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Virtues in the Public Sphere

Virtues in the Public Sphere, Oriel College, Oxford, January 4–6, 2018

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

In recent years, we have witnessed increased polarisation, not only between, but within societies, and the breakdown of civic friendships, in particular as a result of ‘political earthquakes’ that have hit both sides of the Atlantic. Questions have emerged about the relationship between public and private virtues. Do ‘sinners’ perhaps make better politicians than ‘saints’ – and are certain private vices, such as duplicity, necessary in order for the public sphere to function?

The main aim of this conference was to explore the role of virtues in the public sphere. Is there a virtue of ‘civic friendship’ and how can it be cultivated? Is the language of virtue apt for carving out a discursive path between illiberal radicalism and post-truth relativism? More specifically, does the language of virtue indicate an ethical and political approach that calls into question both extreme illiberal and liberal habits of mind – or does it carry an individualistic and moralistic bias that makes it inapplicable to political disagreements? What are the virtues of a ‘good’ politician or civil servant? Should we care whether a skilled diplomat or surgeon is also a good person? Can virtue be ascribed to collectives and institutions such as universities and schools and, if yes, what would, for example, a ‘virtuous school’ look like? Are character education and civic education comrades or competitors? What is the relationship between an ethos of good character in a school and the ethos of the neighbouring community? How, if at all, does virtue guide civic engagement and a pedagogy towards the public good? How do public virtues inform a social ethos of moral responsibility? And, at the most general level, what does it mean to talk about the ‘politics of virtue’?

The aim of the 2018 Jubilee Centre annual conference was to bring together experts from a range of disciplines to explore those questions and many more. 

The London Oratory School Schola Cantorum performed in the Oriel College Chapel on the evening of 4th January.

The Conference Programme and the Oratory School Schola concert programme are accessible by clicking the images below:


Talbot Brewer - Liberal Education and the Common Good - Keynote Speaker

Defenders of liberal education often stake their case on its contribution to reasoned public debate. There is considerable force to this argument. Yet if we set out to design a program of higher education optimally suited to enhance political deliberation, much of what we know and value under the heading of liberal education would be omitted as irrelevant.  This is because the telos of the liberal arts is not the full development of citizens; it is the full development of human beings. The virtues of the university are those qualities and practices that conduce to this comprehensive human good.  Does this mean that liberal education has no claim to public subsidy?  No. The sort of thought that forms and deepens human beings is a public good, one that withers without public investment. Investment in such thought is especially important today, when the social order has become deeply hostile to it.

John Haldane - Responding to discord: Why Public Reason is not enough - Keynote Speaker

Difference and disagreement, contest and dispute are common features of human interactions and relationships. Insofar as they are confined to the private sphere the inability to resolve them may be a matter for regret, but there are strategies for containing, coping with or evading them. Matters are not so easy when these occur in the public sphere since they generally concern matters of broad public interest and bear on public values and policies, and they tend to ramify and  lead to further divisions and sectionalisation. The evidence of this is everywhere to be seen in disputes about beginning and ending of life issues, education, sexual identity and practice, political and cultural identity, even human nature itself. Since these are all closely connected with questions of public values and policy, the scope for containment, coping or evasion is severely limited, and such strategies are themselves contested as instances of resistance to due change. Against this background, we must think more and better about the nature of the private-public contrast, and about the nature of the resources available in the making of arguments about ethical, existential, social and cultural issues. The intention and value of recently advocated  norms of ‘public reason’ are themselves matters of contest and we need to think more deeply about what is and what is not reasonable. Beyond that we need in private and public life to identify relevant intellectual and practical virtues and give priority to the advocacy and inculcation of these.

John Milbank - Sovereignty or Virtue? - Keynote Speaker

Many Christian conservative voices are today proposing a return to a politics of virtue. This involves a seemingly paradoxical but coherent combination of hierarchical paideia and popular participation. In effect, it is a rejection of liberal democracy in favour of a return to mixed constitutionalism, combining democratic with aristocratic elements, in the republican sense. But sometimes this is combined (as in 'The Paris Staement', despite its overall excellence) with a despair of the EU and call for a return to the world of nation states and popularly-based soveregnty. It goes along with a total disapprobation of empire. Yet this is incoherent. Notions of absolute sovereignty to guarantee order were developed by Bodin and Hobbes precisely in despair of political virtue and republican  mixed government. Neither is the necessary coincidence of nation and state theologically justifiable. Nor can one ignore the common birth of notions of subjective right, sovereignty and empire based on possessive seizure, as with Grotius. Yet more pluralist notions of empire as with the HRE and the Church itself were necessary in the past to the spread of Christianity and the maintaining of a Christian order. Just as a Politics of Virtue implies a mixture of the One, Few  and the Many plus federal subsidiarity at home, so it implies mingling of sovereignties without any one absolute centre abroad. The best Calvinist thought, as with Althusius, the best Anglican, as with Burke and Figgis, and the consistent thrust of Catholic Social Teaching, all point in this direction.

