The virtues in the individual strengths of character

By Felipe Flôres Martins

Whenever some scandal such as the corruption of members of some public agency or a financial scandal arising from some company occurs, questions about ethics again rise to the public debate. Lack of character, lack of virtue, unethical company, etc., are debated issues, but that often remain unsolved.

But what, in fact, are these concepts? Would being virtuous be the same as having character? What does it mean to have character?

In 2007 the researchers Thomas A. Wright and Jerry Goodstein sought to characterize what it would be to have strength of character and what their relationship and differentiation with virtue. For these researchers, defining character is not as simple as one might think, and that on this subject, several scholars had already bent over the course of nearly a century. Wright and Goodstein describe that often “having strength of character” and “being virtuous” are used as interchangeable terms and thus cause confusion because of their correct non-conceptualization.

Virtue is a topic already discussed from the classical philosophers, such as Aristotle, for example. It is a subject that has been reviewed and debated over the centuries, as in the Middle Ages with Thomas Aquinas as well as contemporaneously with Alasdair MacIntyre in one of his best-known books called “After virtue” of 1981.

In 2004 researchers Christopher Peterson and Martin E. P. Seligman through historical research list six categories of virtues that constantly emerge from literature, which are: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence. Thus, researchers speculate that all these virtues must be present above the threshold values for an individual to be considered of good character (Peterson and Seligman, 2004, p. 13). In this sense, they seek to describe the force of character under these six virtues, for to them, measuring virtue is something very abstract and general.

Wright and Goodstein (2007, p.932) describe that the character strengths are the psychological ingredients – processes or mechanisms – that define the virtues. For example, the virtue of courage can be achieved through character strengths such as persistence, integrity, and what they call vitality or enthusiasm – approaching life with enthusiasm and energy. Thus, they define the character as follows:

“We define the character as those habitual qualities interpenetrable within individuals, and applicable to organizations that limit them and lead them to desire and seek personal and social good” (Wright and Goodstein 2007, p.932).

Based on the works of Peterson and Seligman and of Wright and Goodstein, it is possible to understand that virtue is composed of strengths of character, so for virtue Wisdom requires strengths of character such as Creativity, Curiosity, Open Mind and Love of Learning, for example. For Temperance virtue, character strengths such as Forgiveness and Mercy, Humility and Modesty, Prudence and Self-control are necessary. Figure 1, seeks to synthesize the idea presented by the researchers Peterson and Seligman.

In this sense, the authors (Wright and Goodstein) point out that in a context of moral discipline, character, rather than virtue presupposes providing individuals with a more specific moral barometer, thus this barometer is instrumental in helping to monitor real behavior, that is, using the example above, prudence and self-control reinforces the need for temperance.

Thus, virtue requires strength of character. Individuals in moral discipline environments will help reinforce the need for virtue, whether in public agency or in private companies.



Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. 2004. Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York: Oxford University Press / Washington, DC: American Psychological Association

Wright, T.A., & Goodstein, J. 2007. Character is not “dead” in management research: A review of individual character and organizational-level virtue. Journal of Management, 33: 928-958.


Black Mirror and death of ethics

By Everton Silveira de Souza

Giges was a peasant of sheep, a morally respectable citizen, who worked for the ruler of Lydia. After a great storm and a trembling in the earth, a crater was created in the place where he grazed the flock. In this crater, Giges found a corpse, which had a gold ring in his hand. When he noticed the ring, the peasant ends up taking it. Arriving in the community, Giges participates in a meeting with other peasants. Giges, sitting in the midst of the others, casually moved the ring, and as he did, he became invisible to those around him, who spoke of him as if he were gone. Astonished, he ran his hand through the ring again. As soon as he did, he became visible. Having noted these facts, he found that the ring had given him the power to become invisible. At the end of the story, Giges seduces the wife of the sovereign, kills him, and thereby assumes power over his community.

The allegory portrays the story of a good and virtuous man with no history of immoral, unwanted or unworthy actions. But when he found a ring, that gave him the power of invisibility, he went on to commit enormous atrocities, such as betrayal, murder, abuse of power.

