What does it mean to be an excellent thinker? Which virtues work together in an excellent thinker and seeker of knowledge, defined here as a person who possesses both the desire for and abilities to seek accurate information about the self and world? While recent research on virtues has highlighted the benefits of individual intellectual virtues, being a good intellectual thinker is likely a function of possessing multiple intellectual virtues.
Indeed, Sir John Templeton’s famous maxim “How little we know, how eager to learn” highlights how multiple intellectual virtues work together in a good knower and thinker. Specifically, while “how little we know” highlights the importance of recognizing one’s intellectual shortcomings, good intellectual character also requires an “eagerness to learn” driven by virtues such as love of knowledge, curiosity, and open-mindedness. Indeed, intellectual character may only successfully manifest when individuals possess not just one or a few intellectual virtues, but a larger set of such virtues.
Sir John’s insight forms the basis of our proposed empirical research, which aims to identify and understand the excellent thinker through a virtue profile methodology. Specifically, this approach characterizes the excellent thinker and knower in terms of a profile of multiple intellectual virtues, and seeks to understand how good thinkers identified through this procedure function in daily life (e.g., their personality characteristics, relationships, and life quality) as well as how they manifest intellectual virtues in their thinking, behavior, and narrative identity.