James O'Shaughnessy - Avoiding the Servile State - Keynote Speaker

In public policy, the means used to solve problems are as important for the development of virtue as the kinds of ends being sought. Following Hilaire Belloc’s invective against both big capitalism and the big state, I will posit an alternative approach to public policy that has virtuous citizens at its heart.

Sarah Banks - What is my responsibility to my community? Civic virtues in an age of austerity

This paper explores the virtue of ‘civic responsibility’ in the context of declining public services, resulting in active citizens expected to fill gaps in social care, advice, library and leisure services.  In this context, ‘responsibility’ is a key virtue. Is a rethinking of public virtues needed to combat ‘over-responsibilisation’ of citizens, particularly those living in poverty and/or facing discrimination/oppression? Are the virtues of active citizenship ‘burdened virtues’ (Tessman, 2005)?  Are there limits to, and burdens on, moral goodness under adverse conditions of oppression, ‘where the external or background conditions necessary for flourishing will tend to be lacking or diminished’ (p. 159)? 

Marvin Berkowitz and Wolfgang Althof - The Common Good: An Endagered Species and the Key to Public Virtue

In democratic societies, virtuous citizenship involves advocacy not just for one’s own interests, but also the common good. The concept of the common good is thus central to the functioning and survival of democratic societies, and to virtuous citizenship.

Unfortunately, the common good seems to be an endangered species, as both civility and virtue in the public sphere appear to be giving way to hatred, fear and selfishness, as witnessed in recent high-profile political votes the world over.

Democracy, by itself, is not an ethical system. It is a procedural system that offers the opportunity for ethical functioning without guaranteeing it. For it to be ethical, it requires virtuous citizens, whose virtues include the public virtues of democratic functioning. This paper argues that public virtue can only flourish in societies that value, model, socialize, and educate for expanding circles of concern. Then the common good will no longer be endangered, and public virtue can flourish, thereby promoting a more ethical world.

Jonathan Brant and Edward Brooks - How can universities cultivate leaders of character?

This paper will offer reflection on practice, assessing the impact of the Global Leadership Initiative, a year-long programme drawing together a small but diverse cohort of postgraduate students and supporting them in developing the qualities of character needed by leaders serving the public good.  Using qualitative data collected over the three years of activity, we reflect on what we have learned, considering three questions: (1) Can virtues of character be cultivated amongst a culturally diverse group of students? (2) What are the particularities of ‘emerging adults’? (3) How might the programme’s impact translate into civic society, politics and culture?

Kendall Cotton Bronk - Fostering Purpose in Life

One way to cultivate civic friendships is to encourage the development of a sense of purpose in life. This presentation will focus first on the development of two measures designed to assess the search for and presence of purpose and second, on two sets of online tools that foster purpose in different ways. One focuses on helping youth identify their most meaningful long-term goals, and the other fosters purpose through the cultivation of gratitude. 

David Carr - Moral Character and Virtue in Public, Professional and Political Life

There is a strong case for the virtuous professional practitioner especially in relation to occupations where the professional role involves being an example to others of how to be of good character. Perhaps the most conspicuous examples of such occupations are those of teaching and religious ministry. While such exemplification cannot be guaranteed to have the desired modelling effect on others, it increases the likelihood that such modelling may occur and is the only course consistent with the overall aims of teaching and ministry.

In this context, this paper will focus on politics, arguing that there is a compelling case for virtue and character exemplification by professional politicians and that bad political examples can have a deleterious effect on the general moral tone of the societies that politicians of bad character are elected to lead or represent.

Tenelle Porter and Shelby Clark - The Promising Association Between Intellectual Virtues and Civic Goods

Today’s political discourse is characterized by strong disagreements, but too often lacks self-scrutiny and respect for other positions. In the following studies we investigate the role of intellectual virtue in fostering civic goods such as respectfulness, and openness to opposing perspectives. In Studies 1 and 2 we test the empirical associations between intellectual humility and openness to learning about the opposing view, and in Study 3 we examine how one school’s focus on intellectual character may be fostering students’ respect for diversity, ability to participate actively and honestly in debate, and willingness to hear-out opposing perspectives.

