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Virtue / Character

A virtue is a natural or acquired capacity to think, or feel, or to act well, ie to recognise and respond positively to some good and to choose it in acting. It is in that sense a psychological quality or more precisely an excellence of character. The virtuous agent is oriented towards the good in some sphere of life, and more broadly is oriented towards the human good in general. This inclination may be expressed affectively in loving the good or practically in choosing it, but also in abhorring the bad and choosing against it, either to evade it or to counter it. A vice, or viciousness in general, has the same structure and pattern but has its object some specific bad or the bad broadly speaking. Thus, a courageous person faces down danger in order to achieve, or protect some good, while the coward flees danger even though in doing so some good may be lost and an evil be realised. An honest person is oriented toward truth and justice, a dishonest one chooses falsity and injustice, and so on. There are several important questions about virtue and vice: how can the former be acquired and maintained and the latter be avoided or eliminated? Is it possible to have some virtues and not others or is virtue a general condition of which the several virtues are expressions relating to particular goods? Put in terms of character these ask how is good character formed? and is it general or area-specific. These ancient questions belong to ethics and philosophical psychology.

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    Modern Moral Philosophy G. E. M. Anscombe Philosophy 33, No. 124 January 1958 I will begin by stating three theses which I present in this paper. The first is that it is not profitable for us at present to do moral philosophy; that should be laid aside at any rate until we have an adequate philosophy of psychology, in which we are conspicuously lacking. The second is that the concepts of obligation, and duty - moral obligation and moral duty, that is to say and of what is morally right and wrong, and of the moral sense of "ought," ought to be jettisoned if this is psychologically possible; because they are survivals, or derivatives from survivals, from an earlier conception of ethics which no longer generally sur- vives, and are only harmful without it. My third thesis is that the differences between the well-known English writ- ers on moral philosophy from Sidgwick to the present day are of little importance. Anyone who has read Aristotle's Ethics and has also read modern moral philosophy must have been struck by the great contrasts between them. The concepts which are prominent among the moderns seem to be lacking, or at any rate buried or far in the background, in Aristotle. Most noticeably, the term "moral" itself, which we have by direct inheritance Aristotle, just doesn't seem to fit, in its modern sense, into an account of Aristotelian ethics. Aristotle dis- tinguishes virtues as moral and intellectual. Have some of what he calls "intellectual” virtues what we should call a “moral” aspect? It would seem so; the criterion is presum- ably that a failure in an “intellectual" virtue like that of having good judgment in calculating how to bring about something useful, say in municipal government may be blameworthy. But it may reasonably be asked - can- not any failure be made a matter of blame or reproach? Any derogatory criticism, say of the workmanship of a product or the design of a machine, can be called blame or reproach. So we want to put in the word "morally" again: sometimes such a failure may be morally blameworthy, sometimes not. Now has Aristotle got this idea of moral blame, as opposed to any other? If he has, why isn't it more central? There are some mistakes, he says, which are causes, not of involun- tariness in actions but of scoundrelism, and for which a man is blamed. Does this mean that there is a moral obligation not to make certain intellectual mistakes? Why doesn't he discuss obligation in general, and this obligation in partic- ular? If someone professes to be expounding Aristotle and talks in a modern fashion about "moral" such-and-such he must be very imperceptive if he does not constantly feel like someone whose jaws have somehow got out of alignment: the teeth don't come together in a proper bite. We cannot then, look to Aristotle for any elucidation of the modern way of talking about "moral" goodness, obligation, etc. And all the best-known writers on ethics in modern times, from Butler to Mill, appear to me to have faults as thinkers on the subject which make it impossible to hope for any direct light on it from them. I will state these objections with the brevity which their character makes possible. Butler exalts conscience, but appears ignorant that a man's conscience may tell him to do the vilest things. Hume defines “truth” in such a way as to exclude ethical judgments from it, and professes that he has proved that they are so excluded. He also implicitly defines "passion" in such a way that aiming at anything is having a passion. His objection to passing from “is” to “ought” would ap- ply equally to passing from “is" to "owes" or from "is" to "needs." (However, because of the historical situation, he has a point here, which I shall return to.) Kant introduces the idea of "legislating for oneself," which is as absurd as if in these days, when majority votes com- mand great respect, one were