professor of Ethics and Care, University of Surrey

Geoffrey Moore, Professor of Business ethics, University of Durham

Justin Oakley, Professor in the Centre for Human Bioethics, Monash University, Australia

Nancy Sherman, Professor of Philosophy (including military ethics), Georgetown University, USA

The programme detailing presentations made at the conference is available below:

Abstracts and papers presented at the conference can be found here.

Download the Character and Virtues in the Professions: An Interdisciplinary Conference Programme