Learning to be moral

Julia Hermann

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper I argue that being moral requires moral competence, which is developed in practice. What makes us moral is not the teaching of moral principles, or a desire for happiness, or any kind of argument, but growing up in an environment which enables us to develop the rational and emotional capacities necessary for moral agency. I discuss Gilbert Ryle’s distinction between knowing how and knowing that and suggest conceiving of what the moral agent knows as primarily a form of knowing how. I address Ryle’s own objections to this view, which he formulated in his two relatively unknown papers ‘On Forgetting the Difference between Right and Wrong’ (1958) and ‘Can virtue be taught?’ (1972). Ryle’s reasons for claiming that virtues are not skills are considered, and I look at different skill models of virtue. Unlike Ryle, I stress the ways in which virtue is like a mastery, suggesting that moral teaching and learning involve a significant amount of training. Finally, it follows from my account of moral competence that the philosophical conception of the amoralist is implausible.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWhat makes us moral
Subtitle of host publicationOn the capacities and conditions for being moral
EditorsBert Musschenga, Anton van Harskamp
Place of PublicationDordrecht
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)978-94-007-6342-5
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

Cite this