Confronting Assumptions and Doctrines that Thwart the Cultivation of Virtues in Teacher Education

This paper considers the role of teacher education in cultivating virtues commonly associated with moral and ethical teaching. The moral and ethical nature of teaching is a neglected area of study in most programs. Rather than engaging student teachers in the thoughtful cultivation of virtue as a kind of professional wisdom and a reflection of the ethics of teaching, teacher education generally continues to be fraught by missed opportunities, as well as a deliberate reluctance to ignite a sense of moral purpose, grounded in virtue, that would guide the daily work of educational practitioners.

There are two elements that thwart the cultivation of teacher virtues: common assumptions and misconceptions about the inherent moral character of teacher candidates alongside the limited capacity of teacher education to accommodate a virtue-based curriculum; and an increasingly prevalent focus on doctrines and ideologies, shifting ethical expectations for teachers from the individual cultivation of personal and professional virtues to the collective mission to engage in radical social justice activism. Rather than defining the individual’s own personal responsibility for his or her character and virtuous conduct, the language of teacher ethics has morphed (not always subtly) into a call to challenge and disrupt inequities perpetuated by wider societal systems and structures. Using illustrative empirical data from a study on programs of teacher education (plus other professional disciplines) this paper addresses how virtue cultivation may be enhanced. It concludes that this can be achieved only if teacher educators confront the dual barriers of prevailing assumptions and doctrines.

Toward a Richer Understanding of the Moral Life: Three Disquieting Questions About the Contemporary Science of Morality

The current academic and scientific consensus about the nature of morality has been framed by a conceptual architecture bequeathed by the three main schools of Enlightenment thinking on this matter: the psychologized sentimentalism of Hume, the evolutionary account of the mind from Darwin and, finally, as procedures for guiding human action, the utilitarian calculus of Bentham and Mill. It is within the paradigm of this new moral synthesis that moral psychology and neuroscience operate and where experimental insight presently accumulates. But is this conceptual framework adequate to the reality it seeks to describe and explain? The purpose of this paper is to begin to create a clearing in which a richer and thus more adequate conceptualization of morality and virtue might be forged. To this end, I raise three unsettling questions surrounding the dominant conceptual understandings of morality. Those questions bear on 1) the adequacy of the science of morality itself, 2) the assumptions that underwrite the new moral synthesis, and 3) the unintended consequences of this approach to morality and virtue.

Schools of Character: Cultivating Virtue in Practice

Michael Roden (The University of Birmingham School) and Gary Lewis (Kings Langley School) are two experienced head teachers who will share their experiences of building schools of character.  Michael will explain how the new University School has integrated character education into its core mission and ethos.  He will describe how character education is both taught and caught at the school and the interventions that he has implemented to ensure character features in every aspect of school life. Michael will also describe some of the early impact of taking this approach.  Gary will explain the journey that he lead to turn round Kings Langley school though a comprehensive approach to character education.  In describing the journey he will discuss the factors that helped ensure success – including working with parents and getting teachers on board. 

Putting Ideals in Their Place

Ideal virtue theories posit what counts as good character and then ask how we get there from here. I defend a non-ideal theory, on two fronts. One, getting better is path-dependent: to understand moral development, we must first understand what psychological paths are available to us, and then determine what developments that are possible along those paths would count as genuine improvements. Ideals like “the virtuous person” help us understand in which direction “better” lies, and we cannot do that work without them. And two, that is all the work ideals do, because doing better is also path-dependent. While the virtue of generosity (say) has the right goal of helping others, that goal is indeterminate, and it takes practical intelligence to appreciate what is feasible in the world as we find it to determine what it would mean to realize our goal in a way that is genuinely excellent.

Cultivating the Virtuous Researcher

In recent years there has been an increasing concern and focus on ethics in the conduct of research. This is marked by a growth of ethical codes, guidance and policies for good conduct in research, research integrity and research governance (e.g. UKRIO, 2009; Universities UK, 2012). This is particularly the case in research involving human subjects, but increasingly covers all fields and includes issues of plagiarism and falsification of data as well as protection of research participants from harm and ensuring their rights to privacy and informed consent are respected.  

Most of the literature and policy and practice guidance focuses on the conduct of the researcher.  It takes the form of prescriptions for action and adopts a regulatory approach to ensuring good conduct through requiring that researchers submit applications to research ethics committees for approval and that they show evidence of following essentially rule-based codes.

This paper will consider what a character-based approach to research ethics might look like, exploring what might be the virtues of the good researcher and how these can be cultivated. This is an area that has been under-explored to date, although the work of Macfarlane (2009) offers a useful starting point from which to build. I will consider how ‘training’ and education of researchers and university students, and the approaches and practices of research ethics committees, might be transformed by focusing on cultivating virtuous researchers rather than ensuring rules are followed and risks minimised. I will consider the use of participatory theatre to act out and rehearse different responses to ethical challenges in research (Banks and Rifkin, 2014); and the use of Socratic dialogue to engage people in practising the virtues of attentiveness and respectfulness whilst discussing substantive ethical issues in a group.

Virtue, Skill and Vice

A great deal of attention has been devoted to issues of how we learn to be virtuous and to cultivate virtue, but very little has been devoted to the question of how we learn to be cowardly, brutal and so on. We can learn to have vices as we can learn to be virtuous, but the kind of learning is clearly different, since when we learn to be brave we aim to be brave, but although we can learn to be cowardly we typically do not, in doing so, aim to be cowardly. Vices are character traits that we aim not to have. In this paper I examine some problems that arise from the fact that we do learn to have vices, and that some of them involve a kind of practical intelligence. Does the skill analogy, so central for learning to be virtuous, apply when we learn to be vicious?

Keeping the Baby and the Bathwater: a developmental and pedagogical lens on character and virtue education

Aristotelian virtue ethics would be a “fruitless enterprise if it did not gauge the educational implications of its findings.”  To do so requires a developmental lens.  Focusing on the nature of the child both unifies the perspectives of philosophical considerations of virtue and educational approaches to character education and also helps avoid mistakes due to disciplinary myopia.

Philosophical and psychological theories attempt to construct sense of the complexity of human reality.  Staying close to the realities of human development means theories will be more veridical and pedagogical designs will be rational and effective in promoting character development.

Critically, the human being is only divided into categories such as virtues and character traits theoretically.  The actual human being is a complex holistic system with deeply interpenetrating components.  Aristotle and Sir John Templeton both understood this, but it is often not evidenced in contemporary applications.  Scholarship routinely leans to the study of the cultivation of isolated virtues and not the holistically virtuous person.  “Cultivating” a narrow set of virtues is often narrow and impoverished.  Holistic methods, such as comprehensive school reform, are less likely to be applied despite being more developmentally valid and pedagogically impactful.

This paper presents a developmentally holistic perspective on the virtuous person and a comprehensive pedagogical perspective on how to cultivate them.  This includes identifying cross-cutting evidence-based practices, not specific to single virtues, and a psychological integrative perspective on the goal: the virtuous person.

Why Literature Matters

In a 1904 letter to his childhood friend Oskar Pollak, Kafka wrote, “If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for?….A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.” How do teachers of literature help students to encounter literature in such a profound way? What are the pedagogical lenses and approaches they use to help melt “the frozen sea” within their students? 

This paper aims to illuminate the power of imaginative works of literature—novels, short story and poetry taught at the secondary level—to serve as a propaedeutic to moral experience.  More specifically, it will examine how literature, in the hands of thoughtful educators, can engage the imagination and cultivate both intellectual and moral virtue.  Drawing on US national data on reading habits of young people, exemplary programs, and the experiences of students and teachers of literature, we will examine the ways we can leverage the pedagogical power of literary works and tap the moral motivation of young people.  We will explore the factors critical to the moral development of a fictional character as well as the literary elements of a poem that prompt ethical reflection.  Finally, we will consider how literature can promote the schooling of desire—the deliberate integration of one’s habits, desire, loves, and ambitions within a higher order desire to flourish—and the virtues resulting from such schooling.

Educating Virtuous Feeling and Emotion: the role of poetry, literature and other arts

The Aristotelian account of virtue departs from its Platonic predecessor insofar as Plato clearly considered feelings and emotions to be mostly sources of moral error and delusion and moral virtue to be attainable only via the strait and narrow gate of dispassionate reason. By contrast, affect is clearly prominent in Aristotle’s account and there can be no virtue without some emotion or sentiment: no courage without some (due) fear, no compassion without some (though not excessive) kind feeling, no temperance without some (appropriately measured) appetite, and so on.

In that case, how might the affective or appetitive dimensions of virtuous character be developed, cultivated or educated? Aristotle himself suggests a promising route to the moral development of virtuous sentiment or emotion in his Poetics. There, he evidently takes literature to be sources of rich insight not just into human moral life in general but into the moral dimensions of emotion in particular. While the general idea that the narrative form of literature represents the basic logical form of human moral understanding has recently been explored by such writers as Alasdair MacIntyre, the particular potential of poetry as such for shaping moral emotion has been less so. This presentation explores this possibility with particular reference to a more modern romantic association of poetry with emotional development.

Moral Glamour

This paper considers the importance of glamorous or ‘cool’ ethical role models to character education and what makes certain virtue-based behaviour ‘cool’ or aspirational, that is, a desirable character trait and an alternative indicator of status. Research suggests that people perceive people and products to be ‘cool’ and therefore desirable when they infer that the object or person is autonomous (i.e. they pursue their own motivations irrespective of the norms and expectations of others) in an appropriate way. This paper focuses on lawyers and considers how the eulogising of ‘cool’ lawyers who are models of ethical character can contribute to ethics education for the legal profession.