Randall Curren - Populism and the Fate of Civic Friendship

The form of populism on the rise in Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere invokes a mythology of a morally pure unitary ‘people’ given voice by an authoritarian ‘strong’ leader who must vanquish corrupt elites, expel those who are not the true people, and sweep aside the institutions of a constitutional system that limit the leader’s ability to exert his will allegedly on his people’s behalf.  It delegitimizes opposition and all but precludes the forms of deliberative democracy and civic friendship that political philosophers have advanced. This paper will address the nurturing of civic friendship and virtuous institutions in this context.  

Jeffrey Dill and Mary Elliot - Self-interest as Public Good? Homeschooling, Civic Virtue and the Private/Public Distinction

Critics argue that homeschooling can be a threat to liberal democracy because it represents a withdrawal around the private interests of the family and neglects the public good and the virtues required to sustain it.  The private sphere, critics argue further, cannot be committed to tolerance, dialogue, and an understanding of difference because it reinforces the homogeneity of private interests and does not interact with diverse opinions and perspectives inherent in the public sphere.  This paper draws upon the political theory of Alexis de Tocqueville and Hannah Arendt, as well as empirical data from a study of 35 homeschool families in the United States, to question the assumptions of both critics and homeschoolers about such private/public distinctions and the cultivation of civic virtue.  For Tocqueville, “self-interest well understood” aligned with the public good in the early American republic and could combat individualism and despotism because it helped citizens see that it was in their own interests to be active and engaged in public affairs.  Tocqueville’s observation is subtlety different than subordinating private interests to the common good as the republican tradition of civic virtue might suggest. Arendt’s notion of “public happiness” creates a similar tension between the private pursuit of personal fulfillment and public participation in governing affairs. Data from interviews with homeschoolers demonstrates that in some cases they may be motivated by a self-interest that remains private, as the critics suggest.  But in other cases, homeschoolers may be exemplars of “self-interest well understood,” as their motive for withdrawal from the public school serves their own private moral and educational interests, but also seems aligned with their understanding of a larger public good.  That is, they see the private sphere, organized around private interests, as a key space for cultivating virtues required in the public sphere. We explore the possibility that, under the right conditions, homeschooling families can be (but are not always) pursuing this balance between private and public goods.

Stephan Ellenwood - Rescuing Politics

This paper examines how behavior in the public sphere has deteriorated as well as ways civic virtue can be restored.  Public interest in supporting virtuous individuals is necessary, but not sufficient for important, required changes.

Schools have had some success helping students gain a richer understanding of their individual virtues.  But strengthening our public processes has been too long neglected by educators, scholars, the general public, and civic leaders.  Schools can, and have, taken constructive measures to reverse dangerous polarizing in the public sphere.

Blaine Fowers - Toward a Moral Psychology of Civic Friendship

The Aristotelian concept of civic friendship (CF) is a promising pathway for improving political cooperation in fragmented Western democracies. A moderate version of CF can be appropriated into modern politics with three elements: mutual awareness, goodwill for one’s fellow citizen’s own sake, and acting on behalf of fellow citizens. The focus will be on a realistic moral psychology for CF. Seven well-documented features of human psychology can scaffold CF, including goal-directedeness, prosociality, cooperation, ingroup favoritism, norm responsiveness, alliance proclivity, and conflict dampening. These features are typically portrayed in amoral terms, but can clearly be appropriated for good or bad ends. 

Kevin Gary and David Weber - Kierkegaard, Virtue and the Public Sphere

This paper begins by examining Søren Kierkegaard’s reservations about public sphere discourse, drawing especially from his work The Present Age. Then, turning to his edifying discourses, it explores the practices that Kierkegaard offers to the individual (including what he describes as primitive reading) so that she or he may withstand the seductive attraction of the public sphere and its attendant anxiety. Kierkegaard’s supreme concern is presenting to his individual reader the ideal requirements of the life of virtue, prompting the individual reader to appropriate the ideal immediately.

It is argued that such practices do not intend to encourage political quietism. Instead, embracing them may result in a different kind of engagement with the public sphere.

