7th Annual Conference: Virtues: Local or Universal?

Virtues: Local or Universal?

3rd – 5th January 2019, Oriel College, Oxford

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 was 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 was 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 Conference Programme is accessible by clicking the image below:

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

Download the Virtues: Local or Universal? Programme