to call each reflective deci- sion a man made a vote resulting in a majority, which as a matter of proportion is overwhelming, for it is always 1-0. The concept of legislation requires superior power in the legislator. His own rigoristic convictions on the sub- ject of lying were so intense that it never occurred to him 2 seems to me a that a lie could be relevantly described as anything but just a lie (e.g. as "a lie in such-and-such circumstances"). His rule about universalizable maxims is useless without stip- ulations as to what shall count as a relevant description of an action with a view to constructing a maxim about it. Bentham and Mill do not notice the difficulty of the concept "pleasure." They are often said to have gone wrong through committing the “naturalistic fallacy"; but this charge does not impress me, because I do not find accounts of it coher- ent. But the other point about pleasure fatal objection from the very outset. The ancients found this concept pretty baffling. It reduced Aristotle to sheer bab- ble about "the bloom on the cheek of youth" because, for good reasons, he wanted to make it out both identical with and different from the pleasurable activity. Generations of modern philosophers found this concept quite unperplex- ing, and it reappeared in the literature as a problematic one only a year or two ago when Ryle wrote about it. The reason is simple: since Locke, pleasure was taken to be some sort of internal impression. But it was superficial, if that was the right account of it, to make it the point of actions. One might adapt something Wittgenstein said about "meaning" and say "Pleasure cannot be an internal impression, for no internal impression could have the consequences of plea- sure." Mill also, like Kant, fails to realize the necessity for stip- ulation as to relevant descriptions, if his theory is to have content. It did not occur to him that acts of murder and theft could be otherwise described. He holds that where a proposed action is of such a kind as to fall under some one principle established on grounds of utility, one must go by that; where it falls under none or several, the several sug- gesting contrary views of the action, the thing to do is to calculate particular consequences. But pretty well any ac- tion can be so described as to make it fall under a variety of principles of utility (as I shall say for short) if it falls under any. with I will now return to Hume. The features of Hume's phi- losophy which I have mentioned, like many other features of it, would incline me to think that Hume was a mere brilliant sophist; and his procedures are certainly so- phistical. But I am forced, not to reverse, but to add to, this judgment by a peculiarity of Hume's philosophizing: namely that although he reaches his conclusions which he is in love by sophistical methods, his consid- erations constantly open up very deep and important prob- lems. It is often the case that in the act of exhibiting the sophistry one finds oneself noticing matters which deserve a lot of exploring: the obvious stands in need of investiga- tions as a result of the points that Hume pretends to have made. In this, he is unlike, say, Butler. It was already well known that conscience could dictate vile actions; for But- ler to have written disregarding this does not open up any new topics for us. But with Hume it is otherwise: hence he is a very profound and great philosopher, in spite of his sophistry. For example: Suppose that I say to my grocer "Truth consists in either relations of ideas, as that 20s=£1, or matters of fact, as that I ordered potatoes, you supplied them, and you sent me a bill. So it doesn't apply to such a proposition as that I owe you such-and-such a sum." 3 Now if one makes this comparison, it comes to light that the relation of the facts mentioned to the description "X owes Y so much money" is an interesting one, which I will call that of being "brute relative to” that description. Further, the "brute" facts mentioned here themselves have descrip- tions relatively to which other facts are "brute" as, e.g., he had potatoes carted to my house and they were left there are brute facts relative to "he supplied me with potatoes." And the fact X owes Y money is in turn “brute” relative to other descriptions e.g. "X is solvent." Now the rela- tion of "relative bruteness" is a complicated one. To men- tion a few points: if xyz is a set of facts brute relative to a description A, then xyz is a set out of a range some set among which holds if A holds; but the holding of some set among these does not necessarily entail A because ex- ceptional circumstances can always make a difference; and what are exceptional circumstance relatively to A can gen- erally only be explained by giving a few diverse examples, and no theoretically adequate provision can be made for ex- ceptional circumstances, since a further special context can theoretically always be imagined that would reinterpret any special context. Further, though in normal circumstances, xyz would be a justification for A, of which institution A is of course not itself a description. (E.g. the statement that I give someone a shilling is not a description of the institution of money or of the currency of the country.) Thus, though it would be ludicrous to pretend that there can be no such thing as a transition from, e.g., "is" to "owes," the charac- ter of the transition is in fact rather interesting and comes to light as a result of