Marcin Gierczyk - The contribution of gifted individuals and nonconformist behaviours to virtues in the public sphere

Giftedness and nonconformist behaviour have become a source of great interest in both the public sphere and in educational research. This is related to the fact that nonconformity (as a personality and character trait) has been, and still is, an indispensable element of the creative transformation of societies in the public sphere (Bernacka, 2008; Pullar, 2016). The paper presents results of research conducted in the years 2014-2016 on the level of nonconformity of gifted students in Poland and England. The research, conducted with the Creative Behaviour Questionnaire (CBQ III), was undertaken among 30 purposefully selected students from the University of Silesia (Poland) as well as Oxford University (England). 

Holly Hamilton-Bleakley - Thinking about Friendship: Virtuous Speech and the Human Good of Sociability

In this paper, I explore how the virtue of ‘political friendship’ might be cultivated through what I will call ‘virtuous speech’ in the public sphere. Much scholarly work has examined Aristotle’s notion of political friendship, and the ways in which this notion is connected to Aristotle’s view of community and the common good. What I want to do here is reflect upon Aristotle’s foundational concept of man as a political animal, and the way in which he considers speech to be the primary indicator of man’s political – and therefore social – nature. I will argue that Aquinas gives us a fruitful way of thinking about the Aristotelian notion of speech as an indication of human sociability, in that he interprets sociability as a natural inclination. Or put differently, for Aquinas sociability is a fundamental good toward which human beings are inclined, by virtue of their human nature.

Kazunobu Horiuchi - Does Service Learning Have An Impact on Students’ Attitudes toward Community Service, Enhance The Virtue of Responsibility, and Contribute to The Common Good?

Volunteering has become an important part of the curricula in Japanese institutions of higher education today. In the analysis and practice of service learning and volunteering by college students, the virtues (especially responsibility) play an important role. The focus of this empirically based paper is to assess the impact of service learning on students’ attitudes towards community service and responsibility. Data on the impact of service learning on their awareness in these areas will be analyzed to determine whether it engenders in them a positive attitude towards the common good, especially in terms of environmental protection, the enhancement of voting behavior, and concern for national security.

Jonathan Jacobs - Moral Education, Skills of Civility, and Virtue in the Public Sphere

What I call “skills of civility” fall short of full-fledged virtue and practical wisdom but are necessary for a liberal political/legal order. The liberal polity does not directly require virtue or educate people directly in a sustained, systematic way in how to lead their lives. Yet, the many contexts of civil society are crucial loci of moral education encouraging virtue-oriented habits, attitudes, and skills of civility even if they fall short of practical wisdom. In the absence of skills of civility zero-sum politics, ideology, and fragile social bonds will become prevalent. The liberal polity requires multiple contexts of moral education. 

Eranda Jayawickreme - Towards a University of Virtue—The Wellbeing Assessment Project at Wake Forest University

I introduce the Engine Model of Well-Being (Jayawickreme, Forgeard, & Seligman, 2012); a theoretical framework for assessing the resources and skills required to achieve lifelong eudaemonic well-being. This model includes dimensions of moral (e.g. trust and identification with all humanity), civic (e.g. commitment to lifelong service), performance (e.g. conscientiousness) and intellectual (e.g. intellectual curiosity) character. I present data demonstrating the psychometric properties of a measure based on this model and illustrate substantive findings and consider the translation of these results into interventions designed to support the development of well-being and character in the university context.

Mark Jonas - Making Citizens Virtuous: Plato on the Role of Political Leadership

In this paper, I outline Plato’s ideas concerning the role political leaders play in creating happy, flourishing societies. I start by describing Plato’s preferred model of political leadership which, contrary to popular belief, is not found in the Republic but in the Laws. Next, I argue that Plato believes that leaders must be thoroughly virtuous and that their ultimate responsibility is to inculcate virtue in their citizens. Next, I describe the education these leaders must receive if they are to effectively guide others to virtue. Finally, I conclude with a discussion of the contemporary importance of Plato’s ideas.  

Harry Jones - Virtue by Design: Could Design Thinking Help Promote Public Virtue?

Drawing upon literature in virtue ethics, social psychology, and design, I will argue that design thinking, or human-centered design, could help increase virtue in the public sphere in at least two ways. First, cultivating the creativity inherent in design will unlock a wider range of solutions to seemingly intractable problems. Second, applying design to social systems in a transparent (i.e. non-paternalistic) way could help better create the conditions that foster the promotion of virtue. Intersecting human-centered design with virtue ethics opens up a range of new possibilities for ways we might cultivate public virtue. 

