What Is the Job of a “Professor of Moral and Virtue Education”?

My role as Chair of Moral and Virtue Education will be to collaborate with and offer guidance to the multidisciplinary research teams in The Jubilee Centre for Character and Values at the University of Birmingham. These teams are currently investigating the understanding and role of character and virtue education in British schools, the role of ethical values in decision making in the professions, and public understanding and valuing of gratitude.

The work of the center is founded on the premise that in order for people to live well, or flourish, the institutions of their society must provide support and space for them to fulfill their potential well—to fulfill their social, intellectual, and productive potentials in activity that is both admirable and satisfying. The premise that there are forms of human excellence or goodness foundational to happiness is at least as old as Socrates, and it has been a perennial topic of philosophical, theological, and literary investigations. Only recently, in the context of an ongoing revival of Aristotle’s “eudaimonistic” (or flourishing-centered) ethical thought, has it become a topic of psychological research. “Eudaimonistic” and “positive” psychology have dedicated themselves to the study of virtues, the relationship between satisfaction of psychological needs and the fulfillment of human potentials, and what does and does not contribute to people experiencing their lives as going well.

Kristján Kristjánsson, the deputy director of the Jubilee Centre, and I are philosophers engaged in ongoing efforts to bridge philosophy and these developments in psychology. My personal belief is that it is only through such cross-disciplinary synthesis that the founding premise of the center’s work can be fully understood, validated, and established as a basis for policy and practice in and beyond schools.

Randall Curren is a professor of philosophy at the University of Rochester and the Ginny and Robert Loughlin Founders’ Circle Member for 2012–2013 at the Institute for Advanced Study.

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  1. Michael Katz says:

    My congratulations to Professor Curren on his accepting this fascinating research post; I look forward to hearing more about the results of this interdisciplinary research into the relationship between moral virtue and one’s deepest psychological needs.

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