The background, motives and character traits of two fictional lawyers (Atticus Finch and Horace Rumpole) and one real lawyer (Bram Fischer) are examined and an attempt made to identify the character traits that make these lawyers ‘cool’ or not. The ancient (Aristotelian) emotional virtue of emulation is also considered and the author suggests that the presence of ‘righteous lawyers’ like Finch, Rumpole and Fischer might affect, enable and encourage other lawyers and law students to do the right thing, and thus help create a legal profession as a ‘moral community’ rather than simply a business community or trade union representing the interests of lawyers.

Cultivating the Virtue of Purpose

Purpose is an important virtue. Committing to a personally meaningful aim because of how doing so allows one to make a difference in the broader world is associated with psychological well-being, hope, happiness, and life satisfaction. It also serves as an organizing feature for other virtues. In adolescents, purpose appears to impart particular benefits as a critical developmental asset, a key component of youth thriving, and an important indicator of healthy identity development. 

Despite the importance of this virtue, it is rare. Only about 20% of high school students report having a purpose in life. Considering both the benefits of purpose and its rarity, a set of tools that can quickly and easily be administered is needed to foster purpose among youth. To that end, we are engaged in an empirical investigation designed to intentionally cultivate the virtue of purpose among young people. 
We conducted a pilot test (N=120) in the spring of 2015. Based on findings from intervention studies designed to cultivate related virtues, we devised three sets of activities with four activity conditions for students to complete over the course of a two-week period. 

Despite relatively small sample sizes, initial results were promising and the first two conditions yielded statistically significant positive results. Future aspirations also increased significantly among the intervention groups, and not among the control group. The study was then rolled out to a larger sample (N=400). I will share these findings and discuss plans to further improve the intervention and administer it to a nationwide sample in the fall of 2016. 

Educating through Exemplars: alternative paths to virtue

This paper approaches the issue of virtue cultivation, by investigating the advantages in elaborating educational strategies based upon Zagzebski’s Exemplarism. We confront some basic exemplarist intuitions with the debate over the unity-disunity of the virtues, so to endorse a pluralistic exemplar-based approach to moral education (PEBAME) that values both a “unitarist” model of exemplar and a “disunitarist” one. We aim to demonstrate that endorsing PEBAME is more beneficial to character education than trying to settle such a debate and hence limiting the range of moral exemplars to either kind or the other.

Therefore, we focus on Blum’s definitions of “moral hero” and “moral saint” (1988), considered respectively to be the model for the “unitarist” exemplar and the “disunitarist” one, and we show how two concrete examples taken from Italian nineteenth century history (i.e. Giorgio Perlasca and Gino Bartali) satisfy Blum’s definitions. Then, we offer a comparative analysis of the effectiveness of moral heroes and moral saints for character education, according to four criteria derived from PEBAME: admirability, virtuousness, required-reflection, and imitability. In particular, we argue that, on the one hand, saints and heroes do not substantially differ in their fulfilment of the admirability and the required-reflection criteria; on the other, the saint is largely superior to the hero for what concerns virtuousness.

Thus, what allows us to conclude that both the unitarist and the disunitarist exemplars are fundamental to character education is the heroes’ superiority to saints in imitability, which deserves a special role in our analysis because of its importance for education.

The Nature and Nurture of Patriotic Virtue

Debates about patriotic education have focused on: (1) the respective roles of patriotism and civic friendship in promoting a commitment to domestic justice and defense of just institutions; (2) tensions between patriotic loyalty and the “cosmopolitan” respect and cooperation properly owed to all peoples regardless of borders as a requirement of morality and basis for just solutions to global problems; (3) pathologies of patriotism, including its role in illegitimate suppression of debate and procuring of compliance with government policies; (4) the sources of patriotic attachment and focus of patriotic devotion; (5) mythologizing and indoctrinative aspects of the inculcation of patriotism; (6) whether attempts to cultivate patriotism in schools are needed and likely to be beneficial.

The aim of this paper is to cut through these debates, by clarifying the nature of virtuous patriotism and the means by schools can legitimately facilitate it.  It argues that patriotism is a devotion to the good of one’s country, a country being a corporate entity that lives together across generations.  Virtuous devotion to such an entity involves an appropriate responsiveness to its value, where appropriateness is determined by what is actually good for it and not bad for anything else of value. Virtuous responsiveness is targeted and proportionate: it protects what is good and opposes what is bad. The value of a country is principally constituted by the intrinsic value of its people, the opportunities for living well provided by its geographic region and living environment, and the qualities of its constitutional system conducive to cooperation in living well together. 

People are Good in One Way, but Bad in Many

I shall propose a medical model for the diagnosis, rehabilitation, and prevention of character flaws. This will necessitate building an Aristotelian, dual-process model of moral decision-making. Using this model as a basis, I shall then describe 2,680 different character flaws. 

Cultivating the Virtue of Toleration: paradoxes and pitfalls of a modern educational ideal

Toleration is widely considered as one of the core values of liberalism. In modern liberal societies, characterized by deep disagreements concerning the nature of the good and the just, toleration is often regarded as an indispensable political virtue that should be cultivated in every sector of the educational system. The normative and conceptual content of the virtue of toleration is, however, hotly disputed, if not essentially contested in philosophy of education and political philosophy. In my paper I will discuss some of the major paradoxes and pitfalls commonly associated with toleration as a political virtue and as an aim of education. First, I will provide an analysis of the concept of toleration. In a second step, I will discuss three of the most well-known paradoxes of toleration and the problems they pose for a theoretical analysis and normative justification of toleration as a political virtue and as an educational aim. 

Obstacles to Restoring Character Education

Despite world-wide and wide ranging efforts to restore character education in the school curricula, educators usually have to confront three fundamental and significant obstacles. 

First, although educators using traditional academic disciplines have been challenged by imaginative reforms, the basic four disciplines of history, mathematics, science, and language-literature have dominated curricula since before the 1890s. The pedagogical model of these disciplines has been based on a cognitive-mastery-of-knowledge premise. There have been many successful efforts to overcome both the traditional architecture and the pedagogy of the schools.

Second, the recent emphasis on standardized testing has shifted large portions of teaching time to a much narrower set of topics, mainly mathematics, science, and literacy.  These subject areas are comparatively easy to test on a large scale. The influence of excessive standardized testing has restricted efforts to create not only character education programs, but also to address areas such as civic education and social-emotional capacities for young students. 

Third, character education reformers should find an umbrella term under which all could conduct school reforms productively and cooperatively.  The differences among the many forms of character education have resulted in this entire reform being set aside.  As a consequence, a multitude of good ideas achieve success, but they remain quite local and have had little chance of being integrated into goals of an entire K-12 reform. A convincing overall argument needs to be composed so that schools with less success can build their own versions of programs that have been successful elsewhere.

In this paper both recent and longer-standing innovations will be reviewed as a resources for those endeavoring to overcome these three fundamental obstacles. 

Wising Up: on the possibility of an Aristotelian theory of moral stage development for practical intelligence

In Aristotelian virtue theories, practical intelligence is foundational to being good. But to date accounts of how this particularly important virtue can emerge are sketchy. This paper explores how far the emergence of practical intelligence can be understood as akin to cognitive moral stage development, having and passing through typical phases or steps. Insofar as practical intelligence is not a “natural” virtue and has to be acquired through experience and practice, it looks like a poor candidate for this kind of theorizing. However practical intelligence involves certain capacities for reasoning and feeling, which grow along known developmental pathways, and research in developmental psychology provides information on the practical challenges people ordinarily face at different stages of the lifespan, as well as on the relationship between age, experience, and wisdom. According to some of the latter research, age is not necessarily correlated with wisdom and a younger person could be wiser than an older person, especially in particular spheres of practical concern (e.g. sexuality or death and dying), if she has more experience than the older person in that sphere. This suggests that practical intellectual development might be fruitfully conceptualized in terms of (a) the average timescales on which ordinary powers of reason, feeling, acting develop and (b) the average timescales on which humans ordinarily become experienced in acting well in the major spheres of practical concern. If so, while the young may become practically intelligent in particular spheres given their peculiar experiences, fully developed practical intelligence ordinarily will not emerge before mid-life and the accumulation of substantial experience across the range of spheres of concern in a human life. 

Becoming Good with Practice: teaching virtues in postgraduate medical education

This presentation aims to explore whether postgraduate medical education (PGME) is a special case of the development of virtues in a profession. PGME is an interesting case of character-virtue education because it is provided for those who have chosen to join a professional practice that provides ‘a good’, which famously requires a commitment to certain virtues. However, doctors rarely have the time to explore what these virtues are as expressed in their own practice. Their doctor/patient encounters are rarely focused on themselves in detail. We help them to theorise their practice in terms of who they bring to their encounters with patients and how they ‘live’ their understanding of the virtues. This might also have implications for the undergraduate curriculum for doctors and raises the possibility of designing a virtues-based curriculum for medicine.

We will share the work we have engaged in since 2003 to develop senior doctors into teachers, committed to working in the moral mode of educational practice, recognising the significance of the ontological aspects of both educational and medical practice, and how some Aristotelian ideas on the virtues have contributed to this. The educational resources we have developed for use directly in medical practice are the Clinical Thinking and the Moral Reasoning Pathways, which is are broadly driven by Aristotelian ideas about the virtues.

Cultivating Civic Education

This presentation concentrates on cultivating civic education as moral education. In developmental psychology some of most influential theories of moral development underestimated the abilities and skills that young children develop in dealing with other people and their understanding of the moral features of actions. Children start imitating facial features at only a few weeks old. They start distinguishing between right and wrong early on, know the difference between intentional action and accident, and they realise that they have to take into account the interests of others. This picture disproves that children are controlled by instant pleasures and pains disregarding the interests of others, rather that rationality plays a considerable part in children´s general development in early stages. 
If children´s rationality develops this early there are consequences for their moral development and schools approach to it. Teaching can play a substantial part in moral development with the aim for children to understand what reasons are, what they justify, and when a particular action is appropriate. Civic education is that part of moral education dealing with our relations with society in general and politics in particular, and when it is taught in a democracy the virtue of respect must be developed in students. This development can only take place if the school takes character education seriously and integrates it into the majority or most of the activities the school plans, allowing students to discuss and reflect on the morally salient features of the situation and their own responses.

