The Table Video

Robert C. Roberts, Jason Baehr, Janelle Aijian & Gregg Ten Elshof

Cultivating Good Minds: Intellectual Virtue & Education (Full Interview)

Professor of Ethics and Emotion Theory at the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues
Professor of Philosophy, Loyola Marymount University
Assistant Professor, Torrey Honors Institute, Biola University
CCT Scholar-in-Residence and Executive Board Member / Professor of Philosophy, Biola University
July 3, 2015

Teachers love the challenge of teaching. How can we make students love the challenge of learning, growing their minds, and becoming educated people? Philosophers Robert C. Roberts, Jason Baehr, Janelle Aijian, and Gregg Ten Elshof discuss questions: What is intellectual virtue? What is the difference between intellectual and moral virtues? How are intellectual virtues acquired? How does a love of truth and learning conduce to intellectual formation?

Transcript:

So Bob you’ve done a lot of thinking over the years about intellectual virtues. So it’s a delight to have you with us for this conversation today. I wonder if you might comment on the following. Arthur Schopenhauer is quoted as saying this.

He said “our moral virtues benefit mainly other people. “Intellectual virtues on the other hand, “benefit primarily ourselves. “Therefore the former make us universally popular, “the latter, unpopular.” Is that the right way to think about intellectual and moral virtue? How do you think about these things?

I wouldn’t agree with that, that statement. The knowledge and understanding are a good, a general human good. And the virtues that enable us to pursue knowledge and understanding well include virtues that involve sharing knowledge with others, and acquiring knowledge from others.

And the processes by which we acquire knowledge are often communal, social processes in which we’re interacting with one another and bouncing ideas off one another and sharing information and so forth.

And so intellectual virtues are very other oriented of necessity I think. And of course the moral virtues are often very good for ourselves too. [laughing] People who are just or compassionate, benevolent, kind, are generally they generally do well for themselves.

It’s of course possible that insisting on justice, as a just person might, you could get in trouble. [laughing] And that certainly happens. But on the whole, all of the virtues are good for both us as individuals and our community.

What is the difference between intellectual virtue and a moral virtue? When we talk about the intellectual virtues, what are we talking about?

Yeah. That’s a little bit of a controversial question among the philosophers. But I would say some of the intellectual virtues have very clearly intellectual names [laughing] like open-mindedness.

That seems like a virtue that’s clearly intellectual and pretty clearly a not merely moral virtue, although there will be moral elements involved in open-mindedness, a kind of willingness to, maybe a kind of humility that would be necessary for the really open-minded person. Let’s see now, oh the difference between.

Yes. So, some of the virtues are clearly named in a way that makes them sound very intellectual. Other virtues, other intellectual virtues are named by the names of moral virtues. So for example, I was speaking a moment ago about our interaction with one another in intellectual matters. And there, a kind of generosity is important.

One of the ways that we learn from others is to learn to admire their accomplishments. And that’s a kind of generosity, a kind of generosity of spirit. Similarly humility is a virtue that’s both moral and intellectual.

And so the question might arise well, what makes intellectual generosity intellectual and what makes intellectual humility intellectual? And I think that the answer to that is just a matter of context. So if the context is an intellectual context in which intellectual goods are at issue or are being promoted then the virtue becomes an intellectual virtue.

Perhaps you could say that it becomes intellectual in virtue of the community caring about intellectual goods. So there’s a kind of a basic virtue, basic intellectual virtue of loving, understanding and truth and knowledge that’s behind all of the other intellectual virtues like generosity or humility.

So it turns out that Schopenhauer is wrong on another count because moral virtues and intellectual virtues are gonna turn out to be actually the same kinds of virtues just in two different contexts?

In large part.

OK.

Robert: I think so.

I agree, in large part and one of the virtues that you didn’t mention that complicates this just a little bit at least is something like curiosity or inquisitiveness.

