April 7, 2021 | 12:00 - 1:00 PM CST
To be held via Zoom Conference Meeting (Details TBA)
Jennifer Cole Wright
Professor, Department of Psychology
College of Charleston
ZOOM Meeting Link
Meeting ID: 382 223 6992
In this presentation, I will discuss the theory of virtue developed by my co-authors (Nancy Snow and Michael Warren) and I in our recent book, Understanding Virtue. In this book, we call upon the theoretical and empirical resources of Whole Trait Theory (Fleeson & Gallagher 2009; Fleeson & Jayawickreme 2014), to develop an account of virtue that roughly aligns with Aristotelian virtue (while remaining useful to many other philosophical approaches) and, at the same time, maps onto the latest science of personality.
According to WTT, personality (and we argue, virtue) traits are a set of situation-specific trait-appropriate responses, which are produced when certain “social-cognitive” mechanisms (cognitive/affective/motivational processes and dispositions) are triggered by the perception of trait-relevant stimuli in a person’s external and/or internal environment. In other words, both personality traits (e.g., being shy) and virtues (e.g., being honest) can be measured according to the degree to which a person is disposed to respond to trait-relevant stimuli in a way that is appropriate, given the situation. How often and likely a person is to do so – i.e., the range of situations under which trait-appropriate responses are produced – is an indicator of the extent to which she possesses the trait or virtue. The extent to which a person is (or has become) disposed to consistently respond in an honesty-appropriate fashion to a wide range of honesty-relevant stimuli, she can be said to possess the robust or global trait of honesty.
Moving from this starting point, I will briefly reflect on the way that an otherwise empirically elusive concept – phronēsis (or practical wisdom) – fits into our conception of virtue, and the critical role that plays not only in virtue development, but also moral learning.
About Dr. Jennifer Cole Wright
Jennifer Cole Wright is Professor of Psychology at the College of Charleston. Her area of research is moral development and moral psychology more generally. She is interested in how moral values and norms develop over time and influence people’s reactions to divergent beliefs and practices in pluralistic societies—and, in particular, the influence of individual and social “liberal vs. conservative” mindsets on those reactions. She is also interested in why we care about being “good people” and how we become them. In particular, she studies humility and the development of virtue, as well as young children’s early moral development. She has published papers on these and other topics in journals like Cognition, Mind & Language, Journal of British Developmental Psychology, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Philosophical Psychology, Journal of Cognition and Culture, and Personality and Individual Differences. Her book, Understanding Virtue: Theory and Measurement, co-authored with Nancy Snow and Michael Warren (Oxford Press, 2020), will be the subject of this talk.