The argument in this presentation includes preliminary results from a project in Icelandic schools using conversations for learning concentrating on civic virtues.

Friendship, Character Education, and the Human Good

Friendship was a central virtue for Aristotle, but has been largely neglected in contemporary character education. Perhaps this is due to the absence of an obvious connection between friendship and academic performance. Aristotle emphasized this key virtue because he saw humans as social creatures needing strong attachments to flourish. The virtue of friendship makes the good of character friendship possible. He defined friendship (philia) broadly, encompassing affinity based peer relationships, parent-child relationships, teacher-student relationships, marriage, and political ties. He delineated three types of friendships: utility, pleasure, and character. Utility friends provide tangible benefits and pleasure friends provide enjoyment. Aristotle saw character (or virtuous) friendship as the best and most durable because it is based on mutual recognition of good character, meaningful shared goals, and wanting the best for one’s friend. He suggested that character friendship is a constituent of eudaimonia (human flourishing) whereas utility and pleasure friendship would contribute more to hedonia (pleasure and positive emotion). A recent structural equation modeling study confirmed that character friendship is more strongly related to eudaimonic well-being, mediated by commitment to the friendship, and that pleasure and utility friendship are related to hedonic well-being, mediated by the provision of enjoyment and benefits, respectively. The contrast between the three friendship types clarifies the relative limits of utility relationships between teachers, parents, and students. The presentation concludes with discussion of how character friendship can engender teamwork, mutual respect, and the shared goal of learning. This conceptual enrichment of friendship enhances our understanding of high quality learning partnerships (and other important relationships).

Recovering and Receiving the Lost Virtue of Leisure

In this essay I explore the relationship between the political and contemplative virtues. In Aristotle’s writings there is some ambiguity about what should be the animating purpose or telos of human existence. At one point, he argues for the active life of political virtue as the supreme end for human beings. Elsewhere, he makes a case for leisure or the contemplative life as the ultimate telos of human existence. What is not clear in Aristotle’s account is the nature of the relationship between action and contemplation? Are these competing or complementary teloi? More specifically, how might the virtues of the active citizen work in concert with or against the virtues that sustain contemplation?

At the present moment, this ancient row begs for resolution. In Leisure the Basis of Culture Josef Pieper describes a new and threatening form of culture wherein leisure, as it was classically understood and practiced, has been displaced by a culture of total work. Drawing especially from the writings of Pieper, Abraham Heschel, and Søren Kierkegaard I make a case for retrieving a classical and medieval understanding of leisure. Without the contemplative virtues that leisure cultivates, the civic virtues are at risk of becoming instrumentalized by the culture of total work and/or being haunted (and driven) by anxiety and despair. The contemplative virtues not only complement the virtues associated with the active life, but also properly ground, orient, and sustain those virtues, offering a foundation for critically assessing the distortions of the prevailing culture, as well as providing a basis for creating and sustaining a different kind of culture. 

Stoicism Today: an alternative approach to cultivating the virtues

This paper outlines key features of Stoic thinking on ethical development and considers how this can best contribute to current work promoting the cultivation of the virtues.

Stoicism offers an alternative version of virtue-ethics, a full-scale theory of ethical development (conceived as ‘familiarisation’ or ‘appropriation’, oikeiōsis). Distinctive features of the Stoic theory include the idea that ethical development consists of two distinct but interrelated strands: the recognition that virtue alone is the only real good in human life; and the expansion of the natural human instinct to benefit others (from motives such as parental love to a broader ethical concern for all). Other distinctive claims are that all human beings are capable of ethical development, regardless of social setting, and that ethical development brings with it a complete reshaping of the personality, emotions, and patterns of behaviour and relationship. 

In this paper, I outline the main distinctive features of Stoic thinking on this subject, highlighting differences from Aristotle and also points of special interest for modern ethical concerns. I also discuss how Stoic thinking can contribute to modern attempts to promote the cultivation of the virtues, drawing on a public engagement project in which I have been closely involved since 2012, ‘Stoicism Today’. This project, directed at adults rather than children, presents Stoic ideas for modern life-guidance through on-line courses and public events; we have also prepared several reports on responses to these courses through self-reporting questionnaires. Stoic ethics has long been regarded as valuable in promoting emotional resilience in difficult situations; a feature that has emerged in our project. Stoicism suggests that emotional resilience and character-building depend on cultivating the virtues and recognising their importance for a human life.

Moral Growth: a Thomistic account

We speak of “moral growth” and of becoming “more virtuous,” each of which suggests a sort of quantitative increase in something, and this seems to be purely metaphorical. However, according to Thomas Aquinas such change may be compared to becoming healthier, the healthier organism comes to share more fully in the qualities of a perfectly healthy specimen of the sort of living thing it is. Health is a formal property of an organism that it must possess to some greater or lesser degree. Analogously, one can become more virtuous by coming to participate more fully in virtue. 

On the Aristotelian account, moral development is a transition from acting kata pathos (according to one’s native affective responses) to acting kata prohairesin (acting deliberatly according to one’s conception of living well). The development that can be appropriately called “moral growth” is the transition from natural virtue to proper virtue. However, the transition is not merely a rational matter because immediate responses to situations may lag behind rational insight, such that it requires effort and deliberate exercise to bring the responses into line with insight. According to Aquinas there is a non-rational developmental process that involves integrating knowledge more fully into our minds through repeated application. In the case of virtue the change is somewhat more dramatic, since the world appears differently to the person who possesses virtue than to one who does not. Therefore, moral growth involves a change in one’s way of seeing the world, then, rather than merely intensifying existing rational insight. 

This paper will explore the details of the transformation from natural to proper virtue with special attention to Thomas Aquinas’ neglected account of habit change in the Summa Theologiae.

Educating the Virtues: 25th Anniversary

A reflection on the 25th anniversary of David Carr’s book Educating the Virtues: an essay on the philosophical psychology of moral development and education.

Attainable and Relevant Moral Exemplars as Powerful Sources for Moral Education: from vantage points of virtue ethics and social psychology

Moral exemplars can work as agents for moral modeling and potentially sources for moral education, given the accounts of virtue ethicists who supported the power of moral modeling (Kristjánsson, 2006; Sanderse, 2012) as well as the previous social psychological studies that showed the effect of moral elevation (Englander, Haidt, & Morris, 2012; Haidt, 2000; Schnall, Roper, & Fessler, 2010), upward social comparison (Smith, 2000; Suls, Martin, & Wheeler, 2002) and vicarious socio-moral learning (Bandura & McDonald, 1963; Bandura, 1969). However, recent social psychological experiments have shown that the mere presentation of extreme moral exemplars can induce negative emotional and behavioral responses (e.g., moral envy, moral resentment, withdrawal from moral behavior) (Monin, Sawyer, & Marquez, 2008; Monin, 2007). In fact, some virtue ethicists have also warned the potential harmful aspects of extreme moral exemplars (Curzer, 2015; Kristjánsson, 2014; Swanton, 2003). Social psychology has suggested that stories of attainable and relevant exemplars are more powerful to promote motivational forces compared to stories of extraordinary exemplars. First, the motivational power of stories became significantly greater when the stories were perceived to be more attainable (Cialdini, 1980; Lockwood & Kunda, 1997). Second, even a presence of a mere relevance (e.g., having the same birthday with an exemplar) significantly improved the motivational power (Lockwood & Kunda, 1997; Walton, Cohen, Cwir, & Spencer, 2012). Thus, the present study tested whether the stories of attainable and relevant moral exemplars are more effective to promote students’ moral motivation compared to extraordinary moral stories through psychological experiments. 

Educating Character: from virtue ethical theory to practice

This paper explores the relationship between theory and practice in Character Education.  If Character Education truly aims to transform young people and by extension the societies they are grow up in, then this relationship must be carefully nurtured and managed.  Adopting virtue ethics as the theoretical underpinning of character education has the potential to bear many fruits.  Perhaps most significantly it requires teachers to question the purpose of education. Furthermore, cornerstones of Aristotelian virtue ethical theory such as arête, phronesis and eudemonia provide solid foundations for the development of character education interventions that can be brought to life in classrooms.  Successful programmes such as the Knightly Virtues and primary and secondary Programmes of Studies developed by the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues have demonstrated this to be the case.  

The relationship between theorists and practitioners cannot be unidirectional.  A naturalist position on virtue ethics allows for the theory to be informed and / or shaped by empirical research.  It is ‘findings from the classroom’ that enable researchers to go beyond Aristotelian textual analysis and to reconstruct virtue ethics to reflect present day realties.   The persistent challenge is how best to carry out this empirical vision.  The challenge appears to be two-fold;   firstly, how to get beyond the often perceived researcher / practitioner divide; secondly, how to proceed on well documented gaps between theory and practice.  This paper will discuss two significant and well known ‘gaps’; i) the lack of a universally acknowledged and empirically tested model or stage theory of character education; and, ii) the deficiency of robust methods and tools available for teachers to measure the effectiveness of character education interventions. The paper will explore the activities currently being undertaken by the Jubilee Centre to address these gaps.  In doing so, it will argue that it is not enough to simply to leave the relationship between character education theory and practice to chance; action must be taken if character education is to flourish.

