Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Schools and Centres

Philosophy and Theology

First Supervisor

Professor Hayden Ramsay


Virtues, as described by Aristotle and Aquinas, are understood as dispositions of character to behave in habitual, specific, positive ways; virtue is a critical requirement for human flourishing. From the perspective of Aristotelian-Thomistic anthropology which offers an integrated vision of the material and the rational in the human person, I seek to identify the neural bases for the development and exercise of moral virtue. First I review current neuroscientific knowledge of the capacity of the brain to structure according to experience, to facilitate behaviours, to regulate emotional responses and support goal election. Then, having identified characteristics of moral virtue in the light of the distinctions between cardinal virtues, I propose neural substrates by mapping neuroscientific knowledge to these characteristics. I then investigate the relationship between virtue, including its neurobiological features, and human flourishing. This process allows a contemporary and evidence-based corroboration for a model of moral development based on growth in virtue as understood by Aristotle and Aquinas, and a demonstration of a biological aptitude and predisposition for the development of virtue. Conclusions are drawn with respect to science, ethics, and parenting.

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."

Included in

Religion Commons