On the one hand that seems really fundamental to the search for knowledge and understanding that provides that basic motivation. But you rarely see curiosity on any list of moral virtues. Indeed, depending on how you understand it, it could be considered even a moral vice.

Right, curiositas–

Exactly, exactly. That’s exactly how it’s treated by Augustine and others. So that’s right, I tend to think that there is a lot of overlap. But then that there are some sort of outlying cases on both the moral side and the intellectual side that allow for some kind of a distinction.

And I think as well, very kind of simple way to draw distinction there. And it’s a superficial distinction, is to think in terms of what are the personal qualities that you need in order to be a good thinker or a good learner, right?

There what comes to mind are things like curiosity and open-mindedness and intellectual humility and intellectual carefulness and thoroughness and attentiveness, right? And then if you think alternatively, what are the qualities that I need in order to be a good neighbor, right?

And there you might think more in terms of kindness and compassion and respect and generosity.

I completely agree that there are versions of those traits that also apply to the life of the mind. And that’s why you can’t draw too sharp of a distinction. But if you think of intellectual virtues as the character traits of a good thinker or a good inquirer, a good learner, moral virtues as the character traits of a good neighbor, maybe civic virtues as the character traits of a good citizen. I think that allows for a helpful first pass way of making some distinctions.

But if you look at the reasons that the classic Christian thinkers had for rejecting curiosity as a virtue, you see that they are actually moral,

Yeah, yeah.

Kind of moral criteria. So for example, Augustine thought of curiosity as just a kind of indiscriminate desire for sensory stimulation and sensational knowledge, maybe gossip and kinds of knowledge that we think actually degrade us.

Right.

Or at best are unimportant–

Right.

Trivial or something. And so one of the virtues that an intellectually competent person needs is an ability to discriminate the important matters, to know and understand from the unimportant or even corrupting.

Yeah, yeah. And I’d say that’s necessary. That kind of further elaboration and characterization is necessary even for thinking of it as a genuine virtue. So unbridled curiosity or curiosity about subject matters that are either just completely trivial or maybe morally problematic, I’d say that’s not a genuine intellectual virtue.

That intellectual virtues are motivated by a desire to know and understand important truths, however you want to understand that, not the trivial or otherwise problematic truths. So all of that to say curiosity as criticized by Augustine and others from a moral standpoint wouldn’t, in my view, count even as an intellectual virtue. It would need to be retooled in ways for it to count as a genuine intellectual excellence.

Yeah, but the point to see about that is it’s the moral quality of proper love of truth and love of understanding that makes it into a virtue.

Partially moral, right? So I agree that moral considerations constrain what counts as worthy subject matters. But I do, I think it’s an interesting question whether there are sort of intellectually, intrinsically intellectual interesting or fascinating subjects or issues or questions.

Yeah.

 

It’s also interesting to think about the way that being a moral person is gonna impact the way you go about any kind of intellectual search. So I’m thinking about Pascal, and one thing that he says is that “the way that you search is gonna be deeply dependent “on how moral you are as a person.”

So if we were rivals and you had just published a great paper, if I were the wrong kind of person I would be motivated intellectually to find reasons why your great discovery was false, right? Because it actually turns out that being intellectually generous is gonna require me not to be envious. My intellectual virtues are gonna get hampered by a lack of moral virtue in that moment.

 

Yeah that’s helpful. And it’s funny even in the conversation so far, I think we’ve kind of gone back and forth a little bit between a very broad conception of moral and a narrow conception so if moral is just like, being a good person or living a good life, then I think intellectual virtues just are moral virtues.

Because I think that part of what it is to be a good person is to love things and pursue things that are good. And I think knowledge and understanding are goods. And so part of what it is to be a good person is to love those things and to wonder about them and to pursue them in ways that are open-minded and tenacious but humble and attentive and so forth.

Yeah and there’s always gonna be the sense that being virtuous requires balance between all of the virtues, right? The virtues can’t just exist. Oh I’m an extremely rational person and I have that virtue but I lack self-discipline. You can’t do that, it turns out, they have to be united.