Developing Noble Purpose in Middle School Students through Character Development and Social-Emotional Learning

Our belief is that virtues must not only be learned but also applied for good. Therefore, our team has designed a virtue education program, Mastering Our Skills and Inspiring Character (MOSAIC), integrating character education and social emotional learning methodology. This synthesized pedagogy will teach youth both a constellation of character virtues and the skills to cultivate these virtues toward their own, unique noble purpose. In the 3-year implementation of the MOSAIC curriculum in 6 urban schools in New Jersey, starting in September 2015 and funded by the Templeton Foundation, we will evaluate the efficacy of this combined methodology. Our paper discusses: (1) the structure and pedagogy of the MOSAIC curriculum, (2) implementation findings from the use of an initial version of the curriculum at another urban middle school in New Jersey in 2013-2015, and (3) the strategy and components of the 3-year MOSAIC project implementation plan.

The MOSAIC curriculum uses social-emotional and character education techniques to increase student skills for developing and acting on noble purpose within the context of already-existing middle school advisory classes. The virtues we incorporate are compassionate forgiveness and gratitude, constructive creativity, helpful generosity, responsible diligence, and optimistic future-mindedness. Through pedagogical methods including conversation series and debates, student and teacher led discussions focusing on relevant issues in the school, service-linked projects, and reflection activities, the MOSAIC program teaches students to use their social and emotional skills to develop their own virtue-driven noble purpose. This learning is reinforced through monthly visual reminders, termed “Throughline Sheets”, posted in every classroom, encouraging staff and students alike to employ their MOSAIC skills and virtues in all subjects. 

Vertical Tutor Groups in the Primary Years – Character Education

A Year 4 boy once said to me, “I really don’t like playing on the oval, the older boys scare me, they take up all the space and yell at us to get out of the way so I keep away from them.” This comment marked the start of my research project, leading me to question why in one school, with boys just a few years apart in age, some boys would feel this way when our school places so much emphasis on boys displaying virtuous behaviours. I began researching the impact the introduction of a vertical tutor group might have on boys in Years 4 to 6 and whether this might improve the boys’ demonstration of caring and improve relationships between them. Vertical tutor grouping is not new but introducing this system at a much younger age is. 

My research overwhelmingly suggested that incorporating a vertical tutor group system into a primary school setting encouraged boys to develop and maintain relationships with boys they would otherwise not have known. The boys grew in confidence and felt that they had a new group of peers who cared for them. Incorporating the theme of care into the school curriculum and implementing the programme, proved rewarding for all participants involved in this project. Confidence was the key outcome reported for the majority of participants, and acting with care and interest towards other boys was self-rewarding for the group members.  Implementation of this program is achievable into any school that aims to build character education into its core. I will explain how this can be successfully achieved.

What Triggers Intellectual Humility in Daily Adult Life, and Does the Experience of Adversity Promote Intellectual Humility?

This paper explores new directions in research on the epistemic virtue of intellectual humility. The majority of existing research into intellectual humility has viewed it as a character virtue (e.g. Roberts, 2012), in which some people are more or less humble than others. Although there are dispositional differences in individuals’ intellectual humility, there is reason to believe that this virtue can be learned through individuals’ experiences. We are particularly interested in understanding the situational contingencies that promote intellectual humility in adults as their attitudes and beliefs are likely to be established, stable, and resistant to change. We note here that a situational contingency is defined as a systematic relationship between a given state (i.e., intellectual humility) that an individual enacts and a given characteristic of the situation (Fleeson, 2007). Such contingencies do not refer to the trait of intellectual humility itself or to individual differences in intellectual humility. Instead, they refer to changes in the state: changes in the extent to which the affective, behavioral, and cognitive content of the trait of intellectual humility describes the way the individual is being at the moment. (following Fleeson, 2007). An additional testable question is whether one can cultivate the “state” of humility and its associated virtuous behaviors, including potentially those associated with intellectual humility, by situationally priming an explicit awareness of one’s own mortality. Recent theorizing (Jayawickreme & Blackie, 2015) and empirical research (Kesebir, 2014) have demonstrated that a humble mindset might be one of the critical characteristics responsible for promoting a more positive reaction to a reminder of one’s mortality. 

Plato on Dialogue as a Method for Cultivating the Virtues

In this paper, I outline Plato’s theory of dialogue and its relationship to the moral transformation of adults. Although it generally goes unacknowledged, Plato, like Aristotle, claims that individuals who are not properly habituated in their youth will lack a taste for virtue and will necessarily be prone to vice as adults. However, unlike Aristotle, Plato believes that even poorly-raised individuals can, under the right circumstances, become virtuous. Plato argues that while it is impossible for badly-raised individuals to come to full virtue through teaching alone, they can be so impacted by a well-structured dialogue that they can start the long process of developing a different set of habits. But, contrary to popular belief, this does not mean that Plato believes that dialogue alone can achieve complete moral transformation—at most it can “only half realize [the individual’s] potentialities for virtue” (Laws, 647d). Nevertheless, it can start a process of moral transformation that has the potential to create lasting change, so long as the partially transformed individuals find new role-models who can direct them in the development of new habits. To make my case, I first briefly outline Plato’s insistence on the role of habits in the cultivation of virtue; next I examine Plato’s theory of dialogue found in the Seventh Letter and show why he believes dialogue can foster transformation; then I examine two paradigmatic Socratic dialogues that show Plato’s theory in action; I conclude with a brief analysis of the relevance of Plato’s theory for contemporary moral education.

Play, Instrumentality and the Good Life

The idea of a completeness of an activity constituting good life does not align well with actual lives of children. Values in their lives are mainly thought of in instrumental terms, even organized leisure activities such as sports are promoted for their preventive value; if kids do sports they drink less etc. The domination of instrumentality also overshadows educational discourse where mention of non-instrumental moral values is rare. Activities at one level of schooling are portrayed as a preparation for the next one, until one leaves the formal educational system for good. 
In play one can experience and practice many of the features that are constitutive of the good life. Two things are particularly important. First, in a play one may create a world where values are not instrumental and derivative of things that lie outside the play. Play activities of children may have all sorts of instrumental values but in the play such instrumental values are irrelevant. Second, play can be a mode of doing experiments in life with full seriousness. 
The activity of playing may create a world where values are not dictated by the adults but are generated within the play and depend on the nature of the different activities and roles that constitute the play. This last point is particularly relevant, since the lives of children are not only dominated by instrumental values but also by values that are dictated by others and whose relevance may be utterly obscure to the young child. The participants are able to carve out pockets of complete living where they can cultivate sensibility and attitudes that are central to leading a meaningful life.

Cultivating Empathy and Prosocial Behaviour using Mobile Phones

Research has found that empathy predicts increased prosocial behavior and lower aggressiveness. Although empathy is strongly heritable (Davis et al, 1994) and relatively stable across time and situations (Van der Mark et al, 2002; Robinson et al, 2001), individual differences in empathy are still influenced by environmental factors. For example, American college students have been declining in their trait empathy scores across the past 30 years (Konrath et al, 2011). In addition, much research finds that empathy can be taught and learned from others (e.g. Feshbach et al, 1984; Feshbach & Konrad, 2001), even from videos (Kremer & Dietzen, 1991; Warner, 1984). In this study we examine whether it is possible to teach empathy to young adults using daily text messages. 

We created an SMS based program called Text2Connect. Text messages were created from prior research and categorized into three different components: 1) emotional empathy, 2) cognitive empathy, and 3) prosocial behavior. The first two aspects focused on people’s inner world or character (‘aretaic’), while the last focused on practicing observable kind behaviors (‘deontic’). We wanted to determine whether it is possible to build empathy with the very same technology that may help to erode it. In this study, participants who were randomly assigned to receive empathy-building text messages for 14 days, compared to control messages, showed an increase in empathy-related traits, motivations, and prosocial behaviors. Thus, it is possible to nudge people toward more virtuous character using mobile-based interventions. Our ongoing research is testing this program on a much larger sample, among teenagers, to explore whether there it is more effective for some age groups compared to others. 

The Pendulum of Educational Reform: civic and moral education in Taiwan

Educational reforms are like a pendulum: usually swung back and forth, influenced by socio-cultural context. A number of Taiwanese educational reforms have been accompanied by new social movements since martial law was abolished in 1987. Civic and moral education, integrated together from primary to secondary education, had been a mandatory, stand-alone subject, serving as a tool indoctrinating political ideology for several decades. Since 2000, educational reforms have separated civic and moral education. The civic curriculum became one course entitled ‘social studies’, while moral curriculum ‘should be infused into’ all learning areas/subjects. The Ministry of Education proclaimed in 2004 the ‘Moral and Character Education Improving Project’ as a national level’s principle of character and moral education to respond to social needs. 

The KMT, the ruling party in 2008, has prepared the ’12-year basic education’, an on-going educational reform. After the Sunflower social movement in 2014 and anti-curriculum adjustment movement in 2015, civic and moral education has been re-discussed. 

I explore the contextualized history of civic and moral education and investigate its controversial issues. Firstly, the unresolved dilemma of whether to integrate civic and moral education and the optimal style for curriculum organization. Secondly, the ideal trends for curriculum goals and conservative or liberal directions for civic and moral education. Thirdly, so called ‘value neutral’ in civic and moral education and the profound rationale for curriculum content. Several recommendations will be provided for Taiwan and other countries through these reflections on the continuing history.

Cultivating Virtue in Postgraduates: a case study from the Oxford Character Project

Despite renewed academic interest in character education, most universities have neglected the cultivation of virtue in postgraduate students. Most character education programs are directed toward elementary school, high school, and college students rather than postgraduate and professional students. And when ethics education is offered for postgraduates, it tends to be compartmentalized and reduced to reflection on rare and abstract ethical dilemmas. Such an approach leaves postgraduates without sufficient moral resources to analyze and negotiate this crucial time in their personal development when they are first being challenged to integrate their personal values with their professional expectations. Therefore, postgraduate education presents unique opportunities to extend character education to an important but neglected population. Such extension, however, is not without challenges, particularly since postgraduate have more entrenched habits after years of formation and their disciplines involve diverse ethical and professional demands. 

