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Humanities for the Professions

applied humanities: teaching Humanities for the Professions

 Project Description
 Why Virtue Ethics?
 Applied Humanities Courses

Project Description

Generously funded by the Gladys Kreible Delmas Foundation, the Humanities for the Professions project is developing a model for creating interdisciplinary programs that embed an essential component of the humanities into professional curricula. Our model will focus on virtue ethics, an important part of classical Greek philosophy, and on three professional programs at Moravian College: Business and Economics, Nursing, and Rehabilitation Sciences.

Why do we need a project of this nature? Many humanities programs across the country have been either downsized or eliminated. The ones that continue to exist are feeling financial pressure, experiencing significant cuts in resources, and finding the need to justify their existence. At the same time, many leaders of higher education have argued that today more than ever we need the humanities in professional education to help students understand problems and resolve them within the broader context of human experience.

The purpose of this project is to bring together these two important insights and create an innovative and sustainable model in which the humanities can be imbedded directly into professional programs. The project is intended to be a prototype for other departments and institutions around the country to emulate, making the humanities explicitly relevant to practical disciplines such as business, nursing, athletic training, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. While our project focuses on virtue ethics, we can envision many other humanities-based proposals such as music, art, history, religion, or critical thinking for the professions.

Project Director: Prof. Bernardo Cantens

Why Virtue Ethics?

  • Unlike other ethical theories, virtue ethics focuses on developing good character traits, attitudes, and habits. Ethical codes of conduct within the professions closely resemble virtue ethics insofar as they exhibit standards that also encompass more than just acting (or refraining from acting) in certain ways.
  • Using a virtue ethics model for ethical decision making correlates well with professional codes of ethics that emphasize values such as objectivity, fairness, integrity, respect, truthfulness, prudence, confidentiality, and freedom, just to name a few.
  • Virtue ethics argues for a purposeful and meaningful human existence grounded in the notion of eudaimonia or human flourishing. Therefore, virtue ethics takes into consideration the overall well-being and happiness of a person within a person’s historical, social-political, economic, and personal context. This sort of ample perspective is complementary to professional ethics.
  • Virtue ethics is the most ancient of the ethical traditions. Its origin can be traced to ancient Greek philosophy, and thus it is embedded in the rich history and foundation of philosophy and the humanities.

Applied Humanities Courses

PHIL281A Topics in Ethics: Virtue Ethics and Social Political Justice in Bio-Ethics  (Cross-listed as AFST281A)

Prof. Carol Moeller, Fall 2019, Tues/Thurs 10:20-11:30 a.m.

A study of health, and how it relates to social justice issues from a virtue ethics perspective. We will focus on issues of disability, race, sexuality, sex, gender identity, religion, national status as documented or not, global issues, and other issues related to injustice, and virtue ethics as an approach to social justice.

PHIL281B Topics in Ethics: Business and Virtue Ethics  (Cross-listed as MGMT281B)

Prof. Arash Naraghi, Fall 2019, Tues/Thurs 1:10-2:20 p.m.

Business and Virtue Ethics will explore the moral aspects of business and management from a virtue ethics perspective. 

PHIL281A Topics in Ethics: Virtue Ethics and Nursing  (Cross-listed as NURS281A)

Prof. Bernardo Cantens, Spring 2020, Online

This course will explore the moral aspects of the nursing profession from a virtue ethics perspective. A substantial part of the course will entail applying virtue ethics to actual cases within the nursing profession.


Our first speaker will be Professor Miguel Alzola, Associate Professor, Law and Ethics, at Fordham University.

Date and Time: Tuesday, October 22, 2019, 4:00 PM
Location: Snyder Room in the HUB



Professor Alzola specializes in ethical theory, particularly virtue ethics, as well as applied ethics. His current research focuses on virtue ethics and moral psychology. He is interested in the nature and psychological status of the virtues and the role of character in normative ethics and organizational behavior. He is also pursuing research on collective agency and the moral responsibility of groups. Within the field, his topics include human-rights obligations, corporate political activities, transnational bribery, and corporate and civilian responsibilities in war time.

Professor Alzola held a Fulbright fellowship from 2004 through 2006 and received doctoral scholarships from the Prudential Foundation and Johnson & Johnson. In 2005, he received the Ethics and Social Responsibility Award from the Instituto Argentino de Responsibilidad Social Empresaria, and won the Founder’s Award from the Society for Business Ethics in 2005, 2006 and 2007. He received the Young Scholar in Philosophy Ward from the Society for Analytic Philosophy.

Selected Recent Publications

  • "The Empirics of Virtue Theory: What Can Psychology Tell Us About Moral Character?" published in Handbook of Philosophical Foundations for Business Ethics.
  • "The Possibility of Virtue Theory" published in Business Ethics Quarterly.
  • "Character and Environment: The Status of Virtues in Organizations" published in Business Ethics Quarterly.
  • "Virtue Ethics in Positive Organizational Scholarship: An Integrative Approach" published in Canadian Journal for Administrative Sciences.

For more information on Professor Miguel Alzola, please visit his website.


Our second speaker will be Justin Oakley, BA, PhD (Philosophy), Deputy Director of the Monash Bioethics Centre at Monash University in Australia.

Date and Time: Tuesday, March 31, 2020, 4:00 PM
Location: UBC Room in the HUB

Dr. Oakley has published articles in international journals on the ethics of clinical trials, informed consent, surrogate motherhood, surgeon report cards, whistleblowing, reproductive cloning, and various topics in ethical theory. He is also co-editor of the quarterly refereed journal Monash Bioethics Review, and teaches clinicians and other professionals in the Master of Bioethics course at Monash, along with an undergraduate philosophy subject on the moral psychology of evil. He is currently working on a project on virtue ethics and medical conflicts of interest, and a project on the moral significance of genetic parenthood and the regulation of assisted reproduction.

Selected Recent Publications

  • Morality and the Emotions (Routledge, 1993). 
  • Virtue Ethics and Professional Roles (with Dean Cocking) (Cambridge University Press, 2001).
  • Editor of Informed Consent and Clinician Accountability: The ethics of report cards on surgeon performance (with Steve Clarke) (Cambridge University Press, 2007). 
  • Bioethics (Ashgate, International Library of Essays in Public and Professional Ethics, 2009). 

For more information on Dr. Oakley, please visit his website or Wikipedia.