Plato brings Glaucus’s interpretation of the allegory. For the latter, Giges represents the essence of human nature, which is not virtuous. In conditions of invisibility (when no one is watching) people tend to be unethical. In this logic, it is justified to have a strong system of repression to curb undesired attitudes, because the individual, essentially heteronomous and egoistic, is conditioned by the external environment. Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan sustains this position by arguing that there must be a strong state in order to curb unwanted actions, for the human being in a state of nature tends to be selfish.

But this is not Plato’s vision. For the philosopher, ethics implies to act correctly even when one is invisible. Ethics is related to consciousness, not to repression and coercion of society. Morality would be a dialogue of the individual with himself, an intraconscious dialogue. But the fact is that the more we live in a repressive society, which constrains its citizens to the basis of force, the less room for ethics. Ethics and police are on opposite sides. A society without morals needs high levels of repression. Otherwise, a morally superior society needs a more moderate system of oppression.

In a country of reckless drivers, it is justified the intense surveillance by traffic agents, the placement of speed cameras and the use of breathalysers to restrain drunk drivers. The attempt to solve problems through coercion is a way widely used by today’s society. But these actions have nothing to do with morals according to Plato. In Plato’s view, this method of coercion carries a risk: there will always be a time when no one will be watching us.

Somebody drops a wallet on the floor and a person return it when no one is around; A man return to a grocery store the money of an incorrect change; a kid buy a train ticket, eventhough no one is there to charge him; a woman buy a magazine at a newsstand, even if there is no newsboy. These are questions that, in fact, relate to morality. Situations where we are practically invisible. If we were all like Giges, in the situations dealt with above, we would act incorrectly. This is the great lesson that Plato teaches us.

It seems that modern society has not bought Plato’s conception of morality. On the contrary, it seems that the view of Glaucus and Hobbes is endorsed, for it is possible to perceive a considerable increase in the means of repression by society, especially through technology.

Each step we take the GPS of our cell phone identifies our location. All content accessed through the internet is registered on some server, as well as every text or voice message. Companies, banks, schools, condominiums already have monitoring systems, and in some cases, even in our own homes. From the Chinese monitoring system, in a few minutes, it is possible to find, from the technology of facial recognition, any citizen who passes through the streets. These technologies are being increasingly used because, in fact, they tend to prevent people from committing crimes. For example, corruption in Brazil appears to be decreasing significantly, mainly due to the increase in enforcement mechanisms.

Given that the fear of punishment has the power to curb citizens, will in the future humanity require a chip in the brain to monitor people?

The NetFlix series called Black Mirror in the episodes Arkangel, National anthem and The entire history of you depicts a possible future for society if the monitoring technology continues to go forward. In the last episode cited, humans carry an implant behind the ear, something they call grain. The memory is stored there. Everyone has a habit of remembering events. They do this by manipulating a device tuned to the grain. Saved images are projected onto screens installed in homes, streets, cars.

These images can be used by a country’s immigration to investigate a passenger’s history, to check a suspect’s memory of committing a crime, to send videos to parents who wish to monitor their children, or even to discover potential treason in a loving relationship. For Plato this would be the end of morality, at least if we understand it as an intraconscious dialogue of the individual with himself.

But it is worth remembering that people can not be watched by society at all times. There will always be an instant where people can commit some transgression with little chance of being repressed. It is at this moment that the subject moved by selfishness and self-centeredness violates the law. That is, when the selfishness of the subject is greater than the fear imposed by society, he will tend to act to satisfy his desires, regardless of the means to do so. In this case, where the power of coercion of the authorities is null, how to restrain the citizen? The answer may lie in education, which can cause the individual to transcend heteronomy and act according to internal principles. In other words, being able to act correctly, even if you are invisible.

Alternative life (but not so much): reflections on the movie “Captain Fantastic” in the light of the delimitation of social systems of Guerreiro Ramos (1989)

By Maria Clara F. D. Costa Ames

Anyone who has watched the movie Captain Fantastic (2016), (see movie trailer) knows the inspiring character of Viggo Mortensen as the father of six children. He, along with his wife and children, chose to live alone in an American forest. Far from society, they create their own methods of study, food production and health care of body and mind.

The movie raises some thoughts. For instance, about the difference between traditional education systems and homeschooling. Another element for reflection, to which this article is directed, concerns the choice of the characters to live an alternative life, isolated from the conventional society. The story unfolds when the “fantastic captain,” as he was called by his wife, knows that she commits suicide while she is in the hospital for psychological treatment. Faced with this, family members are forced to re-interact with local people, facing problems stemming from their peculiar lifestyle.