Yes if you ask why we even have a separate category for intellectual virtues, it seems that the answer is, intellectual matters, understanding and knowing and pursuing truth are extremely important in human life.

They’re absolutely crucial aspect of human flourishing. And so they warrant, you might say, a special treatment, whereas you know maybe if somebody tried to come up with a bunch of football virtues, we’d probably laugh at that right? [laughing] As opposed to the intellectual virtues.

Yeah.

Yeah.

If you look at the reasons that the classic Christian thinkers had for rejecting curiosity as a virtue, you see that they are actually kind of moral criteria.

Yeah.

So for example, Augustine thought of curiosity as just a kind of indiscriminate desire for sensory stimulation and sensational knowledge, maybe gossip and kinds of knowledge that we think actually degrade us—

Right.

Or at best are unimportant, trivial or something.

And so one of the virtues that an intellectually competent person needs is an ability to discriminate the important matters to know and understand from the unimportant or even

Yeah.

Corrupting matters.

The following is a tempting sort of perspective I think. You might think well content, information is taught, but virtues, character traits and the like, those are caught more than they’re taught.

So you might think that education toward intellectual virtue isn’t gonna be so much about the curriculum as it is about getting teachers in front of students who exhibit these traits. Is that the right way to think about it?

If you’re trying to educate for virtue, for intellectual virtue, does curriculum stay just as it is, whereas you’re just more careful about the kind of teachers you put in front of students? How should we think about that?

Can I add a category? So not only there’s the factor of the curriculum, what’s being taught, and the factor of the teacher, but there’s also the factor of the kind of activities that are assigned, so the kinds of things the students are asked to habituate themselves into.

I actually think that would be the first category I would press into in terms of what educating for intellectual virtue is gonna look like. So are students in a situation where they’re getting rewarded for one-upping each other, or are they in a situation where they’re getting rewarded for working together cooperatively to try to come to a solution? That’s the kind of habituation that seems to me like a good place to start.

I think the curriculum is very important as well as the character of the teacher. One of the things about classical schools for example is that the curriculum is made of great texts. And these texts are great, by virtue of the depth of insight and the moral quality and the artistic quality, and the artistic excellence of the texts.

If we’re trying to form students’ minds in such a way that they become excellent as human minds, we do want for them to be feeding on excellent material. So a course could be taught by a very able and inspiring teacher and yet if the texts weren’t very good it would be lacking in something important.

And just to push my point a little bit more obnoxiously. [laughing] I teach in that kind of a classical setting and part of the reason why teaching in great texts is so wonderful is because it forms habits of intellectual virtue because the texts are difficult and beautiful.

So just being exposed to those kinds of texts consistently forces a kind of intellectual rigor. And also develops a kind of aesthetic appreciation for the greatness of these books.

Yes. I think we definitely wanna keep the aesthetic dimension in the picture and not separate it from the moral and the intellectual, not try to divide things up too much.

Right, I think one point that’s consistent with what both of you have said is that educating for growth and intellectual virtues isn’t primarily a matter of teaching or talking about those traits, right? So it’s not a sort of separate curriculum that gets pursued in addition to the academic curriculum.

It’s much more a matter of how you approach the academic curriculum, and then yes, what the substance of that curriculum is as well. And that suggests that there are multiple kind of variables that are worth thinking about here if that’s our goal.

One is certainly who the teacher is and whether they model the passion for ideas and the love of the subject matter and so forth. And that’s often what kind of transmits, growth and inspiration, in these qualities.

But like Janelle was saying, there are values that are implicit in any classroom, what gets rewarded and what doesn’t get rewarded. So thinking about setting up the values of a classroom in a way that will lead to students asking questions and focusing on important details, and working together, and considering alternative perspectives which I think illustrates a broader point about kind of the culture of the classroom.

So ideally what we would have is a teacher that’s knowledgeable and passionate, a curriculum that lends itself to deep thinking and learning about important ideas. And then a culture that supports that as well in terms of what’s the language that’s used?

