Professor Robert McGrath speaks at the University of Oxford


At the University of Oxford, clockwise from top left, All Souls College gate, Radcliffe Camera, stained glass in the Oriel dining hall, and the main Oriel quad. (Photos courtesy of Robert McGrath)

Robert E. McGrath, professor of psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Metropolitan Campus, was an invited speaker at “Can Virtue Be Measured?”— a conference held at Oriel College, University of Oxford from January 9-11, 2014. Jubilee Centre for Character and Values hosted the event, which was attended by an international sampling of philosophers, educators, psychologists, economists and ethicists.

Participants included John Haldane, a papal advisor to the Vatican; Anthony Seldon, biographer of the recent British prime ministers; Robert Roberts, distinguished professor of ethics at Baylor University; and Randall Curren, chair of the philosophy department at the University of Rochester.

McGrath spoke for approximately 90 minutes on “Bridging the Gap between Psychological and Cultural Perspectives on Virtue and Strength,” in which he addressed discrepancies between models of virtue that emerge out of moral philosophy versus psychological measurement. The presentation considered both measurement and statistical issues as factors contributing to the discrepancy, and presented new results suggesting both how measurement practices could be improved and a new model for integrating cultural and psychological perspectives on the nature of virtue. At its end, the chair of the session, Professor Michael Hand of the University of Birmingham, declared it one of the best presentations he had ever attended.

McGrath has written and created more than 200 books, articles and presentations. He serves as the lead consultant for test development for the VIA Institute on Character in Cincinnati, Ohio, through which he conducted the research that served as the basis for his presentation.

“It was an exciting opportunity to present in a site as historic as Oriel College,” he reported. “Though the student dorms where we were housed suffered from a distinct shortage of heat and hot water, the dining halls and common rooms were like something out of Harry Potter.”

Oriel College was established in 1326, the fifth college in Oxford and the first established by royal foundation.

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