Archive for the ‘ Virtue ethics ’ Category

Individuating the virtues

I’ve been working on a number of projects over the past few months, which I hope will spur me to write up more of my thoughts in short form here. One was my MPhil thesis, on intellectualism and moral education in Plato’s Protagoras and Republic. I hope this will be the launching point for a more comprehensive project on intellectualism and moral education from Socrates to the Stoics. I’d welcome comments on the current version.

Another was a paper I wrote for the MPhil and gave at the inaugural Contemporary Aristotelian Studies in Politics conference at London Met in June. The paper tries to bring together some research in personality psychology with a (neo-)Aristotelian approach to virtue ethics to argue that one of the components of personality identified by psychologists, called openness to experience, constitutes in its developed form a virtue. In order to make the case, I found that I had to do some thinking about the nature of Aristotle’s list of virtues and what the structure of a virtue theory ought to be like. In a recent book Daniel Russell has argued that contemporary neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics can’t do without the concept of phronesis, and he makes a number of intriguing arguments about how we ought to individuate the virtues from each other, a problem Aristotle doesn’t explicitly wrestle with, and what work virtues in the plural do in such ethical theories [1]. Indeed, Aristotle’s list looks conspicuously flabby when compared to the taut tetrad of Plato’s Republic, and virtues like greatness of soul (megalopsychia) still cause headaches for Aristotle’s defenders. Can there even be such a thing as a canonical list of the virtues?

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