The Institute for Ethics & Society (IES) hosted the 2021 Notre Dame School of Virtue & Character from 23 November – 1 December. Now in its second year, the two-week international academic conference featured four keynote speakers and attracted 75 participants from 9 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. This year, the conference focused on the theme of The Virtues and Vices of Moral Criticism, exploring ways in which fraught public disagreement over matters of ethics and social policy can be improved by fostering virtues of character.
IES Director Professor John Lippitt led a session on “Moral criticism, self-righteousness and generosity of spirit: some implications for the ‘one who loves.’” He was joined by three other leading researchers working in the field of moral philosophy and ethics education including Senior Professor Daniel Hutto (University of Wollongong), who led a session on the virtue of civility, Professor Michael Lynch (University of Connecticut), who led a session on truth and political judgment, and Professor Linda Radzik (Texas A&M University) who led a session on public apologies.
Professor Lippitt was delighted by the international uptake and impact of the conference, with academic participants attending from leading local and international research universities, including Columbia University, Georgetown University, Tufts University, the University of Connecticut, Humboldt University Berlin, the University of Sydney, Queen’s University Belfast, the University of Otago, RMIT, UTS, UNSW, the University of Wollongong, and the University of Tasmania.
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 the Australian Defence Force, St Vincent’s Health Australia, The Scots College, and other industry groups.
Very Rev. Dr. Antonios Kaldas, Lecturer in Philosophy at St Cyril’s Coptic Orthodox Theological College, said “This year’s series was an invaluable opportunity to engage with deep thinkers and highly respected researchers into some of the most complex yet important issues facing our increasingly polarised society. The papers led me capably through the maze of moral, ethical, psychological, and social issues and greatly helped me to revise my views and refine them. And the discussion was lively, creative, and varied. The territory covered in these sessions will impact not only on my learning and teaching, but also on how I navigate life in our rapidly evolving and discombobulating times.”
Dr Greg Marcar, a researcher at the Centre for Theology & Public Issues at the University of Otago, said “In a world where our public discourse is increasingly beset by confusion, misinformation and failures to communicate, the 2021 Notre Dame School of Virtue & Character could hardly have been more relevant. How should we engage with others in the public sphere? How do we communicate truth and, perhaps most pressingly, how should we do go about constructively disagreeing with others? While there remains much to be concerned about today, the School’s prodigious, thought-provoking, and careful online discussions thereby perhaps also helped to keep alive one indispensable virtue: namely, hope.”
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