Ólafur Páll Jónsson and Antonio Garcés Rodríguez - Educating Democracy: Competences and the Culture of Democracy

Three kinds of conditions make democracy necessary: (1) Political condition, (2) moral condition, and (3) condition of individualization. Likewise, three kinds of conditions make democracy possible: (1) Political or institutional conditions, (2) cultural conditions, and (3) individual or personal conditions. Focusing on individual competences provides tangible ways for developing democratic learning practices. We identify seven competences: Competence for (1) discursive engagement, (2) conflict resolution, (3) critical re-evaluation, (4) communal living, (5) resilience, (6) forming a conception of a good life, and (7) respecting the natural boundaries of human living. Some of the competences resemble Aristotelian virtues. 

Michael Lamb and Emma Taylor-Collins - Character Education for Social Action: Conceptualizing and Cultivating a Habit of Service

Governments, universities, and non-profit organizations have recently sought to encourage service and social action among young adults. While valuable, many of these efforts lack an explicit conceptual framework for cultivating an enduring habit of service. This paper argues that an Aristotelian account of character education can supply the developmental framework needed to conceptualize and cultivate sustainable social action. To illustrate, we draw on a case study of #iwill, a UK campaign that encourages youth social action. We show how an Aristotelian account can offer valuable conceptual resources for encouraging reflective, sustainable, and impactful social action

Chi-Ming (Angela) Lee - Virtues, Education and Civil Disobedience: an example of Taiwan’s Sunflower student-led movement and its aftermath

This article aims to justify the moral legitimacy of civil disobedience being a public virtue and further to examine the association of Taiwan’s Sunflower student-led movement and its aftermath with the general characteristics of civil disobedience. From a perspective of educating students for critical citizenship and social engagement, several issues regarding the virtue of civil disobedience need discussion: 1. Is this virtue contributive to avoid an extreme between illiberal radicalism and post-truth relativism? 2. What kind of strategies are best-suited to demonstrate this virtue? 3. What structural factors influence the cultivation of the virtue both in and outside of schools?

Apolinar Varela and Concepción Naval - Reflections on a programme on moral and civic virtues and values in secondary schools. A case study in Mexico.

Schools have a relevant role in the development of our young people’s characters. One of the difficulties: schools’ capacity to implement educational programs.

We present a case study on the values programme in a Mexican public school of Santiago de Querétaro.

Our basis is the analysis of documents, semi-structured and in-depth interviews, images and participant observation over a period of three weeks.

Among the main findings: low value of involvement of the school community; importance of the intellectual climate amongst educators; lack of feedback.

Panos Paris - Moral Beauty in the Public Sphere

In this paper I discuss the notions of moral beauty and ugliness, considered specifically in relation to the public sphere. First, I briefly introduce these notions. Second, I consider two ways in which moral beauty and ugliness can manifest themselves in the public sphere: in people who have a public profile, including intellectuals, politicians, artists, and celebrities; and in publicly accessible artworks—including architecture, installations, memorials, music. Third, I offer some thoughts on how character education couched partly in aesthetic terms, and the cultivation of a sensitivity to moral beauty and ugliness, promise a solid and motivationally robust anchor for moral character development. I suggest that the presence of moral beauty in the public sphere, in whichever form, can undergird more traditional sources of character education, whilst being particularly congenial to the maintenance of virtuous societies. Before closing, I address some worries one might raise against my suggestions.

Scott Parsons - Civ-Mil Divide: Moral Exemplars in the Public Sphere

With the modern advent of post-truth relativism in politics and society, it is imperative that we have moral exemplars in the public sphere.  While it is important for the soldier to be a person of character while serving, it can be equally important when they complete their service and enter the public sphere as a civilian.  There are 1.4 million serving in the US Military.  The Department of Veteran Affairs is tracking 22 million veterans.  There is a direct relationship between the ethos of good character in members of the armed forces and the community they join after leaving military service.  

Andrew Peterson - Educating for shared values: A role for civic friendship, concord and deliberation?

The aim of this paper is to explore the potential educational benefits and implications of Aristotelian civic friendship as a way of conceiving the relationship between citizens in plural, heterogeneous political communities. The exploration offered comprises three parts. First, I will say something about the educational context. Second, I will sketch some key elements of Aristotle’s ideas on civic friendship and concord, paying particular attention to the role of deliberation between citizens. Third, I will draw out some possible educational benefits and implications of approaching the shared values / plural interests tension through the idea of civic friendship.

