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The Benefits of Developing Intellectual Virtues in Our Students

Knowing More About More, Being Better Thinkers, Being Better People


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


Dow explains that the benefits that come to the intellectually virtuous person can be broken down into 3 categories: we come to know more, become better thinkers, and become better people (p79).


He explains how the seven virtues build and support each other. Intellectually virtuous people are motivated primarily by a desire for the truth; they engage their curiosity and are careful thinkers, they are willing to put the hard work in to get to the truth (tenacity), they self-consciously and honestly evaluate the facts and apply this knowledge carefully to real problems. This helps to develop the courage necessary to ask questions and take risks in the pursuit of truth and encourages the growth of intellectual humility and intellectual fair-mindedness (p87).


There are great benefits to knowing more! Many years ago we went to Fiji for our honeymoon. What a rich and exciting place to visit. The reef and its life was amazing but there was also wonder in the village life, the pig farms, the cane industry, the dual economy and the third world city. All of the interesting things that gave life to the Geography, both physical and human, that I had studied. A friend also went to Fiji for her honeymoon but returned only to report that Fiji was dirty and boring. She had studied accounting! Perhaps our experience of the same location was so different because as Dow points out ‘“the eyes see what the mind knows – our experience of the world around us will only be as rich as the textured knowledge we have about the world” (p82). If this is the case, training intellectual character that produces an increase in knowledge should enrich the learners experience of life and the world around them.


Building intellectual virtues will also make them better thinkers. In seeking to find the truth in this way, thinking processes are transformed and honed.


Thomas Aquinas says “love follows knowledge” (p96) so as our knowledge increases our ability to love God and others should also increase. Dow explains that those who have had the deepest and most intimate relationship with God, pursued god with everything they were – including their minds.  In fact he claims that ‘the earnest pursuit of truth and a commitment to being the best stewards of our minds as we can be, are authentic acts of worship in themselves’ (p96) and should be assessed by the extent to which it helps us honour God and serve our neighbours.


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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