Faith, Hope and Charity: A Guide for the Wicked
Level 1 (CQFW Level 4), 10 Credits.
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Is greed good? Might lust be a virtue? Are faith, hope and charity for losers? What makes something a virtue or vice? Can we learn to be virtuous, as Aristotle and Aquinas supposed? Or has empirical psychology shown the whole idea of character to be no more than a philosophical pipe dream? Is virtue good because its possessor tends to act well? Or does the true value of acting well lie in the virtue of the actor?
No previous knowledge of philosophy will be assumed.
The following list of sample topics indicates the kind of subject matter which may be discussed but the specific issues selected will vary:
- What can psychology tell us about the empirical respectability, or otherwise, of our concept of ‘character’?
- What makes a character trait a virtue or a vice?
- What is the nature of particular virtues and vices?
- Do some virtues or vices play a special role in the development of good or bad character?
- Can somebody have one virtue, such as compassion, but lack another, such as courage? Or does each virtue depend on the others?
- Is virtue good because its possessor tends to act well? Or does the true value of acting well lie in the virtue of the actor?
- How can we develop virtues in ourselves, nurture them in our children, and sustain them in our fellow citizens?
- How can we eradicate vices in ourselves, prevent their development in our children, and assist our fellow citizens to resist them?
- Can public policy shape citizens’ character? Should it?
The course may draw on case studies and examples from fiction and non-fiction to illustrate the theoretical positions discussed and students are encouraged to draw further examples from their own experience.
Who is this course for?
This course will explore the nature of ethical character, virtues and vices in the light of both philosophical theory and psychological research. We will examine what guidance philosophy may offer us in shaping our characters, evaluating those of our fellow citizens and formulating public policy. No previous knowledge of philosophy is assumed.
Learning and Teaching
This course is taught in 10, two-hour sessions, delivered on a weekly basis.
There will be a mixture of lectures and seminars, the precise proportion to be determined by the needs of the students enrolled. The seminar element may include debate, discussion, group activities, presentations and readings. Additional reading material will be recommended and a reading list will be supplied. If appropriate, other materials such as documentaries may also be included. Course handouts will be provided as appropriate.
The seminars will encourage the development of knowledge and understanding of the ideas and concepts discussed in the course. Intellectual skills will be encouraged through participation in class discussion, reading and coursework.
Coursework and Assessment
Essays or other equivalent written assignments to a total of 1500 words demonstrating an understanding of core elements of the course material
For us, the most important element of assessment is that it should enhance your learning. Our methods are designed to increase your confidence and we try very hard to devise ways of assessing you that are enjoyable and suitable for adults with busy lives.
To award credits we need to have evidence of the knowledge and skills you have gained or improved. Some of this has to be in a form that can be shown to external examiners so that we can be absolutely sure that standards are met across all courses and subjects.
You will not have formal examinations but you may be asked to write assignments, such as question prompt responses, or you might opt to write an essay. Our assessments are flexible to suit the course and the student.
Reading and resources will vary according to the specific topics covered in the module. Students considering the module may find the following resources helpful:
Crisp, Roger, and Michael A. Slote, eds. 1997. Virtue Ethics. Oxford Readings in Philosophy. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN: 0198751885. Philippa Foot’s ‘Virtues and Vices’ would be a good place to begin.
Pojman, Louis P., ed. 2004. The Moral Life: An Introductory Reader in Ethics and Literature. 2nd ed. New York and London: Oxford University Press. ISBN: 0195166086. Sections 6 (‘Virtue Ethics’) and 7 (‘Virtues and Vices’). A good entry point for students with no prior philosophy. A list of further readings is provided at the end of each section.
Library and Computing Facilities
As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University library and computing facilities. You can find out more about these facilities on our website www.cardiff.ac.uk/learn under Student Information, or by ringing the Centre on
(029) 2087 0000.
Accessibility of Courses
Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and Dyslexia screening. Please contact the Centre on (029) 2087 0000 for an information leaflet.