Saturday, February 23, 2008

Hursthouse on Moral Education

Rosalind Hursthouse writes of The Virtues Project:
unlike anything we philosophers have managed to produce, it is an extremely detailed and practical educational program and well worth our attention. Its admirable pedagogy makes it clear that the actual doing of the virtuous acts is not all there is to "helping children to develop the virtues," important as this is, and contains two features that any Aristotelian should find striking...

[1] from very early days, there is the application of the relevant [virtue] words to a variety of imagined as well as real instances, and the beginning of reflection, a detailed picture of how the training is bound up with thought and talk, where the talk centers around the use of virtue words in specific circumstances. All of this is consistent with, but provides a much-needed supplement to, philosophers' reflections...

[2] the pedagogy [stresses] looking for something to be praised by a virtue word in a child's action (or reaction) rather than for something to be condemned. But it is not, thereby, permissive. In fact, it is markedly strict, by contemporary standards, about "setting boundaries" and offers a number of techniques for doing so by, once again, emphasizing the virtues (and hence "Dos" rather than "Don'ts")... The idea is that, rather than making children think of themselves as bad and lacking in virtue, the way poor Huck Finn does, they are enabled to think of themselves as potentially good, as able to recognize and practice the virtues and find pleasure in doing so.

This is from Hursthouse's 'The Central Doctrine of the Mean', pp. 113-4. She concludes:
All very homey stuff, you may say. Well, yes. It is more impressive -- very impressive I thought myself -- when you read the books and see Popov handling questions, but still homey. But how could bringing up children correctly be anything other than a homey business? Moreover, it encapsulates what I have claimed in this chapter are two of the insights shrouded in the doctrine of the mean: it starts by training children, not to follow general rules but to recognize their central target in particular circumstances, and it develops their natural dispositions towards virtue.

1 comment:

  1. maybe those virtues from the virtue project deserve some sort of a ranking - after all they come into conflict quite a lot.
    Anyway it seems like a good idea.

    I expect such things will become more in vogue as the collectivists gain control of the world.


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