Although there is widespread agreement regarding the nature of moral character, there is not sufficient knowledge about how individuals acquire character over the course of their development. Moral character implies both a dedication to noble goals and a commitment to act in a manner consistent with one's beliefs. But in human life, moral beliefs do not always lead to dependable moral behavior; and often people who convince themselves and others that they are pursuing noble goals do not succeed in staying on the right track. Moral formation remains an elusive developmental target. The proposed study will examine the role of truth, virtue, and faith in moral formation. Each of these has been identified in philosophy and theology as key; the proposed study will explore the role of these empirically, by analyzing clear historical cases of moral virtue. The method involves developing and applying a systematic coding scheme to historical records. The coding scheme will address questions of 1) whether truth, virtue, and faith play a determinative role in moral formation; 2) how these contribute to moral formation during development; and 3) what kinds of beliefs offer guidance for moral formation. The study will result in an understanding of the developmental processes and beliefs that account for moral formation. If the study's hypotheses are confirmed, the pivotal roles of truth, humility, and faith in promoting moral commitment and preventing moral error will be empirically illuminated. The study will address the important but previously little-understood issue of how moral formation can stay on track during human development. The study's findings will enrich both scholarly and public understanding of moral formation and will provide the cornerstone for a new character education approach that connects moral formation with faith and with fundamental values such as the force of inner truthfulness.
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