By giving up a typically American life, especially from his consumer culture (“America’s business is business,” mocks Mortensen’s character), an alternative society-free life set by society does not always allow a total absence of rules or a total isolation of social life. In fact, the rules of this small group were quite rigid and followed a highly regulated routine: early waking, exercising, feeding, hunting, studying, meditating, studying music, watering plants, among other tasks.

The movie reveals dilemmas and challenges in trying to reduce existence to an individual and private enclave, away from other groups or agreed rules. Based on the para-economic paradigm of Guerreiro Ramos (1989), what we see is the replacement of the highly regulated and collective economic enclave by an enclave very close to the individual/family, but not free of rules.

According to Ramos (1989), human being´s fulfillment occurs by participating in various spheres of life, in spaces of equality (isonomy) and in other individuals, in regulated contexts and in spheres with few or no rules. Moreover, when an enclave, such like the market, predominates and its ethos is inserted in the others, people lose this capacity for personal flourishing and development and begin to behave according to an external determination. In this respect, the kind of life in question is similar to the isolated enclave, which, according to França-Filho (2010), does not properly constitute a social system.

The movie exposes interesting points about the lifestyle adopted, as different possibilities of intellectual growth and knowledge about the environment. But their demands and rules were quite rigid, exposing their children to certain risks, deprivations, and constraints. So much so that the maternal grandparents worried about the safety and the future of the grandchildren.

In addition, the lack of relationships with other people has made the children have difficulties interacting, going to an urban center or doing something habitual for a young person. Older boys then question whether the father’s “method” is appropriate and in parallel lay plans for attending school and higher education. The oldest son, for example, with an incredible knowledge of philosophy and sciences, illustrates this difficulty of social interaction, and at the end of the movie, he leaves to meet other countries as if realizing his lack of life experience.

Drawing on Ramos (1989), one can see that the way Fantastic Captain raises his children seems to have reduced opportunities for participation in the sphere of convivial and political life, because although they were aware of the work of political thinkers, they had no opportunity to debate these ideas with whom it thinks differently, or to contribute in the coproduction of public goods and services in its locality.

The movie allows us to reflect that the unidimensionalization of human life can restrict personal development, if any other social enclave comes to predominate over the others (see França-Filho article). So, what can be done? One ought try to enjoy life in different social enclaves, in spaces of isonomy (community orientation) and of fenonomy (individual orientation), to know how to act in spheres with high or little regulation, to produce, to act and to participate in political life, to develop different activities in different organizations and to distinguish between regulated spheres and competitive logic, from spheres where other logics prevail. To put it another way, it is to be attentive so that an enclave does not absorb or annul the other spheres of life.


Capitão Fantástico. (2016). Direction: Matt Ross. Universal Pictures, EUA, 118 min.

França- Filho, G. (2010). Decifrando a noção de Paraeconomia em Guerreiro Ramos: a atualidade de sua proposição. O&S, 17(52), 175-197.

Ramos, A. G. (1989). A nova ciência das organizações. (2nd ed.) Rio de Janeiro: FGV.

Presentation of NISP in the 3rd Academic Week Of Public Administration Of UDESC

Professor Mauricio Serafim, leader of the Admethics research project and deputy leader of NISP (Research Centre for Social Innovation in Public Sphere) participated in the 3rd Public Administration Academic Week of the State University of Santa Catarina (Udesc), presenting the work of NISP and Admethics on April 17th. Check out the video:

The event took place from April 17 to 19, 2018, at Udesc’s main campus. There were three days of workshops, lectures and debates aimed at undergraduate students in Public Administration, organized by the Udesc/Esag Public Administration Department, together with the Cinco de Julho Academic Center (Cacij), which represents the students of the course.

Researchers from the AdmEthics Group publish an article on teaching of ethics in public administration courses

Doctoral student Laís S. Santos, Prof. Mauricio C. Serafim and Prof. Marcelo B. Zappellini, from ESAG and researchers from the AdmEthics Group and NISP, in partnership with Professors Silvia Maria K. C. Zappellini and Martha K. Borges, published the article “Teaching of ethics in public administration courses: An analysis from Pedagogical Projects of Course and the National Curricular Guidelines” in the “Education Policy Analysis Archives” journal.

