Various writers, especially so-called virtue ethicists, emphasise the importance of moral character and virtue in moral cognition; some even speak of epistemic virtues as essential factors facilitating reliable cognition in general. According to this view, people who are honest, kind, benevolent, helpful, etc. are more sensitive to morally relevant facts than people who do not have these dispositions, enabling the former to see, grasp, or distinguish more of these facts, and to distinguish them more reliably. Thus virtues not only make one more sensitive, but also facilitate more focus, persistence, or diligence in the process of reflection, thereby improving our moral (and arguably not only our moral) cognition.
The role of virtues in moral cognition has been widely discussed, but there are still questions to be answered. Firstly, the impact of virtues on the process of moral cognition continues to draw attention and motivate phenomenological and analytic approaches. Secondly, the very idea of virtue has been questioned. Situationists, who base their argument on research in social psychology, claim that the idea of moral character and moral virtue is empirically inadequate; that most empirical research does not confirm the existence of virtues, and that our moral beliefs, judgments or behaviour seem to result rather from so-called situational factors, rather than from our virtues.
Thus the questions we want to ask during the conference are the following:
- Is there anything that we can justifiably call a ‘moral character’?
- To what extent does moral condition shape our moral cognition?
- What other factors condition our moral cognition; and to what extent?
- Can we enhance our moral cognition to be more independent of accidental causes that influence the process? And if so, how?
Our invited speakers are: