According to Aristotle, a virtue is an enduring disposition that allows a person to think, feel and act well, or appropriately, in a given situation (Nicomachean Ethics 1105b25–6). For example, against the attack of an enemy, the virtuous soldier reacts with courage, not cowardice or foolhardiness. She would direct her thoughts, feelings and actions in an appropriate way by, say, courageously repelling the enemy in order to safeguard her platoon.
Virtues such as courage are increasingly of interest beyond the military, of course. In the past month alone, I had the opportunity to discuss virtue with a number of different audiences, including the Oxford Scriptural Reasoning Group, the Institute of Technology Sligo, and the Centre for Social Justice, a think tank. Below, I provide a brief abstract for each presentation.
From household to nation: the Wisdom Literature and practical moral reason
Oxford Scriptural Reasoning Group. 16 February 2021.
For many, the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament provides little more than pithy sayings about the well-lived life. It is my contention, however, that the Wisdom Literature plays a more fundamental role in the Old Testament corpus … Given its practical (moral) subject-matter, the Wisdom Literature sits within the Old Testament as a fundamental third pillar: the law prescribes worship of God; the prophets narrate Israel’s relation to God; and wisdom seeks a flourishing life together.
Responsible corporate leadership: integrating leadership and corporate responsibility
Institute of Technology Sligo. 9 March 2021.
Drawing upon the humanities, recent studies in cognitive science and insights from organisational design, this lecture addresses the normative and descriptive aspects of responsible (or ethical) leadership within corporate settings. I discuss responsible leadership as a complex character strength that is (i) aimed towards purpose and profits, (ii) cultivated in an organisational environment, and (iii) supportive of, and even preliminary to, successful CSR initiatives.
Character at work: why character matters for work, the workplace and civil society
Centre for Social Justice. 19 March 2021.
This lecture probes the relationship between character and work. In it, I elaborate upon three claims: (i) that human flourishing involves the cultivation of character, which is developed through work; (ii) that the workplace is a de facto and complex centre for character development; and (iii) that civil society organisations, such as houses of worship or charities, are another important source for character development — a source that business firms should seek to support. Aligned with each claim, I discuss the practical importance of digital upskilling (to promote access to good work), management training (to help workplaces flourish) and leadership development (which should attend to a community’s diverse moral voices and leaders).
My sincere thanks to the organizers and participants at each event. To learn more about virtue, please visit The Oxford Character Project and sign up to our mailing list.