This paper explores these opportunities and challenges by considering lessons from the Oxford Character Project, an interdisciplinary initiative that is developing a postgraduate-specific programme for character development that aims to help students from diverse disciplines, backgrounds, and fields become ‘good leaders and wise thinkers.’ Taking this project as its central case study, this paper analyzes the theoretical and practical justifications for postgraduate-specific character development and examines the results of empirical assessments that attempt to measure its effectiveness. By presenting the preliminary results and the interdisciplinary research that informs them, the paper assesses one practical model of postgraduate-specific character development and explores how it addresses the particular challenges that postgraduate education presents.

The Personal and Societal Consequences of the Sexual Revolution: the elephant in character education’s living room

The sexual revolution of the past half-century is arguably the dominant cultural revolution of modern times. In the hypersexualized societies of today’s world, sex is everywhere. For character educators to try to avoid dealing with the fallout of the sexual revolution is to ignore the elephant in the room. While the sexual revolution fostered more open communication about human sexuality, it has also created a sexual culture that is in many ways harmful to children’s academic, social-emotional, sexual, and character development. Problematic consequences of the sexual revolution include increases in: precocious sexual activity on the part of pre-teens, sexual activity among adolescents, unwed pregnancies and births among both teens and adults, abortions, sexually transmitted diseases, fatherless families, children being raised in unstable cohabiting households, and children growing up in poverty. These conditions have put children at greater risk of a host of other negative outcomes, including doing poorly in school, peer relationship problems, drug abuse, juvenile delinquency, being unemployed as adults, depression, and suicide. Given that sex has profound consequences for self, others, and society, how can we educate for character in the sexual domain? What can schools and families do to combat the negative effects of the sexual revolution?

Understanding Phronesis and Ren: a dialogic exploration of Aristotle’s and Confucius’ central virtues

Aristotelian phronesis could be understood as his “central virtue”(MacIntyre, 1984, p.154) and Confucius ren is interpreted as an “all-encompassing” virtue (Yu, 1992, p. 77), I will primarily examine the complex meanings of the two essential concepts in their respective value systems based on the theme of harmony and tension.

I am asking questions around the binary conceptions of the western and eastern wisdom traditions and how Confucian ren’s harmony might be related to the tension of phronesis in an attempt to bring them into a dialogic space to seek for new understandings. Following Bernstein (1983), different ethical traditions may indeed be incompatible and incommensurable, but they are comparable. 

In contrast and comparison of the two concepts, I find that there might be no solid division between Aristotelian phronesis and Confucian ren as tension versus harmony. I use the phrase dynamic harmony and creative tension as an attempt to re-conceptualize Aristotelian phronesis and Confucian ren. Tension and harmony could be read as not contrary to each other but mutually inclusive and enhancing. The dynamic harmony is different from conformity and the creative tension is different from sheer confrontation or negation. 

With the discussions around the infiltrating and complimentary characteristic of tension and harmony in two ancient concepts, we might open up new space for further investigations and address the parochial criticism of virtue ethics. 

MacIntyre on Character Education

This paper considers MacIntyre’s views on character education. It revisits his debate with Dunne about whether or not teaching is a ‘practice’. It also highlights some continuities and discrepancies between the thought of MacIntyre and Aristotle. MacIntyre broadly agrees with a number of Aristotelian ideas including a teleological account of human personhood and a resultant need for character education. However, MacIntyre revises and develops Aristotle’s ideas on education and virtue in more revolutionary, Marxist directions. I examine how MacIntyre thinks ‘practices’ need to be mediated by virtue if persons and institutions in western culture are to resist their orientation towards the vice of avarice (pleonexia). MacIntyre also believed education should support students to acquire virtues of independent thought and acknowledged dependence. For MacIntyre, thinking for oneself means, among other things, being able to question the market orientation of Western culture. I conclude that for MacIntyre, character education should help students to learn how to think for themselves and act for the common good. 

Reading Fiction Positively Impacts Empathy: a pedagogical legend?

The idea that reading and reflecting on fiction, particularly works that engage the reader imaginatively in the struggles and suffering of strangers, is conducive to the development of ethical capacities such as empathy and moral perception has the trappings an educational legend (a widespread, persistent belief about learning, generally indifferent to evidence (Baillargeon 2013)). Often repeated but with few detractors, the hypothesis has been used to support ideas to make novel-reading a requirement of curricula and an essential ingredient in training lawyers and judges. Pinker (2011) advances the emergence of novel-reading as an explanatory factor in the decline of violence in the West. Medical educators have seen a way to promote empathy in medical students and it is the premise of a criminal rehabilitation program introduced in US and UK prisons. Taking inspiration from Willingham’s (2012) framework for critically assessing the application of cognitive psychology to educational practice, we consider these hypotheses. 

Considering Baillargeon’s (2013) concept of a pedagogical legend, we develop a set of general criteria for evaluating whether a claim about the effectiveness of a particular educational practice constitutes a pedagogical legend in Baillargeon’s sense. 

Then we seek maximal clarity about the hypothesized link between reading novels and the ability to empathize, invoked by so many to justify maintaining, increasing or reintroducing humanities content in higher education and various professional fields, concentrating on Nussbaum’s (1995, 1998, 2001) influential accounts. 

Returning to the evaluation criteria set out initially, we provide an assessment of the limited direct evidence from literature. While this evidence may not be extensive, it is sufficient for educators to accept that the development of empathy from reading fiction is not just a pedagogical legend.

Can Gratitude be Cultivated?

If gratitude is both a duty and a virtue, as some maintain, it is important to ask how moral education should address it. Most scholarly work on gratitude has been done by philosophers and theologians.  However, in the last 15 years psychologists have produced a large body of research on that topic.  

Two measures of gratitude developed by psychologists (GQ-6 and GRAT) correlate moderately to strongly with measures of emotional well-being and even physical well-being.  These researchers have devised exercises and interventions that have been shown to increase participants’ gratitude and well-being scores, thus one might reasonably believe that they should be an integral part of moral education.  However, I shall suggest that there are problems that must be addressed first.

In discussing gratitude that is measured, psychologists distinguish between state (an occurrent mental state that need not indicate anything lasting about the person) and trait (a disposition telling us about the person’s attitudes etc.).  As these measures rely heavily on self-reports, there are reasons to be skeptical about whether these measures can detect traits.

Some very well-known psychological experiments have been devised to measure the presence (or absence) of such virtues as honesty and compassion. However, is easy to devise such situations, it is much more difficult to devise scenarios in which participants might reasonably think that they owe others gratitude, and thus difficult to measure the presence of the relevant trait. 

I end with positive suggestions about how the exercises, in combination with literature and didactic instruction may give us reason to be optimistic that gratitude can be cultivated.  I address the challenge of whether this can be done while avoiding the charge of indoctrination.

Measuring Character in Youths: what are the obstacles?

The introduction of the VIA Classification of Strengths of Virtues was a seminal event in psychology’s recent commitment to the study of strengths and virtues. An important complement to the Classification was the development of the VIA Inventory of Strengths, a questionnaire that has now been administered to over 2 million individuals. However, the Inventory has been criticized in several ways: some people find certain items objectionable, it is often considered too long, all items are keyed in the same direction, and the Inventory is sometimes used in circumstances where it does not provide an optimal measurement model. The proposed presentation will outline a program of research that is revising the VIA Inventory based on a lengthy review of item statistics and the development of new items. In addition, a suite of measurement tools will be introduced appropriate to specific purposes, such as the analysis of natural language and the identification of signature strengths. By the time of the presentation, it is anticipated that a similar revision process will be underway for the VIA-Youth. This process will also be described if there is sufficient time to do so.

Manners and the Moral Life

In this paper I explore the role of manners in the life of virtue, particularly with regard to their role in cultivating and then expressing virtue. The topic of manners is largely neglected among moral philosophers and when manners are discussed they are often seen as a separate domain from morality and as arbitrary social conventions that involve a significant degree of dishonesty (or inauthenticity). I seek to demonstrate how manners have an integral role to play in the moral life and how the concerns about arbitrariness and dishonesty can be overcome. 

To properly appreciate the integral role of manners in the moral life we need to focus on how teaching good manners to children is a key way we initiate them into the life of virtue (discussions of manners often focus on adults). Teaching good manners can be understood as a form of habituation into virtue as manners are a kind of pattern of behavior, often informed by culture and tradition. I discuss three crucial functions of good manners: they help social life go well; they involve ways of showing respect or reverence for that which is respect-worthy or reverence-worthy; and they elevate (or ennoble) our animal nature via an acquired second nature. 

The role of good manners in cultivating and expressing virtue and thereby achieving human fulfillment suggests that the charge that manners are arbitrary social conventions can be overcome. I argue that manners often embody tradition-informed ‘thick’ ethical knowledge and are always open to critique and reform. In regard to the charge that manners are inauthentic (a mere outward show), I argue that while this sometimes may be the case, it is not the case when manners are expressive of virtue or when practiced with an aim to cultivating virtue.

Classic Ethics and Contemporary Psychology: some fundamental hints for education

Aristotle considers the acting human agent as endowed with reason, will, and a tendency towards good, moderated by the superior faculties. This endowment is ordered to the attainment of goods (ends) and growing in the virtues is indispensable to obtaining them. At the basis of the Aristotelian proposal there is a strong connection between some metaphysical concepts (being, good, truth) and human action: we move towards goods (the object of the will) that have been known (truth, the object of reason). Aristotle describes the ethiké virtues, not as mere repetitive actions, but as constituents of one’s character.