What are the values that are used? Or the values that are upheld. And then similarly of course, there are practices, pedagogical practices as well. You might be a very passionate teacher. But if you don’t have certain pedagogical skills, for instance if you don’t give your students and know how to give them opportunities, as you were suggesting, to think well, to practice these virtues of the mind then, if you’re not creating those opportunities they don’t always happen.

Right.

Just lecturing, that doesn’t always make for opportunities to think in class. So being able to structure activities, be it inside the classroom or outside, that gives students opportunities to practice the virtues seems important as well. So seems like a lot of different things need to be pursued.

Yeah. If I can highlight one thing you said, maybe this was a good distinction. So intellectual virtues aren’t ideas, they’re habits of mind. You could teach about intellectual virtues, but no amount of teaching content about intellectual virtues, that’s not how you’re gonna transmit an intellectual virtue, you have to cultivate a habit within a student.

Yeah. And then that allows, if you’re thinking about this philosophically, it allows us to draw on the whole rich tradition of asking about how virtuous habits are formed. Role models, exemplars are part of it. But communities, and practices are a big part of it as well.

One of the expressions that you see a lot in connection with education and the virtues is love of learning. I wonder how we instill a love of learning in our students especially if we distinguish that from the love of knowing?

I think I know people who love knowing but hate learning. [laughing] Learning is like going to the dentist. They’ll pay a lot of money for it, but really they hate it. What they really want is knowing. And if that’s a sensible distinction, how can we train folks up into the love, not just of knowing but of learning?

Well I think that making the process of learning enjoyable is an important thing. And making it enjoyable, you can make it enjoyable in part, just by making it excellent. [laughing] If your method of learning, of teaching is very rote or if you’re just teaching for the exam or something, then the student might well and appropriately hate learning. [laughing]

But if you make it a matter of conversation with other interesting people about interesting topics, and teach students to be critical, to enjoy the give and take of civil critical interaction, then I think it just is enjoyable. It’s an activity that should be enjoyable for human beings because it’s the way we are.

Yeah, yeah, my first instinct was to say “something must have gone wrong “for someone to not love learning “in the first place,” right? I actually think mostly people love learning. It’s maybe a set of bad habits that have been cultivated, or a set of bad educational environments that have changed a person into the kind of person who doesn’t enjoy learning for its own sake. ‘Cause that’s the kinds of things that people are, people are things that are curious.

That said, there are painful moments in the process of real learning. When you’re really puzzled about something that you deeply want to understand, it’s emotionally painful. But of course, if you stay with it, you may come up with a solution to your problem and when understanding emerges, after that kind of suffering, it’s especially enjoyable, right?

So the point there is you actually need an intellectual virtue in order to enjoy learning. ‘Cause perseverance in that moment, of, I’m going to keep doing this thing that I am not feeling like I’m making progress in. You actually have to have that virtue in order for learning to be something that continues to be enjoyable.

Yeah so it looks like there are things essential to learning that are accidental to knowing. So perseverance presumably, is essential to learning, but it’s accidental to knowing. A kind of industry, the habit of industry as opposed to sloth. Looks like that’s gonna be essential to learning but accidental to knowing. There are others, I’m sure. So part of this I think is training students up into the love of submission, industry perseverance and the like of that.

That sounds right to me provided that you’re thinking of learning in a more kind of, as a complex process that takes place over time. ‘Cause there are simple things that we can learn, simple uninteresting things we can learn without perseverance and so forth. But deep understanding of rich and important subject matters, that’s hard to come by, and the only way there, or the way there makes demands not just on how smart we are, or how much prior knowledge we have, but on who we are as people and on our agency.

So even in our best moments when we’ve got the best texts and we’re performing well in our capacity as teachers, we’re using good methods, we’re modeling good thinking, at least if your experience is anything like mine, there are still going to be a few students whose looks on their faces suggest that they’re not on board, they’re not buying it.

