Applied Humanities: Teaching Humanities For the Professions

 Project Description
 Why Virtue Ethics?
 Applied Humanities Courses

Project Description

In 2019, Moravian University offered a program generously funded by the Gladys Krieble 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 University: 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.

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)

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.

PHIL281 OL Topics in Ethics: Virtue Ethics 

Summer 2020, Online

This course addresses a variety of topics that change by semester in the areas of normative ethics, applied ethics and meta-ethics.


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


Miguel Alzola

The Ethics of Reproach: Blamers, Moral Standing, and Moral Luck


It is widely acknowledged that if a person is blameworthy for having done something wrong, then each and every one of us can blame her for that action. According to the received view, anyone can blame every wrongdoer for every wrong. But our moral practices do not work that way. Even if a wrongdoer is blameworthy, I submit, a person may be disabled to blaming the wrongdoer either because of the would-be blamer's position, prior misconduct, and/or character. Things get more complicated when playing institutional roles. This paper is concerned with the question of whether, to what extent, and under what conditions a person may lose (or retain) her standing to blame. In the course of this paper, I shall examine four possible ways to undermine one's moral standing to blame in the context of the recent Wells Fargo's fraud scandal. 


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.

View more information about Professor Miguel Alzola.


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

"A Social Remit for Professional Virtue: Practitioner Responsibilities in Virtue-Conducive Institutional and Regulatory Environments"


Some recent accounts of virtue ethics in professional contexts seek to develop less individualistic forms of this approach than earlier versions, by demonstrating how hitting the targets of the relevant virtues often requires support from better institutional and regulatory environments, as much as efforts by individual practitioners to strengthen their own dispositions involved in the virtues in question. But while the creation and maintenance of such virtue-conducive environments are undoubtedly important for virtuous professional practice, there is a concern that these moves might sometimes be counterproductive, if, for example, they reduce individual initiative to develop and act on the relevant role virtues. In this talk I present an analysis of how certain institutional and regulatory environments can be plausibly understood as being conducive to professional role virtues. I then outline and defend an account of virtuous practitioner responsibilities in circumstances where such environments are being (or have been) created, focusing particularly on the professions of medicine and nursing. I argue that professionals have a social remit to develop and act on the role virtues of their profession. This social remit for professional virtue, I argue, includes a core practitioner responsibility to remain alert to, and to highlight, when certain professional practices and particular directives in the relevant professional codes (even if widely followed) evidently fail to serve well the proper goals of the profession. I illustrate this in the context of medical and nursing practice in end-of-life care, among other areas.


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). 

View more information about Dr. Oakley.