Educating through Exemplars: Alternative Paths to Virtue

Theory and Research in Education 15 (1):5-19 (2017)
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Abstract

This paper confronts Zagzebski’s exemplarism with the intertwined debates over the conditions of exemplarity and the unity-disunity of the virtues, to show the advantages of a pluralistic exemplar-based approach to moral education (PEBAME). PEBAME is based on a prima facie disunitarist perspective in moral theory, which amounts to admitting both exemplarity in all respects and single-virtue exemplarity. First, we account for the advantages of PEBAME, and we show how two figures in recent Italian history (Giorgio Perlasca and Gino Bartali) satisfy Blum’s definitions of ‘moral hero’ and ‘moral saint’ (1988). Then, we offer a comparative analysis of the effectiveness of heroes and saints with respect to character education, according to four criteria derived from PEBAME: admirability, virtuousness, transparency, and imitability. Finally, we conclude that both unitarist and disunitarist exemplars are fundamental to character education; this is because of the hero's superiority to the saint with respect to imitability, a fundamental feature of the exemplar for character education.

Author Profiles

Michel Croce
Università degli Studi di Genova
Maria Silvia Vaccarezza
Università degli Studi di Genova

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