Kate Phillips - Patience, Temperance, and Politics

The purpose of this paper is to give an account of the conditions under which political parties in a democracy flourish and which virtues facilitate those conditions. I argue that political parties flourish when they are winning elections, sustaining membership, enacting legislation, and working towards the common good. I further argue that flourishing is facilitated by cultivating the virtues of self-control—specifically patience, temperance, courage, and transparency. These virtues are particularly relevant because if parties pursue short-term gains, merely to maintain power, that will erode trust between the party, its members, and the electorate.

Timothy Reilly - Calling, Vocation, and Civic Development: Exploring the Virtuous Vocation to Science

In this paper we present humanistic conceptions and psychological theory of vocation. Drawing from these humanistic conceptions, we emphasize the relevance of station, relating to one’s social role, and deep calling, relating one’s innate potential. Psychologically we briefly present vocation and related concepts such as meaning, purpose, and transcendence. We then present a structural model of personality, with three levels: traits, characteristic adaptations, and narratives. Emerging from this, we consider vocational narrative and vocational identity. Vocational narrative and identity are then explored as they relate to civic virtue, using four examples.

Reynaldo Rivera - In God we Trust: Millenials, Religiosity, Civic Participation and the Public Sphere

Emerging adulthood, the age of identity exploration, is rife in challenges, as youths transition from adolescence to adulthood, from education to work, from close relationships within the family and peer-groups to an open public sphere. This is especially true of new generations who are growing up interconnected: the millennials.

Based on the Neo-Aristotelian Model of Moral Development proposed by the Jubilee Centre for Character & Virtues, and using an international dataset of 21,416 young people from 61 countries, this paper explores the impact of the exposure of millennials to religious systems and civic virtues on values that facilitate out-group trust and cosmopolitan orientations towards others.

This paper will offer a contribution to the cross-country analysis of millennials’ moral development and lifestyles, as well as to the understanding of how a social ethos pervaded by the language of virtues would guide to civic engagement and the development of values that facilitate a rational public sphere.

Carolyn Roberts - Can Bad People Run Good Schools?

The Commission for Ethical Leadership in Education is looking at the virtues and behaviours of school leaders. Schools are the mechanism through which society defines, shares and demonstrates its values, and leaders are adept at developing communities which reflect ‘values’, but their behaviour is regulated only where it breaks the law. While it may be possible for a doctor or a politician to do good while acting badly in the private sphere, how can that be true for those whose daily work is the explicit development of good character in the young? 

Jonathan Robinson - Public Vice and Personal Destruction

It has been suggested that the public good depends upon the private vices of individuals willing to get their hands dirty and secure it. Other vices (envy, greed, malice, etc.) fuel competition necessary for a thriving economy. However, if the public good depends upon private vices in the strict sense, we not only permit the vicious agent’s immorality, but also—and crucially—their misery. First, I clarify Aristotle’s account of strict vice. Second, I show that Aristotle’s vicious agent is miserable, not simply immoral. Finally, I note the inverse and insidious consequences of private vice upon public good.

Wouter Sanderse - What may character education learn from critique of the Bildung tradition?

The political dimensions of Bildung and character education This paper compares the political dimensions of neo-Aristotelian character education and the German tradition of Bildung. Just like proponents of Bildung, some advocates of character (education) emphasise the importance of individual self-cultivation through virtues such as hope, friendship or self-esteem (Kekes, 2005). Developing a critical stance towards the political dimensions of life is not necessarily part of this approach. Does character education run the risk of affirming the political status quo? In this paper, I explore what character education can learn from (the critique of) the German bildung tradition. Is character education political enough to enable young people to stand up in a discriminatory and socially unequal society?

Paolo Santori and Luigino Bruni - Prizes and Incentives in Aquinas and Genovesi

This paper reappraises the idea, traceable to Italian civil economists and Aquinas, of a fundamental connection between the notions of prizes (premi) and virtues. Using the analysis of Dragonetti and Genovesi on the notion of premi, as well as Aquinas’ reflections on praemium, we aim at demonstrating that prizes have not only to be conceived as public rewards of low extrinsic value. Conversely, in markets such as in public sphere, monetary and material rewards can coincide with virtue and intrinsic motivations, as argued both by Aquinas and Genovesi, who refused the double separation private/public virtues and interest/virtue.   

Edward Skidelsky - Virtù revisited

This paper is a re-examination of Machiavelli’s notorious concept of virtù. I argue that Machiavelli was the first European thinker of note to advance a fundamentally instrumentalist conception of virtue as that which promotes the security and grandeur of the state - a conception that laid the ground for most early modern thinking on the subject. I conclude with some pessimistic reflections on contemporary efforts to relaunch a “politics of virtue”. 

