#18 The Mind of Skill, Part 4: Virtue as skills – Matt Stichter on self-regulation and virtue ethics

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The present podcast is the fourth episode in a podcast-series, which we have named ‘The Mind of Skill’. As the name indicates, this series investigates the mental dimensions of skill—more precisely, it does so by interviewing a line of current experts.

Besides being of interest in itself, the nature of skill is related to more general questions of human existence.  For example, many of the ancient Greek philosophers saw a clear link between virtue and skill: according to them, virtuous individuals who were capable of living well could in some sense also be seen as people who acquired the skill to live. In relation, Buddhist teachings often stress the virtuous and awakened person as a skilful person—skilful in ethics, concentration, and wisdom. This is, in many ways, highlighted in Zen Buddhist practice in which activities such as calligraphy, poetry, tea-making, and many other activities require a high level of skill. With this in mind, there seems to be a clear connection between skill and the good life. The hope is that this series can clarify some aspects of this connection and aspire the listener to explore it. 

The focus of this episode is on moral virtue more precisely—it is on the idea that moral virtue can be seen as a kind of skill. To introduce and outline this topic, the guest of the episode is philosopher Matt Stichter. Matt is associate professor in philosophy at Washington State University and has for many years done research in virtue theory.  In 2018, Matt published the book The Skilfulness of Virtue in which he presented a theory that proposed to understand moral virtues as skills playing an important role in human self-regulation. The interview with Matt discusses this idea concerning the training, execution, and domains of virtue. These matters are of relevance beyond philosophical theorising. Understanding the workings of the morally admirable person seems to have both relevance on an individual and collective level. Viewing virtue as a skill might enable us to move closer to such an understanding. 

We hope you enjoy the interview!