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Intellectual Honesty


This blog is part of a series of reflections based on Philip Dow's book Virtuous Minds*


We often do what we want and then create a moral code that suits our actions……the result is a corrupted intellectual conscience that no longer values the truth, if it can still distinguish the truth from falsehood at all. Dallas Willard has argued that this results in our behaviour guiding our ethics rather than our ethics guiding our behaviour (p66). What a dangerous place to be!


To the degree that we choose to manipulate or dishonestly use knowledge, we risk losing our taste for the truth. The choices by those around us either build up or tear down trust among colleagues, friends and family and these relationships are the foundation of our culture. Any culture in which intellectual dishonesty reigns at the individual level will reap the consequences on a societal scale as well (p67).


Exposure to dishonesty as an everyday occurrence, whether it is the student who cheats on an examination or has someone complete an assignment for them, the person who lies to get out of a fine or cheats on their taxation, or the politician who makes empty promises to get elected, results in us becoming desensitised. We are not shocked and no longer name the dishonesty and are possibly enticed to do likewise.


In a culture where truth is increasingly relative and often personalised, where we are now experiencing ‘fake news’, websites that deliberately publish propaganda and disinformation as real news to misinform readers for some political, social or economic gain we need to reestablish the concept of absolute truth and promote its honest pursuit.


Philip Dow will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming Christians in Teaching Conference in April.


Can we encourage you to delve into his award winning book Virtuous Minds, be challenged by his call to pursue truth and to build intellectual virtues in your students, and join us for the upcoming Christians in Teaching Conference. 


*Dow, Philip E. 2013. "Virtuous Minds: Intellectual Character Development". Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press

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