The consideration that our capacity to act upon ourselves may make us better or worse, good or evil, remains outside the perspective of many authors. Nevertheless some, such as Maslow, working on the borders between psychology and philosophy restore important contacts with the proposal of the ancients. Despite being an anti-metaphysical thinker, Maslow concluded that the true, the good, and the beautiful are positively interrelated in the behaviour of self-actualizing individuals. 

Carl Rogers discovered empirically that empathic understanding positively influences contact with reality and promotes an internal development of truth, improving our response to it. In this context a better theoretical understanding has immediate effects on the practical reason of the classics and therefore has real impact on our attitudes and character.

Professional practices inspired by Humanistic Psychology underscore the role of the will to jump-start a personal process of improvement, as external influences scarcely have any effect. The Aristotelian tradition is compatible with this and could lead to the development of a deeper explanation of the facts because of the idea that human faculties are teleological. The Aristotelian anthropological platform offers good structures on which to ground the use of instruments developed by recent psychology. 

Structuring a Character Education Curriculum

This presentation will cover a practical approach to cultivating the virtues in the secondary school classroom. With all of the recent resurgence in interest in the place of character and virtue in the classroom, there has been a corresponding demand for ideas of how the secondary practitioner might go about turning their expertise and indeed their subject discipline to teaching character. This presentation will draw upon the materials devised by the Jubilee Centre for teaching character and virtue in discrete character education sessions and will also draw upon some of the early findings from the DfE funded project exploring how character may be taught through the existing curriculum found in most UK secondary schools.

Policy-Led ‘Ecological’ Virtue-Cultivation: can we ‘nudge’ citizens towards developing virtues?

Under what circumstances, if any, would it be permissible for the state to employ ‘nudge’-type belief and behaviour modification policies as a form of ‘institutional’ (or ‘ecological’) moral improvement? The theory of political and personal morality that I develop, founded on an integrated account of ethics and morality, suggests that one plausible answer is that state interventions need to be compatible with creating and sustaining the conditions for ‘living well’, or the conditions conducive to developing virtues and leading virtuous lives. Situated within this broader project, this paper seeks to provide an assessment of the possibility of policy-led virtue-cultivation. Hence, the central question is: Can the findings from psychology and neuroscience be used in the design of public policies aimed at modifying citizens’ beliefs and behaviour through the ‘ecological’ development of personal, civic, and/or moral virtues? 

Firstly, I address some practical issues concerning how this approach might work, which includes a fact-sensitive assessment of whether, and how, nudge-like interventions might be used to help cultivate the virtues required in living well, and, more specifically, whether (and how) it is possible to use behavioural insights to stimulate and/ or develop the internal motivation required by virtuous action. Secondly, I provide an assessment of how these types of policies would differ from more traditional moral and civic education practices, and speak to the issue of whether, if in fact they are not distinct, this creates any problems for the approach. The overall aim is to offer a balanced account of how virtues might and might not be cultivated via nudge-type governmental policies. 

About Virtue: what Aristotle assumed, but we need to say

Scattered throughout Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics and his other writings are comments that, when we put them together, point to a fairly detailed developmental model of virtue formation.  But Aristotle himself nowhere puts these texts together for us.  Some scholars have begun to do this, and the best reading of these texts seems to be that Aristotle envisioned the learning of virtue in three phases or stages before a person is fully virtuous.  But the picture is incomplete in important respects.  For one thing, while Aristotle clearly assumes that Stage Two learners are capable of making virtue-based decisions, he does not describe the structure of such decisions and it is important to do so.  In addition, while Aristotle describes the activities that, when taken together, constitute the fully virtuous decision-making of the phronimos, the person of practical wisdom (phronesis), he does not explain clearly which of these activities of are characteristic of Stage Three learners and which belong only to the decisions of the phronimos, who possesses complete virtue.  Regarding the decisions of the phronimos, although Aristotle identifies the component activities that are involved in phronesis, he does not explain the specific contributions of these activities.  This paper explains what I think Aristotle assumes, but we need to say, about these aspects of his developmental model, in order to understand how virtue is learned, but also – given the analogies between virtue and professionalism – to contribute to our understanding of how professionalism is learned and how it can be taught more effectively. 

Presentism, a Secular Age and Interdisciplinary Approaches to Virtue Education in British Secondary Education

Drawing upon François Hartog’s work on regimes of historicity, I argue that what Hartog calls “presentism” often undergirds the enacted curriculum in UK secondary schools. This “omnipresent presentism” also shapes the worldview of many students, which necessarily has an impact upon any attempt to ground virtue education in philosophies such as Aristotelianism or religions such as Christianity whose foundations were laid in pre-modernity. I further argue that any attempt to construct an interdisciplinary approach to virtue education must, following Charles Taylor, take seriously the nature of the secular age in which we live and especially his argument that modern unbelief “is a condition which can’t only be described in the present tense, but which also needs the perfect tense, a condition of ‘having overcome’ the irrationality of belief”. Drawing upon the ideas of Hartog and Taylor, and focussing on the proposals for the teaching of English and History in The Jubilee Centre’s Teaching Character Through the Curriculum, I suggest other possible approaches to the practical application of virtue education in schools.

Understanding and Cultivating the Virtues of Respect

To cultivate any virtue, understanding its nature is crucial. Respect can refer to an attitude, judgment, or emotion. However, there is also a moral virtue of respect and an intellectual variant, both of which involve dispositions to feel and show proper respect for oneself and others. 

The person with the moral virtue of respect feels and shows proper respect to all people for their basic human worth, but also shows special respect to those who exhibit rare human excellences or who hold positions of authority. Someone with the intellectual virtue of respect shows proper respect to all people as thinkers (rational beings), but especially to intellectual authorities. Cultivating the virtues of respect, therefore, must involve cultivating sensitivity to the basic moral and intellectual worth (i.e., the dignity) of all people, as well as an appreciation of the value of comparative human excellences. 

The foregoing analysis suggests that the virtues of respect can be cultivated through reflecting on the basic moral and intellectual worth and special excellences possessed by others, especially those whose worth the subject is naturally inclined to ignore or underappreciate. Considering the inclination of many people to be more sensitive to violations of their own dignity than to violations of the dignity of others, the moral virtue of respect for human dignity may be cultivated through experiential participation in the suffering of such violations by others, facilitated by visual media, role-playing, or face-to-face interactions. Communal encouragement to demonstrate polite and respectful manners might also contribute to the cultivation of the virtues of respect. 

Narnian Virtues: how teachers and their students learn to cultivate character through response to the Narnia novels by C. S. Lewis

Universal virtues (such as courage, humility and gratitude) exemplified in Lewis’s Narnia Novels, offer common ethical ground to schools of increasingly pluralistic societies. The Narnian Virtues Character Development curriculum project investigates how teachers and students within a crucial formative period, understand and acquire the virtues underpinning good character through their engagement with our curriculum.

This presentation will discuss the findings of 6 week pilot project, generously supported by the John Templeton Foundation, which has seen a international team, led by Professor Mark Pike at the University of Leeds, and including Canon Professor Leslie Francis at Warwick University and Professor Thomas Lickona at SUNY, develop and produce a set of teaching and student materials each for three C.S. Lewis Narnia books, work with seven teachers at five elementary and middle schools in the UK in delivering the Narnian Virtues curriculum, and analyse the findings in preparation for a grant application to roll out the Narnian Virtues curriculum to over 100 schools internationally. 

Intellectual Virtue Formation: a philosophical, psychological, and pedagogical perspective

We know something of the nature of the process of the formation of moral and intellectual virtues. For example, genetics and upbringing have a significant influence in predisposing and shaping intellectual proclivities. While a good part of the process of intellectual virtue formation occurs before children show up in the classroom, there are things people can do to create the conditions that stimulate and foster virtue formation. Educating for intellectual virtues presses us to investigate more thoroughly the psychological dynamics of virtue formation and thereby the conditions that stimulate and foster virtue formation. 

Our presentation addresses what we refer to as the “standard model” of intellectual virtue formation, in which virtues are formed through pedagogical methods like direct instruction, exposure to exemplars, the “practice” of virtuous behaviors, and a supportive classroom culture. In particular, we consider how to understand cases in which the standard approach to intellectual virtue formation fails. 

We argue that in a significant number of such cases, failure is due at least in part to certain internalized “representations of self” that are inhibiting the student’s progress in intellectual virtues. Drawing on research in attachment theory, object-relations theory, and related theoretical frameworks, we propose a way for teachers to challenge these inhibiting self-representations, an “intellectual therapy,” thereby increasing the probability that the standard approach will have its intended effect. Finally, we discuss some ways in which the basic principles and practices central to “intellectual therapy” have been implemented in the advisory program at the Intellectual Virtues Academy of Long Beach, a charter middle school in Long Beach, California. 

Intellectual Humility: consequences for learning, and a potential source

Intellectual humility is regarded as highly important by leaders in business, education, public service, and other fields. Yet, despite its apparent importance, there is little empirical research on this intellectual virtue. Two studies presented here investigated the consequences of intellectual humility for learning in school, and one study tested a potential cause of intellectual humility: people’s beliefs about the malleability of intelligence. 

Studies 1 and 2 showed that students with higher intellectual humility had a stronger motivation to learn, used adaptive study strategies, and reported being more collaborative when working in groups relative to those lower in intellectual humility. They were also rated by their classmates as being more admired, more respected and more intelligent. Their teacher considered them more engaged and they earned higher grades in math.

In Study 3, it was predicted that a growth mindset – belief that intelligence is a malleable trait that can be developed – would enhance intellectual humility because operating in this mindset may make it easier to acknowledge the unknown. Conversely, a fixed mindset– belief that intelligence is a static trait – was predicted to dampen intellectual humility because it may foster the perception that some have superior intellectual abilities. 