And that group can be larger or smaller. But one of the things that I’m really interested in is what do we do about them? So when some of the standard methods for fostering intellectual virtues aren’t working, what, if anything, can we do to get some of those other students on board?

Well I think we can engineer successes for them. ‘Cause we enjoy things that we succeed at, we like those moments of triumph.

If a student is tuned out and disgusted with what’s going on in the class, one way to do it is to try to marginalize the really active, smart kids for a moment and concentrate on the one who’s slow and then make it maybe simple enough so that he or she actually can have a success.

Like that, and I think one point that illustrates is how it’s worth asking of ourselves, when we encounter students like that, what’s getting in the way? Because like you were saying, the goods that we’re inviting them to pursue and enjoy are genuine goods.

Yeah.

And so something’s gotten in the way. And so asking what are the obstacles? What messages are they telling themselves that are getting in the way of their engagement? And I think often it will be something like well I’m just not, I can’t do it, I’m not competent.

Or I’m too afraid to fail. So asking what are those messages and then trying to create opportunities in the classroom to address those whether engineering for success, or in the case of fear of failure, having a classroom wide discussion about, look, we’re all afraid of failure right? And yet that kind of fear can be paralyzing. And if it takes over, you’re never going to engage. And if you don’t engage you’re never really going to grow.

That seems like one really helpful way to think about it. I also think too that the kind of relationships that we have with students, they need to know that our classrooms are safe and respectful places. And it’s fascinating to me why that’s the case. I think at least part of why it’s the case is that character change is profoundly personal.

By trying to help them grow in these qualities, we’re asking them to internalize new values and practices and habits. That’s extremely personal. And I think, just as kind of a matter of common sense, we aren’t generally open to deep personal change in relationships or environments that feel unsafe or hostile. So being able to show students that look, this isn’t a classroom where you’re gonna get personally attacked, it’s a classroom that values intellectual humility.

Talking about placing values on certain things in the classroom, elevating the value of intellectual humility where it’s as good or better to explain what you don’t know, or what you’re struggling with, or to try to overcome something that you’re struggling with, where that’s rewarded just as much if not more than getting the right answer and getting it as fast as you can.

Right, right. Yeah I think there’s a profound good in the kind of relationship between a student and a teacher where the student isn’t motivated so much by grades anymore as they are by wanting to, the negative way to put it is wanting to be approved of by their teacher.

But it’s actually wanting to have a relationship of respect with someone. If that’s an opportunity, I respect this person and I know if I do my best they will respect me too. That’s so much better as a motivator than any kind of selfish,

Yeah.

I need to get an A in this so I can go to med school kind of mentality.

And wrapped up in that too I think is often the experience of admiration and emulation. And the same way that I want to have a mutually respectful relationship with this person where together we’re pursuing something that’s good, also I want to be like that person. I want to think like that person. I want to have the loves that that person has, that’s attractive.

Yeah.

I wonder if we could talk just a little bit about the relationship between intellectual virtue and education toward intellectual virtue and civility and civil discourse. It’s no secret that there’s a widespread breakdown in civility and civil discourse, especially on controversial topics in culture. I guess it’s not hard to see that in many cases, there’s a moral failure.

Participants in these conversations are failing one another morally in various respects. But I wonder if there’s also an intellectual dimension to the failure? Is there a failure of intellectual virtue? And correspondingly, is there a way of educating into virtue that would help us into more civil discourse and civil society, more generally? What do you guys think?

Let’s see if we can say what civility is as a virtue. I take it that it would be something like, it would be a kind of patriotism. It would be a kind of love of the community. But it would also be a trust in the mechanisms of government such that when one disagrees with the people in power, one continues to respect the mechanisms of government. And seeks to support those mechanisms.

And I think that the virtue of humility is relevant to this, to the practice of civility or the virtue of civility in that some of the vices that undermined civility and make government dysfunctional are such vices as “selfish ambition” to use a word from the Apostle Paul in Philippians two. Vain glory, arrogance, the love of power, domination, that kind of… fixation on being the party in power or something of that sort.

