4th Annual Conference: Cultivating Virtues

Cultivating Virtues: Interdisciplinary Approaches, Oriel College, Oxford

January 7th – 9th 2016

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

In virtue ethics, in particular of the Aristotelian kind, virtue cultivation is not an extraneous addition to an understanding of morality or the study of moral philosophy; it is, rather, what such understanding and study are all about. We progress towards moral excellence only if we are educated from an early age – indeed from birth – to do so. A study of morality would thus, by Aristotle’s lights, be an entirely fruitless enterprise if it did not gauge the educational implications of its findings.

Contemporary moral philosophy is commonly lambasted – by moral psychologists for example – for its lack of attention to developmental issues and its almost complete neglect of childhood. Aristotle’s stance is so radically different here that he could almost be accused of the opposite error: of reducing moral philosophy to character education. For him, it is more precious to know how virtue arises than to know what it is. More specifically, regarding moral inquiry as such, its purpose ‘is not to know what virtue is, but to become good, since otherwise the inquiry would be of no benefit to us’ (NE, 1103b27–29]). It is difficult to think of a more suitable platform from which to launch programmes of virtue-and-character education.

Yet various thorny problems remain about the nature and execution of education in virtue. As Aristotle offers no detailed account of the nuts and bolts of such education, virtue ethicists and character educationists need to engage in some serious reconstructive work – if not simply leaving Aristotle behind and making a fresh start.

The 2016 Jubilee Centre conference brought together experts from a range of disciplines to explore the nuances of virtue cultivation, both within and across disciplinary boundaries.

The programme is available by clicking the below image

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

Download the Cultivating Virtues: Interdisciplinary Approaches, Oriel College, Oxford Programme