Participants in the growth mindset condition had significantly higher intellectual humility, and were significantly more open to the opposing view relative to those in the fixed mindset condition. The mindset induction significantly affected participants’ intellectual humility, which, in turn, shaped participants’ responses to disagreement. Thus, Study 3 suggested that beliefs about intelligence are one source of intellectual humility, and that intervening at the level of people’s beliefs may provide one way to foster intellectual humility and related adaptive outcomes in school.

Antecedents to Professional Integrity

Professional integrity should be understood in the context of the aims, values, and standards of specific professions, rather than just in relation to professions generally or to some broader notion of personal integrity.   However, we will argue, the path to professional integrity needs to be undertaken long before one has begun to prepare for any specific profession.

We will support this thesis by discussing two cases in which the absence of professional integrity is evident.  The first is a variation on David Hume’s imagined sensible knave.  The second is the actual case of Dr. Aria Sabit, a neurosurgeon who pled guilty recently to unlawfully billing the government and private insurance companies for $11 million  for performing unnecessary and possibly harmful spinal surgeries on patients.   Sabit was a qualified surgeon, fully licensed to practice.  However, his sense of how to conduct himself in his professional role was a radical departure from the norms of his profession.   To succeed as he did required him cleverly to conceal the true nature of his activities from others—patients, fellow surgeons, insurance companies, and the public.  Like Hume’s sensible knave, he made himself an exception to the rules and standards while publically appearing to support them.  

It seems likely that the history of Sabit’s ethical shortcomings long preceded his entry into professional practice.  We will explore the significance this might have for understanding how early the process of cultivating virtues needed for responsible professional practice might best begin. 

Learning Humility

How can a person who is deficient in humility — whether from youthful immaturity or well-established habits of adulthood — be moved from a present deficient state to one of greater humility? I’ll review a conception of humility that will suggest some answers. The answers will be empirical hypotheses that could be tested by educational psychologists. Even in the absence of controlled empirical support, however, I think my suggestions will have enough plausibility to warrant giving them a try in the daily world of living, learning, and teaching. The answers I’ll propose are among the following exercises:
        Practice gratitude and generosity.
        Gratitude exercises.
        Generosity with intellectual goods.
        Generosity with admiration of others’ work.
        Think critically about our culture.
        Broaden your disciplinary acquaintance.
        Explain the originality fetish.
        Act “humbly” against the grain.
        Name the vices of pride and their “goods.”

The Moral Agent Teacher: teaching morally and teaching morality

This presentation casts a wide net regarding moral education, defined as lessons and messages on what is right, good, caring, and virtuous in one’s actions, character, reflections, reasoning, relationships, and ways of being.  As such, moral education at school entails any direct and formal opportunities for teaching and learning about morality in which educators knowingly and intentionally engage students; as well as any coincidental, inadvertent, indirect, and informal learning opportunities students might experience.

Through this lens, I conducted a yearlong micro-ethnographic study investigating a grade-four schoolteacher who prioritizes moral education.  The results identify a personally developed approach to moral education that harmoniously and compatibly integrates the assumptions, beliefs, and applied aspects of several ethical and theoretical orientations, including those associated with character education, cognitive development theory, and care ethics.  These results will be presented as seven key practices.

To conceptualize the breadth of this approach to moral education, I unite Campbell’s (2003) two-pronged definition of moral agency—the moral person and the moral educator—with Fenstermacher, Osguthorpe, and Sanger’s (2009) framework of teaching morally and teaching morality, and suggest that moral education in schools be understood and promoted accordingly, as moral agency.

Relevant Aspects in the Training of Teachers for the Moral Education of Adolescents

Moral education in schools entered crisis years ago and tends to teach only a few theoretical ethical contents, sometimes in casual mode. However, simple theoretical teaching does not help anyone achieve virtuousness and an educational system that does not aid these achievements takes society to demoralization. Therefore, it is increasingly necessary to develop a training plan for teachers in moral education, particularly for adolescents. 

The paper aims to reach practical guidelines that facilitate the professor to engage in an authentic moral education. It includes an analysis of the preferable chronological order for teaching virtues to adolescents. Learning these virtues first requires considering its theoretical dimension, such as the meaning of virtue and how each virtue should be taught. The paper indicates what the recommended educational virtues instruction should be, providing methodological suggestions. The paper discussed the convenience of relying on methodological tools that help endorse the acquisition of virtues. It underlines the need to emphasize personal differentiation to avoid uniformity in the teaching of virtues, since it is necessary to respect the unique character of each individual. The paper stresses that the acquisition of virtues corresponds with the improvement of the will and so this education is insufficient if not accompanied by personal optimization. 

Finally, the paper argues the need for a teacher training plan in the absence of a suitable model for moral education in schools. This plan should take into account issues around the double dimension of teaching and training and methodological offers that target the practical learning of virtues.

The Meaning and Use of Dialogue in Aristotelian Character Education

Several forms of character education have been accused of focusing too much on the unreflective formation of moral virtues through habit formation and role modelling, which would hamper or even preclude the simultaneous development of reason. In previous work, I have described a ‘Socratic dialogue method’ that can help teachers to make character education more reflective. 

Recently, Kristjánsson (2014) has argued that Aristotle’s account of moral education does not need an ‘alien’ Socratic method to supplement it, explaining that Aristotle’s character friendships offer a forum for dialogue. While I concur with Kristjánsson that dialogue is an essential part of Aristotle’s virtue ethics, there are two questions about his solution that I would like to develop in the paper. 

Firstly, Aristotle hardly mentions ‘dialogue’ in the Nicomachean Ethics, and where he does mention the use of arguments, he stresses that they will only persuade people if they have already been brought up in good habits. Instead of by looking at the content of the Ethics, I explore the dialectical nature of Aristotle’s method, by drawing in the work of Thomas Smith (2001).

Secondly, even if dialogue is justified as part of neo-Aristotelian character education, the practical question remains of how teachers can go about conducting ‘Aristotelian dialogues’ with pupils or colleagues. In this paper, I argue that the so-called ‘Socratic method’, developed by German philosophers Nelson (1970) and Heckman (1993) is still a good candidate, provided we give it a more Aristotelian flavour. 

Showing Hope and Disappointment (and another Face of War)

Philosophers working on the attitudes of holding others to account have expanded the discussion beyond the paradigmatic blaming emotions of resentment, indignation, and guilt. Gratitude, hope, disappointment, forgiveness, and trust, have become a part of the current conversation. With this expansion has also come added conceptual space for what it is to hold others to a norm. Sometimes it is aspiration, rather than “demanding”, that is binding, and its communication often motivates or bootstraps progress.  Sometimes normative aspiration comes with an awareness of various challenges faced by the target of the attitude, resulting in willingness to give some slack. However, if the object is recognition and uptake, what is said, done or shown is all-critical.  We are actors in interpersonal relationships, unintentionally expressing some emotions facially, but intentionally conveying numerous clues through strategic emotional verbal and nonverbal communications in order to get uptake. 

I want to consider this interpersonal, normative emotional space we operate in, particularly when we place hope in persons and are disappointed, exploring the issues with ancient texts at hand. Most contemporary scholars have missed—or largely ignored—the ancient’s contribution about reactive attitude transactions, specifically moral growth and progress. Bishop Butler’s Sermon on Resentment (1726) or Adam Smith’s reflections on forgiveness in the Theory of Sentiments (1759) were not the beginning. Aristotle devoted a fifth of the Nicomachean to friendships and the Stoics, especially the Romans, typically talked about the moral progressor (the prokopton), and the moral tutoring relationship (e.g. Seneca to Nero, Epictetus to young free men, and Marcus Aurelius to himself). Discussing these earlier stories widens the contours of the current debate. 

Akrasia as a Character Trait: an obstacle for moral development

Contemporary character educationists often include akrasia as a stage in their neo-Aristotelian models of character development. They do not as much claim that a person needs to go through all of the identified stages in a linear way in order to become virtuous. However, their accounts suggest that akrasia is a stage ‘in transition’, on the way to virtue.

In my paper, I consider that akrasia takes the shape of a stable character trait. Experience indicates that it is often not a stage in transition, but a fixed state. Examples of an akratic character include those who always struggle with their weight, who do not stick with long-term projects, or who always have difficulty meeting deadlines. I aim to make conceptual sense of this character trait.

I first sketch how akrasia can be stable despite the fact that its main characteristic is one of disharmony, a conflict between reason and desire. It is hard to see how disharmony can be permanent, since conflicts seek to resolve. In analogy to epilepsy, Aristotle says that akrasia is a non-continuous way of being as one shouldn’t be. At calm moments, a person who is disposed to act akratically looks very much like self-controlled and virtuous persons.

Secondly, I address how we can conceptually understand that akrasia does not always develop into self-control or, alternatively, degrade into vice. An akratic person may have a fairly good idea of the kind of person he should try to become. This shows that the obstacle for improvement is not knowledge of the goal to be attained, but the motivation to achieve it. It takes time to engrain new motivational pathways, however. Fortunately, an akratic person’s aspirations prevent his character from easily deteriorating as well.

From ‘Ordinary’ Virtue to Aristotelian Virtue

In two earlier papers, I began to explore how “ordinary people” acquire virtue.  By “ordinary people,” I mean people, not specifically or directly concerned with becoming virtuous, who have goals or aims the pursuit of which requires them to develop virtue.  E.g., parents acquire patience and generosity in the course of pursuing their goal to be good parents; those concerned with being peacemakers acquire tact and diplomacy in the pursuit of that goal, and so on.  These virtues can be viewed by those who seek them to be of instrumental and not intrinsic value, that is, needed for goal attainment but not necessarily valuable in their own right.  Moreover, the virtues so acquired need not be substantially informed by reflective deliberation (Aristotelian phronesis).  Are there pathways by means of which possessors of ordinary virtue can develop Aristotelian virtue, by coming to view the virtues they possess as having intrinsic value; and developing their phronetic capacities such that their virtues become informed by practical wisdom?   In this essay, I continue the exploration of ordinary virtue with an eye to revealing possible pathways by which ordinary virtue can indeed take on the characteristics of full Aristotelian virtue.  In the spirit of empirical collaboration, I suggest these pathways of virtue development as testable hypotheses.