So each of these, as I understand humility, each of these vices sort of corresponds to a slightly different kind of humility, maybe a variant within the larger category of humility. And so, for example, arrogance is a disposition to claim entitlement to things that you don’t really have entitlement to. False claims of entitlement on the basis of thinking, of overestimating your own importance.

And so if you overestimate the importance of your party affiliation, you may be inclined to think that you don’t really need to listen to what the other people, people on the other side of the aisle say.

And that of course, is poisonous for civility. If you’re just not listening to one another. And so a kind of humble listening and taking seriously what the others say and trying to keep your own strategies within the bounds of the spirit, you might say, of the American government, that would be a way, an important virtue to have, to head off incivility.

That has an intellectual side to it because listening to the other side is an intellectual exercise, right? It’s a matter of taking in, being open to taking in what the others say and taking it seriously as something a colleague is saying.

Yeah. I wonder Greg, if your distinction earlier between love of learning and love of knowing, and maybe even a step further, love of being right is the kind of thing that you’re talking about Bob? This idea that I would rather there not be a solution than for the other team to have come up with a better solution than I have come up with.

I would rather the problem not be addressed than be addressed successfully by someone other than myself. [laughing] That seems to me like that’s at the heart of some of the breakdown in civil discourse. So the intellectual virtue there is kind of a love of truth right? I love truth more than myself and more than my own advancement.

Yeah, to love discovering that I have been wrong–

Janelle: Yeah, yeah.

Is maybe an acquired love. [laughing] Not one that just comes naturally and bubbles up out of our nature.

But a deeply important one if you’re ever gonna be intellectually virtuous.

Seems like if we take a little step back and say, is there an important connection between educating for intellectual virtues and civility or civic discourse, civil discourse, here’s one way to try to kind of bridge it.

It’s pretty straightforward that you think that education should aim at producing good citizens. And if you think that part of what it is to be a good citizen is to be disposed to engage in public discourse well, or in a manner that’s civil, and if you think doing that or civility is partly a matter of being intellectually humble and intellectually rigorous and open-minded and fair-minded and intellectually honest, then that gives you a really good reason to think that educators should be concerned with trying to foster growth and intellectual virtues ’cause they’re important to engaging in public discourse.

They’re important to other forms of democratic participation. If you wanna make a responsible vote, you need to ask the right questions. You need to look at the evidence carefully and thoroughly, you need to be honest with yourself.

And I think that some of these things are timely for the reasons that you’ve already suggested which are that so much of public discourse today seems to be marked by what you might even describe as epistemically bad behavior.

Janelle: Yeah.

How do people handle evidence of each others’ views? And what you see is a lot of being dismissive. The person on the other side must be stupid, they must be ignorant. Caricaturing of other peoples’ views, in some ways, a lot of mishandling of evidence and other epistemic goods. And intellectual virtues just are the personal qualities or character traits that you need in order to handle those goods well.

So insofar as public discourse is aimed at knowledge and understanding, then for it to go well you’ve got to have intellectual virtues. Now you might think public discourse, whether it should be or not, is often aimed at other goals like power, right? And that’s when things get complicated, that the goal of power and the goal of knowledge and truth can conflict and so the qualities that one cultivates with those ends in mind can be different.

It just struck me that there’s another side of maybe the vices of public discourse that we haven’t talked about and that’s apathy or lack of engagement, right? There are a small number of people who we can look at and say “wow, it seems, from this outside perspective “that the motivation is power rather than the good.”

But there’s actually this much larger problem of despair, I think, of many, many people just failing to engage because they’re not convinced that their small voice is going to matter in the larger picture.

Yeah.

So there’s a different intellectual virtue there and willing to be engaged, even if you’re not gonna be the rock star, even if you’re not gonna be the one who yourself makes all the difference.