In view of the inclusion of ethics teaching as a basic disciplinary content and indispensable to student formation in the National Curricular Guidelines (DCN) of the undergraduate course in Public Administration, the authors had an interest in knowing how their teaching is worked and assists in the formation of undergraduate courses in Public Administration in Brazil. For that, they carried out a documentary research in Pedagogical Projects of Courses (PPC) of the “Public Field”, as the courses that make up this field are being called.

The discussion on ethics teaching meets one of the lines of research of the NISP, called “Ethics, epistemology and sociology of science in Public Administration”, whose objective is “to understand the processes of facing ethical and moral dilemmas by public managers”. In addition, the article is part of a series of papers and projects developed by the AdmEthics Group on how the study of moral dilemmas can contribute to the debate about rationality in the management of public organizations.

The full article is available on the open Access journal link:

Researchers have papers approved at ENANPAD 2017

Two researchers from our research project had papers approved at the XLI Meeting of ANPAD – EnANPAD 2017, held in São Paulo / SP, starting on 1st October, ending on 4th.

Here are the summaries of approved articles:

Teaching of Ethics in Courses of  Public sphere: an analysis from Pedagogical Projects of Course and National Curricular Guidelines

Abstract: The National Curricular Guidelines (NCG) of the undergraduate course in Public Administration bring the discussion of teaching of ethics as basic disciplinary content essential to the egress profile. Based on theoretical and practical reflections on the relationship between ethics and Public Administration and the existence of specific NCGs that highlight the ethical aspect, the curiosity arose in knowing how its teaching has been applied in the professional formation of undergraduate students in Public Administration in Brazil. For this purpose, a research and documentary analysis was carried out in the Pedagogical Projects of Courses (PPC) of the Public Sphere, since they are those guided by the Public Administration NCG and, previously, by the Management NCG. Based on three criteria for the selection of courses, 15 PPCs were included for study. The courses of the Public Sphere, having the republican and democratic ethos as guiding principle, should reproduce this fundamental principle in all teaching-learning processes and this was observed in the analysis of the PPCs, through three categories of analysis: matrix curricula, subjects’ syllabus and egress profile. It has been verified that in most projects there is a search for the insertion of the discussion, action and ethical, critical and reflexive attitude during the course and in the professional practice. However, although these themes are present in most PPCs, there seems to be a long way to go for the actual integration of the ethics discussion in the courses of Administration.

Keywords: ethics, teaching, public administration, Pedagogical Course Project, National Curricular Guidelines.

Authors: Laís Silveira Santos, Mauricio Custódio Serafim, Marcello Beckert Zappellini, Silvia Maria Knabben Corrêa Zappellini e Martha Kaschny Borges.

The Phronesis Study in Organizations: A Systematic Review

Abstract: In the face of dilemmas and various ethical issues involved in organizational reality, the study of moral virtues has been showing significant growth in the field of Administration. Associated with ethical virtues, phronesis is the intellectual virtue that cooperates and by which the other virtues are strengthened. Translated as prudence or practical wisdom, phronesis has been reinterpreted at different moments of philosophical thought and has now been revisited by various areas of knowledge. Due to its different interpretations associated with the ethics of virtues, rationality, social sciences and hermeneutics, organizational and management studies have been welcoming different concepts of it, intertwining theoretical approaches and frameworks. The purpose of this systematic review is to investigate how the concept of phronesis has been discussed and related to organizational and administrative studies. A systematic search was made for articles in the bases Scopus, Ebsco and Web of Science. The analysis of 53 selected articles reveals the authors and main definitions attributed to phronesis, the most referenced authors and the main themes of research found: (1) rationality, decision, judgment, intuition and morality; (2) professions, experience, character and context; (3) practices, leadership, strategy, expertise and team-manager relationship; (4) organizational knowledge and learning; (5) methodology based on phronesis and (6) governance, discourse and communication. New empirical investigations could deepen the knowledge of these subjects, especially on “rationality, decision, judgment, intuition”, for which few empirical works were found.

Key words: phronesis, prudence, organizational studies, moral virtues.