Sustaining Character: the role of emotions in enabling character traits to persist

Emotions are essential to the persistence of character traits because emotions prevent axiological entropy – the diminution over time of the tacit sense of the importance of values on which character traits are based.  Without the ongoing reinforcement of emotions, we would not be able to preserve our sense of the importance of values.  This concept of axiological entropy is supported by several considerations.  One is the fading of the “freshness” (i.e. vivacity and importance) of our beliefs over time.  Another is the phenomenon of extinction where conditioned responses are dampened over time and eventually cease in the absence of ongoing conditioning.  This can include our sense of the importance of the general values upon which our character traits are based: their importance relative to the many other values that we deal with will fade.
What prevents axiological entropy from occurring is the successive pairing of emotions with values: having emotions that are directed at objects involving these values serves to maintain or strengthen our sense of the importance of such values.  So experiencing relevant emotions from time to time reinforces or refreshes general values because of the association of these emotions with these values.  The specific mechanisms through which emotions do so include reactive attitudes and “emotional communion.”  These two mechanisms facilitate not only the development of character traits, but also the persistence of character traits and the virtues that are associated with such traits. 

Fostering Virtue in Public Sector Organizations

Dutch governmental organizations are legally required to safeguard and foster ‘integrity’. In Dutch, this term is used in a broad sense, referring to the legal, moral and ethical demands of the professional sphere. Thus, integrity policies encompass a range of activities, stretching from anticorruption measures to measures concerning ethical. In 2006 the Dutch National Integrity Office (BIOS) was founded to support public sector organizations develop and implement integrity policies. BIOS actively participates in research projects, carries out academic studies, issues publications, and develops new instruments to discuss, test or improve integrity within organizations. 

Integriteit deugt, developed by BIOS in 2010, is a new instrument based on Aristotelian virtue ethics. It consists of three parts: a book with several essays; a DVD with explanatory animations and interviews, connecting virtue ethics to the workplace; and a conversation model based on the four cardinal virtues and two additional concepts (moral goal and role model). With this model and guided by a moderator, participants can discuss a moral issue, using one (or more) of the six concepts. Although users are enthusiastic about virtue ethics, due to usability concerns BIOS is working on a more accessible adaption. 

The development, implementation and adaptation of Integriteit deugt serves as an instructive example of cultivating virtue in a professional setting. I address questions that the adaptation of Integriteit deugt generates, such as how we can encourage professionals to use virtue language. The project also encounters more fundamental issues, such as: are mature professionals still susceptible to virtue education? Is prudence possible in an essentially Weberian civil service? 

The case study and the practical and fundamental questions that flow from it, provide theorists and practitioners from different disciplines with new leads to take integrity policies a step further. 

Applying the Virtues: similarities and differences in responses to the Adolescent Intermediate Concept Measure within and across cultures

Intermediate concept measures (ICMs) focus on moral concepts that are understood by the individual based on his/her moral judgment processes interacting with contextual factors.   Unlike traditional measures of moral judgment development, ICMs assess the agreement between participant and expert ratings of appropriate and inappropriate action choices/justifications.  Measures derived from this approach are increasingly used to evaluate ethics interventions since the information supplied by ICMs are more closely linked to the concepts of interest to educators and  professional organizations than are traditional measures of moral judgment development (Bebeau & Thoma, 1999).

The measure presents adolescents with real-life situations that have been designed to highlight the cognitive aspects of virtue.  Focusing on data recently gathered  in the US, in The Republic of Macedonia, Taiwan, and the UK, the paper session addresses what has been learned from the measure about adolescent applications of the virtues across cultures and settings.  Specifically, we attend to what is common and what is unique to each setting.   Preliminary analyses, suggest more communalities than differences.  Specifically, across samples we find evidence for age trends on the measures, higher scores on appropriate choices/justification than we find on inappropriate choices, higher scores on action choices than we observe on justification decisions, and large gender differences favoring women.   By contrast to these similarities, we note differences in overall scores across samples with the Taiwan sample scoring highest followed by the US, UK and Macedonian sample.  The paper concludes with a discussion about what these data tell us about the development of character as expressed through the virtues.

Civic Identity and Character Attributes

The success of future societies and democratic social systems depends in large part on the development of good character in young people, as it guides individuals to pursue positive goals and think and act in prosocial ways.  The purpose of this study was to explore the relations between civic identity and character attributes, analyzing data from a sample of 865 young men (Mage = 19.84 years, SD = 1.86) attending post-secondary schools in Pennsylvania.  A sample of adolescents and young adult males was used because their sense of their respective place and purpose in society burgeon at this stage through engagement in civic participation that may persist throughout their lives. 

Confirmatory factor analyses provided strong support for a three-factor structure of civic identity, consisting of exploration, resolution, and centrality factors (Johnson et al., 2014).  A bifactor model of character including constructs of diligence (performance character), integrity (moral character), and helping behaviors (civic character) indicated that integrity did not exist as a factor separate from a general character factor, whereas diligence and helping behaviors existed as factors separate from, but related to, character.  These findings suggested that integrity was not necessarily a specific factor over and above the general character factor, and the variance related to integrity was therefore explained by the general character factor.

Structural equation models of civic identity and character factors indicated significant relations between civic identity and general character, diligence, and helping behaviors, and also indicated that helping behaviors were a significantly better predictor of civic identity than diligence and general character.  These findings suggested that functioning as competent moral agents might be related to having a sense of self or civic identity and, therefore, the development of civic identity might contribute to character development, and vice versa.

Friendship and the Cultivation of Virtue

Most theories about the cultivation of virtue fall under the general umbrella of the role model approach, according to which virtue is acquired by emulating role models, and where those role models are usually conceived of as superior in some relevant respect to the learners. In this paper I will argue that although we need role models to cultivate virtue, they are not sufficient. We also need good and close relationships with people who are not our superiors. The common overemphasis on role models is misguided and misleading, and a good antidote draws on character friendship as conceived by Aristotle. My primary goal is to show how much we stand to gain by including character friendship in our account of virtue cultivation.

I show that character friendship (a) constitutes a unique form of experience in which we share or inhabit a substantial way of seeing with a close other; (b) facilitates a unique form of knowledge, the knowledge of a particular person (my-self and the other’s self); (c) develops other emotions important for the cultivation of virtue besides admiration, such as love, shame, trust, and hope; and (d) is a praxis in which cooperative interactions and collaborative discussions function as a bridge between habituation of virtue at home and the public life, a step further in virtue cultivation. Character friendship is an experience which provides necessary elements for human cultivation of virtue that the sole experience of having a role model does not. 

Courage in the Classroom

Much of the current work on cultivating virtue in education focuses on curricular materials and written or spoken classroom exercises.  Classroom experience is often daunting for late adolescents and young adults (as well as for instructors).  There are concerns about how fellow students see one, about how students are responding or will respond to instructors, about whether what one writes or says will meet any of many different kinds of social and academic standards, and so on.  In short, for many students and many teachers, classrooms are psychologically perilous places. I will consider the classroom as a site for the cultivation of courage. Traditionally, fostering virtue calls for the repeated performance of wise, temperate, just or courageous acts – but, with any luck, practical classroom challenges will not provide a regular call for such behavior.   I will give a brief overview of virtue in general, focusing on the classroom as a place for cultivating courage.  I will focus the interrelations of virtues and their place in the higher education classroom specifically, in the hope that this work will be of use in other classroom settings as well.

A Few Things Moral Exemplars Have Shown Me about Character

My program of research with moral exemplars has revealed a series of findings which are significant for an understanding of character development.  The exemplars in this research have been either recipients of awards for moral action or influential historical figures who were notable for their moral character.  The findings indicate that the distinctive character of moral exemplars clearly emerges from the data and that character is causally operative, supporting a dispositional explanation for moral behavior and challenging a situational one.  Different types of exemplary character have also been revealed, challenging singular notions of moral excellence.  However, several psychological variables were found to be common to different types of exemplars while at the same time distinguishing them from comparison groups, suggestive of the core components of exemplary character.  These core variables include intimations of early life advantage, propensity to construe life events redemptively, and motivation entailing the synergistic integration of agency and communion.

Willpower and the Cultivation of Virtue

Robert Adams differentiates two categories of virtues: motivational and structural. Motivational virtues—e.g., generosity—“are defined by motives which in turn are defined by goods that one is for in having them” (Adams 2006, 33). By contrast, structural virtues—e.g., courage, self-control, patience, and perseverance—are “structural features of the way one organizes and manages whatever motives one has” (ibid.). 

I defend two theses related to Adams’s distinction: (1) recent empirical research on willpower offers insight into the nature of the structural virtues and the manner of their cultivation; and (2) the structural virtues can enable an agent to cultivate the motivational virtues. 

Drawing on empirical research, I distinguish three dimensions of willpower. “Muscular” willpower is the capacity “directly” to compensate for shortfalls of immediate motivation or resist various impulses. “Skill” willpower is know-how with self-management techniques. “Spirit” willpower is the disposition to exert the other forms of willpower. I argue that the structural virtues are excellent instantiations of willpower in its three dimensions specified to particular domains.

In their typical applications, structural virtues allow an agent to correct for suboptimal motivations. But they can also aid the cultivation of motivational virtues by facilitating the practice of what Pierre Hadot (1995) calls “spiritual exercises”—practices of mind and body whereby one digests the doctrines of one’s philosophical school and integrates them into one’s vision of the world. I develop a case study that illustrates how self-control, courage, perseverance, and patience each enable one to do the difficult, formational work of engaging in spiritual exercises.