A good man, an honest employee, a wise citizen in the Programme of Support for the Gdańsk Humanities

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The project entitled A Good Man, an Honest Worker, a Wise Citizen - Challenges for Contemporary Moral Education received a team grant as part of the Programme for the Support of the Gdańsk Humanities addressed to academic teachers at the University of Gdańsk. The grant awarded team, headed by dr hab. Natasza Szutta, prof. UG from the Faculty of Social Sciences, also included: prof. dr hab. Stanisław Judycki, prof. dr hab. Jerzy Zajadło, dr hab. Martyna Koszkało prof. UG, dr hab. Sylwia Mrozowska, prof. UG, dr hab. Artur Szutta prof. UG, dr Marek Pepliński, mgr Wojciech Skorupka, mgr Rafał Lewandowskim and Paweł Sikora.

Ewa Karolina Cichocka talks about the plans, research and implementation of the awarded project with dr hab. Natasza Szutta prof. UG.

- What is contemporary moral education and how can it be implemented?

- Models of moral education largely depend on the type of ethical theory that educators adopt. At present, ethical theories can be divided into ethics focused on the moral rightness of an action, i.e. ethics that seek answers to the question of what should be done, what kind of actions are morally right or wrong and ethics of the subject, which answer the question of who I should become, what kind of character traits I should develop to become a good person. Among the ethics focused on action are utilitarianism and deontology, which are also sometimes called rule-based ethics, because their proponents focus on formulating moral principles and decision-making procedures that help to make the right decisions in specific situations. Utilitarianism is much simpler, as it adopts a single principle - 'maximise the happiness of the greatest number', whereas deontology adopts several so-called deontic rigours, i.e. rules to be followed.

A competing approach to both theories is taken by virtue ethics, also known as moral character ethics, which does not focus on formulating principles but on promoting morally valuable character dispositions such as honesty, fairness, willingness to help, and wisdom. Its proponents believe that if people manage to develop such dispositions, they will naturally act morally well - honestly, justly, kindly - simply wise. In our project we want to develop this approach to ethics and moral education, i.e. to promote certain traits of morally good character that are worth improving to be a good person, an honest employee and a wise citizen.

- What kind of research did you set out to perform?

- Our team consists of 10 employees of the University of Gdańsk, mainly from the Institute of Philosophy (5 research and didactic employees, 2 PhD students and 1 undergraduate student of philosophy) and one research and didactic employee each from the Institute of Political Science and the Faculty of Law and Administration UG. Following our research interests, we have divided ourselves into several sub-teams which will pursue the specific objectives of the project. Sub-team I will carry out historical research concerning, among others, the history of the notion of virtue, the way it is understood and its function in moral education; it will also compare the classical understanding of virtue with its present-day concepts. Sub-team II will research the borderline between ethics and psychology of morality, posing the question of empirical adequacy of moral character and possibilities of its improvement. Sub-team III will research willpower virtues (e.g. self-control, decisiveness, patience, diligence), which are necessary for the effective realization of any life goals. Sub-team IV will research the intellectual virtues (e.g. inquisitiveness, ability to focus, critical thinking skills), which will additionally be linked to the ethics of scientific research and the moral character dispositions of an exemplary academic (e.g. honesty, reliability, epistemic modesty). Sub-team V will conduct research on religious/theological virtues (e.g. faith, hope, love) from the point of view of their usefulness in social life; Sub-team VI will deal with civic virtues (e.g. solidarity, readiness to honestly seek the common good, reasonable participation in deliberations and collective decisions in the spirit of partnership cooperation, tolerance) which condition good functioning of democratic societies. Sub-team VII will work on jurisprudential virtues and the implementation of virtues into legal ethics (e.g. steadfastness, impartiality, practical wisdom). The results of the research obtained by individual teams will be jointly analysed and compared to develop a concept of moral education in various areas of our lives - both individual and social: professional (research ethics, legal ethics) and civic. Hence the title of our project - good man, honest worker, wise citizen.

- How long will the project last?

- The project will last three years. We are planning many academic activities - national and international conferences, seminars, summer school and dissemination of our research results outside the academy (e.g. popularisation in the media, cooperation with schools, local government units). The results of our research will be published in reputable scientific journals, we are also planning a monograph summarising the research.

- Is the project a continuation of the current research or a new initiative of the team?

- For many years, philosophy faculty members have formed the Virtue Studies research group, which researches virtue ethics. Many of the most eminent authors of this approach to ethics have already visited our university and remain in collaboration with it (for details, see: http://www.virtueethics.ug.edu.pl/)

The funding we have received will allow us to continue and intensify our research, as well as open ourselves up to collaboration with representatives of other scientific disciplines.

- Thank you for the interview.

Ewa K.Cichocka / Press Office UG