 Authors: Maria Clara Ames, Maurício C. Serafim e Marcelo Zappellini.


Meeting july 12th, 2017


The group members submitted two articles to the EnANPAD academic event and were approved:

  • Teaching ethics in the Field of Public Administration, Mauricio, Marcelo, Silvia and Martha.
  • The Phronesis Study in Organizations: A Systematic Review, by Clara, Mauricio and Marcelo.

The idea of seeking to publish articles in international journals A1 / A2 was discussed and encouraged.

 Discussion about Reason – Part II

References: Marias, J. Introdução à Filosofia. São Paulo: Livraria Duas Cidades, 1995. Capítulo 5: A Razão.

We continue to reflect on the text “The Reason” and conclude the debate on it. Topics covered today were:

  • This book approaches philosophy in a more authentic way than is often found in academia today. Jacques Maritain’s book ‘Introduction to Philosophy’, which is often used in Brazilian Higher Education, deals with materialism and idealism within the worldview of classical philosophy, similar to that of Marias.
  • Modern philosophy does not talk about scholasticism; It did not integrate Greek and medieval knowledge, that is, there was no overcoming, as Scholasticism tried to do, adding Christian and Greek philosophy.
  • The concept of experience is more comprehensive than sensitive experience. It refers to the experience of life, something that happens in the everyday, and is not restricted to the world of ideas. Experience has its place in reality: “all that I encounter and as I encounter.” It is, in short, what is captured by common sense, what we see.
  • The past reality and the possible reality (horizons of possibilities): relation with P theory and N theory of Guerreiro Ramos.
  • Augustine and the idea of ​​”I”: biographical experience, of life.
  • Descartes philosophizes from an abstraction that does not originate in his own life, in his own self: denial of his life.
  • To live an illusion is to live as an animal, that is, to react to environmental stimuli; This refers to behaviorism, behavioral syndrome and Guerreiro Ramos.
  • Definition of reason: to grasp reality, to understand reality and to insert itself in reality, considering reality as what we see.
  • The nexus or link between reality as context, as well as the possession of oneself (being in itself) and of reality (of what is understood) must be considered.
  • Understanding means “catching”, grasping with the mind (grasping).
  • Truth, reason and method: reason as an instrument of truth.
  • Reason is the way of living the life that the person intends to live, it is the way to connect with reality.
  • Being lucid, therefore, amounts to having a clear life project.
  • The lucid / full ratio, in the context of substantive rationality and instrumental rationality.
  • Concept is a way of apprehending reality.
  • “Reason is human life”.
  • Plurality of reason.
  • Man needs to be rational, that is, to find his essence; Man can be rational.
  • Noos is the mental possession of reality.
  • Logos means joining parts of reality to make sense: giving the reason (logos) of what you see (noos).
  • Noetic vision is fullness in the logos.
  • Dialectics represents the movement of logos. It can only be grasped through dialogue.
  • To make a moral decision requires memory and imagination.
  • Let’s remember the Latin terms: mens, intellectus and ratio. To seek reason means to live fully from these three dimensions.
  • Discussion about belief.
  • The idea of ​​reason is Western and is related to ordering, harmony.
  • The “functional” theme is philosophical. It acquires meaning when circumstantial, that is, when observed in the circumstances of life.
  • Substantial reason transcends circumstantial reality and seeks signification.
  • Being historical does not mean that there is no lasting thing (the present moment is the same as eternity, that of “living the present”).
  • Despite the course of history, the reason has not changed.
  • The steps of the vital reason (method) allow to make an association to the parenthetic attitude (method for parenthetical and phenomenological attitude).

Meeting june 21st, 2017

Discussion about Reason – Part I

Reference: Marias, J. Introdução à Filosofia. São Paulo: Livraria Duas Cidades, 1995. Capítulo 5: A Razão.

We began the discussion of the text “Reason”. The group addressed the following topics:

  • Fallacies: suppression of the final cause, polylogism (term coined by von Mises) and nominalism.
  • Etymology of the word understand: grasp, grasp with the mind the reality.
  • Indication of considering a conception of worldview, based on the perspectives and theoretical framework of the group, as an alternative to the paradigm conception.
  • The noos, the logos and their connection.
  • Apprehension of reality as it is.
  • Instrumental and substantive rationality.