Countering the Vices: On the Neglected Side of Character Education

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Following the rise of virtue and character education, educational philosophers have recently given much attention to questions relating to virtue and the good. This, however, has not been paralleled by a similar interest in vice and evil, which, in this context, are examined only rarely. In this article, I use the work of the American philosopher John Kekes as a backdrop for discussing the role coping with vice and evil should play in virtue and character education. I show how Kekes' assumptions that people have natural inclinations towards both virtue and vice and that evil and vice are an inevitable part of human existence lead to the idea that character education should explicitly discuss not only the virtues but also the vices, that it should promote self-control and that it should bring people to recognize that they have mixed moral inclinations. I then argue that even if we reject Kekes' key assumptions, embracing these three ideas that attempt to provide means to counter the vices might still have marked benefits for character education. The article concludes by suggesting that while the ideas that stem from Kekes' approach should not necessarily be embraced, the themes that they raise call for greater consideration and further analysis.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)271-284
Number of pages14
JournalStudies in Philosophy and Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2011


  • Character
  • Evil
  • Kekes
  • Moral education
  • Vice
  • Virtue

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Philosophy


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