American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 96, Issue 2, Spring 2022

Contemporary Thomistic Psychology

Heidi M. Giebel
Pages 235-261

What Moral Exemplars Can Teach Us About Virtue, Psychology, and Ourselves

In this article, I discuss ethical lessons we can learn from the stories and beliefs of moral exemplars—and how these insights can complement and extend the knowledge we gain through theoretical study. First, exemplars teach us psychological lessons about the way in which virtue is developed and expressed: e.g., about role modeling and post-traumatic growth. Second, they teach us philosophical lessons about the nature of virtue itself and of particular ethical virtues: e.g., about how virtuous people deliberate and how they perceive the mean of virtue. Third, exemplars’ stories teach us personal lessons about our own lives and character: e.g., about how far we are from acting or even thinking like virtuous people—and how much better our lives would be if we were genuinely virtuous. I conclude by discussing an ethical puzzle moral exemplars have not helped me solve: apparent disunity of the virtues.