Portraits of Integrity is an online archive. Scholars have contributed ‘Portraits’ of individuals whose life or work can help us to understand what integrity is and why it matters. Each ‘Portrait’ consists of an essay introduction, selected readings, and a 15-minute lecture, available as an audio download.
This project was started through British Academy Small Grant, awarded in February 2014. However, we are still collecting, inviting, and adding new portraits.
Click on an image for reading lists, essays, introductory lectures, and discussion ….
We want our friends, our children, our leaders to have integrity, and not to compromise it – and we think we can recognize it when we see it. But if we want to understand what integrity is, and what it means for us, the place to look is not to a philosopher’s list of necessary and sufficient conditions, but to characters that have integrity – characters from history, characters from literature, and characters from our own lives. Only close consideration of a variety of detailed characters of integrity – integrity maintained or compromised or lost altogether – along with a variety of ways of conceptualizing what this integrity is, and the role it plays in an individual and in their lives, will bring to light what matters to us in this central but elusive value.
Consideration of cases quickly shows that integrity is not always pretty. Friendships are betrayed for the sake of integrity; friends and colleagues become stubborn, short-sighted, and blind to consequences, in order to maintain their integrity; for its sake, people become isolated and even ridiculed. Conversely, the compromisers – the hypocrites, liars and sell-outs – are sometimes the ones who are acknowledging the great goods to be achieved through compromise or dirtying their own hands, valuing their own integrity less than the well-being of others.
Over the life of the project we have built a series of detailed portraits of historical, fictional, and contemporary figures whose lives raise questions about what integrity is and what it is worth. These portraits were shared at a public conference in 2015, and will later be published as a collection of essays.
This project met once a month, during 2014-2016, to discuss portraits of historical, fictional and contemporary figures whose lives or thought raise questions about what integrity is, and what it is worth. Readings and discussion points are available on this website, along with audio-recordings of 15 minute introductions to the material. You are welcome to download the materials and join the project, on your own or by forming a satellite reading group. Comments and questions can be shared on the website, so as to create a larger conversations about these questions.
Though we are no longer meeting monthly, we are still very happy to receive portraits for our website. If you would like to offer us a portrait please let us know; write a brief essay (500-1,000) and provide a short reading list. If you’d like to, you can record a short introduction too.
Click on the images above to access reading lists and essay introductions, and for notes, audio files, and other resources from our meetings.
Thanks to the British Academy for supporting our ‘Portraits of Integrity’ project!