The vast majority of contemporary scholars working in intellectual character education endeavor to identify those elements that render an educational program reliably successful at fostering the growth of intellectual excellences in students. In this article, I adopt an opposite perspective: I examine potential reasons as to why virtue-based approaches to education might fail to enable students to acquire intellectual virtues. Given the scarcity of accounts of educational failure in contemporary intellectual character education, I search for such accounts in the philosophical roots of the concept of intellectual virtues. In this article, I focus on Plato’s discussion of the eristic agent, namely, an individual who has developed epistemically valuable cognitive abilities but, due to insufficient moral character education, results in misusing them to pursue non-epistemic and quite often also non-moral ends. I argue that Plato’s account of the eristic practice has much to offer to intellectual character education today. It strongly indicates that intellectual virtues cannot be fostered in isolation from moral virtues and that the development of the students’ (1) epistemic emotions and (2) moral virtues should take place prior to the fostering of intellectual excellences in them.
- educational failure
- intellectual character education