Nancy Snow - Hope as a Democratic Civic Virtue

I argue for a conception of hope as a civic virtue that is most valuable when democracy faces significant challenges.  In I, I sketch an initial conception of hope as a democratic civic virtue.  In II, the stage is set for further theorizing of this conception in the present American context.  In III, I flesh out what hope as a democratic civic virtue could look like in the U.S. today.  Part IV concludes with comments about theorizing civic hope in the context of a modified pragmatism.  

Charles Starkey, Cynthia Pury and Laura Olson - Courage in Public Debate: Process Courage, Accolade Courage, and Values

We propose that courage attributions involve two distinct but often intertwined things.  Some attributions refer to the psychological process of acting in the face of risk for the sake of a goal that is perceived as important.  Other attributions function as an accolade – an illocutionary act of commendation and endorsement.  The first type of courage attribution is process courage and the second type of courage attribution is accolade courage.  We illustrate and extend this model of courage by examining the relation between calling particular acts courageous and having particular political and religious affiliations. 

Karen Stohr - Moral Contempt and Moral Faith in Civic Life

I argue that effective moral and political community requires that we seek to avoid the vice of moral contempt and cultivate its opposite, the virtue of moral faith in each other. Drawing on Immanuel Kant, I argue that morally contemptuous public discourse has a dehumanizing effect that undermines the presupposition of moral equality on which communities are based. Contempt encourages us to view others as mere obstacles to our ends, rather than as fellow citizens. We should eschew contempt in favor of expressed moral faith in each other, which presupposes the ongoing possibility of individual and collective moral improvement.

Alessandra Tanesini - Reducing Arrogance in Public Debate

The talk argues for using self-affirmation techniques to reduce arrogant behaviour in public debates. It consists of three parts. The first offers an account of what speakers owe to their audiences, and of what hearers owe to speakers. It also illustrates some of the ways in which arrogance leads to violating these obligations. The second argues that arrogance can be understood as an attitude toward the self which is positive but defensive. The final part offers evidence why we should expect self-affirmation to reduce defensiveness and thus the manifestation of arrogance in debate.

Aidan Thompson - Compassion, Empathy and Resilience: Virtues in Volunteering

The Jubilee Centre has recently collaborated with Radio Lollipop, an international charity that gives young people a voice and a choice during their stay in hospital. The Centre is delighted to work with Radio Lollipop, who has over 35 years’ experience of providing care, comfort, play and entertainment to young people in hospital. In April 2017, Radio Lollipop held their UK Training Weekend on the theme of ‘Compassion, Empathy, & Resilience’ of volunteers in hospitals.

As Director of Strategy and Integration and Radio Lollipop Trustee, I spoke at the conference about the importance of each of these virtues in hospital settings, as well as considering the tools required to help us develop good practice. This presentation will feature a film that captures personal stories of Radio Lollipop volunteers, which focus on each of the three virtues that the conference sought to promote.

Jennifer Brown Urban and Miriam R. Linver - Developing Good Character Begins with Planning and Modeling for Character Initiatives: Evaluating Character Development Programs Using Evolutionary Evaluation and the Systems Evaluation Protocol

To understand and effectively cultivate virtues in the public sphere, we must embrace evaluative thinking and engage in careful program planning and evaluation. Evolutionary Evaluation (EE) considers the complex factors inherent in the systems within which programs are embedded. The Systems Evaluation Protocol (SEP) is a specific approach to evaluation that applies the principles of EE and provides an integrated, actionable foundation for planning and conducting evaluations, developing and improving programs, and fostering a substantive expansion of capacity and commitment to evaluation. This paper describes how three character initiatives utilized EE and the SEP and the lessons learned. 

Maria Silvia Vaccarezza - Neither strangers, nor friends. Aristotle on civic friendship and extended altruism

In this paper, I defend the idea of extended altruism moving from an analysis of Aristotelian friendliness and civic friendship, neither of which implies mutual love of affection. I argue that a joint analysis of these bonds can afford precious insights on Aristotelian extended altruism, and suggest a fruitful analysis of a third way between self-interest and proper love, which finds surprising confirms in the recent challenge posed to the “homo oeconomicus” view, and in a renewed emphasis on empathy, reciprocity and cooperation as the key elements of actual economic interactions within civil society.

Tyler J. VanderWeele - Is Forgiveness a Public Health Issue?

