Virtues: Local or Universal?

Oriel College Oxford OX1 4EW
Social Sciences
Thursday 3rd (00:00) - Saturday 5th January 2019 (00:00)
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The seventh annual conference of the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, University of Birmingham

Issues regarding the cultural specificity or relativity of virtues have been at the forefront of philosophical, political and educational discussions of what constitutes ‘good character’ since antiquity. Aristotelian virtue ethics allows for significant variance in the make-up of virtuous agents according to developmental levels, individual constitutions, social roles and societal conditions. However, Aristotle also insisted upon the empirical claim that ‘in our travels we can see how every human being is akin... to a human being’ (Nicomachean Ethics, 1155a20–22), hence refusing truck with any form of radical cultural relativism. Yet questions about the relationship between virtue and education in virtue, on the one hand, and the great diversity of local and national cultures and sub-cultures, on the other, refuse to go away – and have indeed been heightened with the recent rise of political nationalism and what some people see as the demise of multiculturalism in the Western world.

The main aim of this conference is to explore questions about the locality versus the universality of virtues from a number of theoretical and practical perspectives. At the most practical educational level, questions arise about the extent to which efforts at character development need to be geared towards the specific ethos of the individual school or individual class. Psychologists continue to debate the nature of ‘independent’ versus ‘interdependent’ self-concepts and how those may call for different displays of virtue. Philosophers are interested in epistemological and ontological questions regarding moral relativity. Last but not least, in the current political climate, questions about how well virtues travel across geographical and cultural borders have become more pressing than ever before. The aim of the 2019 Jubilee Centre annual conference is to bring together experts from a range of disciplines to explore those questions and many more. Can theorists from philosophy, education, sociology, theology, history and psychology learn from each other’s work? How can insights from theory and practice be integrated?

We hereby send out an open call for presentations falling under the broad theme of the conference. While our focus this time is on issues of cultural variance in good character, we will also look favourably upon proposals that explore other character-related issues from an educational, social scientific, philosophical or practice-oriented perspective. There will be parallel sessions devoted to general topics in the area of character, virtue and character education. We particularly welcome proposals from teachers and other practitioners.

The conference fee is £200 and covers full board at Oriel College (2 nights), including the formal conference dinner. Details of how to pay the registration fee will be provided in due course.