Using the Jubliee Centre graphic on Moral Development on page 2 of this document, create a 2 minute voice over presentation using STUDIO (Directions to Record in StudioLinks to an external site.) to explain neo-Aristotelian moral development to a coworker.
They now learn to the value of moral goods that have been ‘sought’, in addition to simply being ‘caught’ and ‘taught’, and advance to the stage of full autonomous virtue, which Aristotle calls ‘phronetic’ (i.e. guided by the metacognitive capacity of phronesis). Some people – endowed with extraordinary personal strengths and/or caught up in unusual social circumstances – will progress even further towards the level of heroic virtue.
The lower trajectory in the Model, which we could name Plan B, is for those slightly less fortunate, brought up under more mixed moral conditions and hence less amenable, originally, to character virtue development. Given that they will still have some moral exemplars in their environment to emulate – even if those happen to be outside of their immediate family – they will develop a conception of the morally good. However, because of the patchy ways in which this conception is strengthened via ‘caught’ or ‘taught’ methods, these children will lack self-regulation. Through practical habituation – either motivated by friends/mentors or their own powers of self- reflection – a significant group of people progress towards being morally well self-regulated; and that is a considerable moral achievement. Yet, some of the self-regulated agents may actually succeed in climbing up to the level of full virtue (the upper Plan A-pathway), especially if they are fortunate enough to be in the company of close friends occupying that level.
The most important lesson to be drawn from this pathway model is that character educators should never give up the hope that an individual pupil can be helped on the way to full autonomous virtue. No two people will progress towards virtue in exactly the same way, nor at exactly the same speed. All provisions in the field of character education thus need to take account of contextual and individual differences, and seek practical solutions that work for each individual school, class, or pupil.
The development of character – and how to enhance it through education – must be understood against the backdrop of a theory of moral development. According to a neo-Aristotelian view of the psychology of moral development, in which this Framework is grounded, there are a number of pathways to becoming virtuous. These pathways are described, in as simple terms as possible, in the diagram ‘A Neo-Aristotelian Model of Moral Development’ shown as Appendix 1. This pathway model foregrounds the importance of early family upbringing, although it does not exclude the adjustment of negative moral traits formed in early childhood.
Depending on the nature of the education that moral learners receive, they may progress rather seamlessly through a trajectory of habituated virtue, developing into autonomously sought and reflectively chosen virtue, which in turn provides them with intrinsic motivation to virtuous action. Or they may need to take a detour through a pathway of good intentions, undermined by a weakness of will, through practical habituation, which provides them with the self-regulation needed to at least be extrinsically motivated to act virtuously.
More precisely, the upper trajectory in the Model, which we could name Plan A, is for those fortunate enough to have been brought up by good people (as moral exemplars), exemplifying moral habits, and endowed with sufficient material resources. Those fortunate children are the ones most amenable to moral development. They internalise moral habits by copying what they see being done by their role models and gain virtue knowledge and understanding through both ‘caught’ and ‘taught’ methods. Guided by emulated mentors, they become step-by-step, just by doing just actions, brave by doing brave actions, etc. In late adolescence and early adulthood, the young gradually begin to develop critical thinking and reflection and revisit critically the traits with which they were originally inculcated: subjecting their merely habituated virtues to scrutiny and revision.
APPENDIX 1: THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MORAL DEVELOPMENT
EXPLAINING THE NEO- ARISTOTELIAN MODEL OF MORAL DEVELOPMENT
20 The Jubilee Centre for Character & Virtues