Recent empirical research has shown that forgiveness of others is associated with better mental,
and possibly also physical, health. The paper will briefly consider the concept of forgiveness
itself, review the evidence relating forgiveness and health, discuss forgiveness interventions and
recently developed workbook interventions, touch on issues concerning the morality of
forgiveness, and conclude with the consideration of whether, given the links between forgiveness
and health and the availability of forgiveness interventions, forgiveness is an issue that ought to
be addressed within public health.

Warren von Eschenbach - Trust as a Public Virtue

Western societies are experiencing a crisis of trust: we no longer enjoy high levels of confidence in social institutions and are increasingly skeptical of those holding positions of authority. The crisis of trust, however, seems paradoxical: at the same time we report greater feelings of mistrust or an erosion of trust in institutions and technologies we increasingly entrust our wellbeing and security to these very same technologies and institutions. Analyzing trust not only will help resolve the paradox but suggests that the crisis entails normative expectations linked to collective identity, and as such, trust can be understood as a public virtue.

Lawrence Walker and Edouard Tomczyk - Finding the Silver Lining in Every Cloud: Dispositional Optimism as a Virtue

This presentation explores the ways in which individuals’ framing of their life experiences is an indication of their character, and how this framing can provide the impetus for moral action.  Our research indicates that dispositional optimism – as evidenced by secure childhood attachments, the presence of early-life mentors, frequent themes of redemption, and an optimistic tone to the life story – distinguishes moral exemplars (national award recipients for moral action) from comparison participants. These findings support the contention that the proclivity to take a positive outlook on life helps to instill the impetus for both heroic action and a caring lifestyle.

Joseph Ward - Democracy and the ‘Idea of an Educated Public’: discussing the educational benefits of civic virtue and political participation

This paper will discuss contemporary political developments in relation to MacIntyre’s ‘Idea of an ‘Educated Public’. Whilst philosophers across centuries have emphasised the educational benefits of extending democratic engagement, the political events of 2016 appeared to suggest many voters in Western democracies continue to feel alienated from political institutions, and that space for constructive critical debate is contracting. Two facets of this question will be explored. Firstly, recent examples of referenda as unconventional democratic devices in the UK and their implications for engagement will be discussed; secondly, the notion of virtue as inherent to political engagement will be subject questioned.

Lani Watson - Virtue and Vice in the Media

Recent political events have had a near seismic impact on public discourse across many domains of civic life. In this context, media practices and institutions have been a focus of public debate. I examine how the language and practice of virtues operates within this domain and explore how journalistic practices in the mainstream media often fall significantly short of intellectual virtue. I present two case studies of vicious journalistic practices in recent media coverage, from the U.K. and the U.S., and discuss three virtue-based approaches to addressing the contemporary crisis of a vicious media industry operating under a faltering ideal of democracy. 

Michael Wee - Virtuous Doctors and Patients: Public Healthcare as a MacIntyrean Practice

Modern medicine has been accused of an overly-mechanistic view of the human body, and also of having lost sight of its original therapeutic goals in its service of patients’ subjective desires. In this paper I want to make the case for conceiving of public healthcare using virtue ethics, which can help us find the middle ground between those two extremes. As many aspects of healthcare today are driven not just by doctors’ diagnoses but by patient requests, e.g. assisted suicide or a disease-free child, this paper will examine in particular what makes virtuous doctors and patients, particularly in public healthcare.

Barbara Wilson - Mediation ethics: picking through the undergrowth

This discussion paper looks from a practitioner’s perspective at the ethical challenges of mediation, especially family mediation in England and Wales.

Mediation’s ethical stance underpins its conceptual models, while phronesis –  practical wisdom –  varies by jurisdiction and culture. Pathways in mediation ethics meander, and the tangle of competing values and issues are never more than a footstep away. In the absence of more useful theses, Ricoeur’s (1992) caring conversation and ethical intention — ‘aiming at the “good life”, with and for others, in just institutions’ — might offer the best guidance to managers of conflict.

Matthew Wilson - ‘Taking Ownership’ as a Political Virtue in Aid of Responsibility

In this paper I introduce a virtue called ‘taking ownership’ by analyzing its relationship to the virtue of responsibility. After showing how the virtues are distinct, I suggest ways that they are mutually supportive, and in some cases, required, for the full expression of each other. In certain conditions, being a fully responsible participant in a project requires that one also take ownership in it.  Since these conditions seem applicable to the case of civil servants who participate in governmental organizations, I reflect on the ways that taking ownership is a virtue applicable to the responsible management of governmental organizations.