But it’s interesting, on one way of telling it, that vice traces back to the same love of power. So the reason I’m not engaged is because I love power and there isn’t any to be had here for me. [laughing]

Exactly.

And so that same vice is driving things. So we’ve been talking quite a bit about intellectual virtues and educating for intellectual virtue. But we all know there are corresponding vices. And some of them are connected up with the goods associated with the virtues so we all know that Paul warns against a kind of puffing up that often accompanies knowing. Even knowing of the right sort, you might think is sometimes accompanied by a puffing up. So what can we do to educate folks into these virtues whilst avoiding these corresponding vices?

If you’re looking for a sort of large, programmatic answer to that question, I think that what the John Templeton Foundation is doing, in promoting the kind of schools that Jason has founded and calling public attention to the whole issue of vices, actually virtues, but then because of that also vices, is a wonderful place to start.

That’s not itself gonna make anybody intellectually virtuous but it’s a way of beginning an awareness and calling on people to be creative in their efforts to achieve something in this regard. I would strongly commend what Jason is doing in his school. Namely just sitting down there and starting to do it and think hard about what kind of a curriculum, and what kind of teachers you want, and how they should be encouraged and educated.

This is in some ways more general, but also maybe a little bit more narrow. I think if you think that as human beings we’re disposed more than we ought to be towards considerations of power or selfishness, right, then it’s unsurprising that even something good like knowledge and understanding, something that has power associated with it might be mishandled and misused, that it might puff up.

And that it might be used to harm or marginalize others. And if you think that’s our orientation, then certain virtues become really important to focus on and think about. And I think just in my experience thinking about these things and in some of the educational applications that Bob mentioned, I’m increasingly struck by the importance of intellectual humility. And we think about these things a little bit differently but on my view, if I’m intellectually humble, I’m going to be alert to, and I’m going to be willing to acknowledge, or to own my intellectual limitations and weaknesses.

I’m not going to be defensive about them. I’m not going to be arrogant or prideful, right? I’m going to be willing to say I don’t know when I don’t know. Or I’m gonna be willing to say that was a mistake, right.

Or this belief of mine, it’s not as well supported as this other belief, and your argument really did shed light on that. So I think if you start with a certain view of human nature, like the one I mentioned, then the importance of helping each of us [laughing] be a little bit more willing to look at and to acknowledge our intellectual limitations would be a really good foundation from which to pursue some of the other virtues.

 

It’s interesting Greg, so that verse, the end of it is “knowledge puffs up but love builds up,” right? And I think it’s interesting ’cause most of the time when I read that verse I think about it in terms of loving other people. But I actually think the right kinds of love of knowledge, as opposed to, so there’s this love of knowing, which actually ends up being a love of self, right? I love being the one who knows.

And that’s where you get these intellectual vices. But if the love is of knowledge, rather than of knowing, then you actually, a lot of those vices end up getting overturned, because I would rather know the truth than be right. And I would rather learn from you if you know the truth than show the world how much righter I am than you. So it turns out that if you can combat a certain kind of vice with a certain kind of love, both of knowledge and of the other, that’s a way to turn those vices back into sort of the properly functioning virtues that they were meant to be.

 

It’s great, and I love the idea of ending on love. Because it gets back to the relational aspect of it as well, I think so often, part of why we are defensive and do what we can to either hide from ourselves or hide from others the limitations of what we know or of our beliefs, or our abilities, is a sort of fear of not being accepted.

And so if I’m thinking about these things in connection with other people and wanting them to pursue the epistemic goods in a deeper way, I think that, I want my students to admit what they don’t know and to take responsibility for that. I think doing that in the context of love, for them, is critical.

Well Janelle and Jason and Bob, all three of you I know have thought deeply about intellectual virtue. And I know also that you’re known for, and I know you to be people who manifest the virtues with your students and in your writing and in conversation. So it’s been a real delight to think about these things together with you and I want to thank you for joining us.

Thank you.

Thanks Greg.

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