School of Virtue and Character draws international audience

20 October 2020

The Institute for Ethics & Society (IES) hosted the 2020 Notre Dame School of Virtue & Character from 29 September – 8 October. The two-week international academic conference featured six keynote speakers and attracted 83 participants from 12 countries.

The conference allowed participants to engage with new research on the topic of virtues and cultivating good character – one of the Institute’s core research areas. IES Director Professor John Lippitt led a session on “Self-Righteousness and the Vices of Virtue-Signalling”. He was joined by five other leading researchers working in the field of moral philosophy and ethics education including Professor Christian B. Miller (Wake Forest University), who led a session on the virtue of honesty, and Associate Professor Michael Lamb, Director of the Program for Leadership and Character at Wake Forest University, who spoke about how virtue is cultivated and offered seven strategies for developing character in university students.

Other speakers included Professor C. Stephen Evans (Baylor University), who led a session on “Living Accountably: Accountability as a Virtue”, Professor Heather Battaly (University of Connecticut), who spoke on “Countering Servility Through Pride and Humility”, and Anne Snyder, Editor at Comment Magazine, who conducted a practical session on how institutions can be better designed such that they foster the moral development of their members.

Professor Lippitt, was delighted by the international uptake and impact of the conference, with academic participants attending from leading research universities such as Harvard University, Duke University, the University of St Andrews, and McGill University, international Catholic universities such as Georgetown University, the Catholic University of America, the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina, Xavier University (Philippines) and San Pablo Catholic University (Peru), as well as a number of industry groups.

“This year at the IES, we’ve been developing a number of research projects focused on character education, virtue, and vice. It’s invaluable to have the chance to connect with people from all over the world interested in our work, as well as local industry partners working on virtues and character education in sectors such as healthcare and education,” said John.

There is currently significant appetite for leading research on character education from sectors beyond the University – especially in the Catholic and Christian healthcare and education sectors – and the conference attracted participants from Cabrini Health Australia, Mercy Health, St Vincent’s Health Australia, St Luke’s Medical Centre College of Medicine (Philippines), Redfield College, and The Scots College.

Pip Mcllroy, Ethics & Formation Coordinator at St Vincent’s Health Australia, appreciated having the chance to take a deep dive into topics that inform her work in the healthcare sector. “It has been a treat to participate in the IES’ School of Virtue and Character,” she said. “I left each discussion feeling inspired and energised. The series highlights the timeliness and importance of explorations of character formation and the question of how institutions can be designed to foster virtue. I am grateful to the IES for this opportunity, which will undoubtedly aid our work in forming and educating staff at St Vincent’s and the Catholic Health Care sector more broadly.”

Martin Fitzgerald, Head of Philosophy at Sydney’s Redfield College, said the conference will inform his school’s approach to mentoring its students – an approach that aims at fostering virtue in student:

“The Institute for Ethics & Society provides an invaluable service of research, discussion and mentoring to educators who are looking for a good grounding in what it means to foster virtues in young people. The chance to dialogue with the philosophical underpinnings of character and virtue at the 2020 Notre Dame School of Virtue & Character is essential to avoid the pitfalls of simply paying lip service to the requirements of moral education. The conference was an invaluable service to myself, my work, my institution, and broader society.”

The 2020 Notre Dame School of Virtue & Character was an initiative of the Moral Philosophy & Ethics Education Program within the Institute for Ethics & Society.

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