reflecting on Hume's arguments. ¹ ¹The above two paragraphs are an abstract of a paper "On Brute Facts," Analysis That I owe the grocer such-and-such a sum would be one of a set of facts which would be "brute" in relation to the description "I am a bilker.” “bilking" is of course a species of "dishonesty" or "injustice." (Naturally the consideration will not have any effect on my actions unless I want to com- mit or avoid acts of injustice.) So far, in spite of their strong associations, I conceive "bilk- ing," "injustice" and "dishonesty" in a merely factual way. That I can do this for "bilking" is obvious enough; "justice" I have no idea how to define, except that its sphere is that of actions which relate to someone else, but "injustice," its defect, can for the moment be offered as a generic name covering various species. E.g.: "bilking,” “theft” (which is relative to whatever property institutions exist), "slander," "adultery," "punishment of the innocent." In present-day philosophy an explanation is required how an unjust man is a bad man, or an unjust action a bad one; to give such an explanation belongs to ethics; but it cannot even be begun until we are equipped with a sound philos- ophy of psychology. For the proof that an unjust man is a bad man would require a positive account of justice as a "virtue." This part of the subject-matter of ethics, is how- ever, completely closed to us until we have an account of what type of characteristic a virtue is a problem, not of ethics, but of conceptual analysis and how it relates to the actions in which it is instanced: a matter which I think Aristotle did not succeed in really making clear. For this we certainly need an account at least of what a human action is at all, and how its description as "doing such-and-such" 2 18, 3 (1958). is affected by its motive and by the intention or intentions in it; and for this an account of such concepts is required. The terms "should" or "ought" or "needs" relate to good and bad: e.g. machinery needs oil, or should or ought to be oiled, in that running without oil is bad for it, or it runs badly without oil. According to this conception, of course, "should" and "ought” are not used in a special “moral” sense when one says that a man should not bilk. (In Aris- totle's sense of the term "moral" (ńÐɩxóc), they are being used in connection with a moral subject-matter: namely that of human passions and (non-technical) actions.) But they have now acquired a special so-called "moral" sense i.e. a sense in which they imply some absolute verdict (like one of guilty/not guilty on a man) on what is described in the "ought" sentences used in certain types of context: not merely the contexts that Aristotle would call “moral” passions and actions but also some of the contexts that he would call "intellectual." The ordinary (and quite indispensable) terms "should," "needs," "ought," "must" — acquired this special sense by being equated in the relevant contexts with "is obliged," or "is bound," or "is required to," in the sense in which one can be obliged or bound by law, or something can be required by law. How did this come about? The answer is in history: be- tween Aristotle and us came Christianity, with its law con- ception of ethics. For Christianity derived its ethical no- tions from the Torah. (One might be inclined to think that a law conception of ethics could arise only among people who accepted an allegedly divine positive law; that this is not so is shown by the example of the Stoics, who also thought that whatever was involved in conformity to hu- man virtues was required by divine law.) In consequence of the dominance of Christianity for many centuries, the concepts of being bound, permitted, or excused became deeply embedded in our language and thought. The Greek word "auaotáveiv," the aptest to be turned to that use, acquired the sense "sin," from having meant "mistake," "missing the mark," "going wrong." The Latin peccatum which roughly corresponded to àμagtnua was even apter for the sense "sin," because it was already associated with "culpa" - "guilt" - a juridical notion. The blanket term “illicit,” “unlawful,” meaning much the same as our blanket term "wrong," explains itself. It is in- teresting that Aristotle did not have such a blanket term. He has blanket terms for wickedness - "villain," "scoundrel"; but of course a man is not a villain or a scoundrel by the per- formance of one bad action, or a few bad actions. And he has terms like "disgraceful," "impious"; and specific terms signifying defect of the relevant virtue, like “unjust”; but no term corresponding to "illicit." The extension of this term (i.e. the range of its application) could be indicated. in his terminology only by a quite lengthy sentence: that is "illicit" which, whether it is a thought or a consented-to passion or an action or an omission in thought or action, is something contrary to one of the virtues the lack of which shows a man to be bad qua man. That formulation would yield a concept co-extensive with the concept "illicit." To have a law conception of ethics is to hold that what is needed for conformity with the virtues failure in which is the mark of being bad qua man (and not merely, say, qua 5 craftsman or logician) that what is needed for this, is required by divine law. Naturally it is not possible to have such a conception unless you believe in God as a law-giver; like Jews, Stoics, and Christians. But if such a conception is dominant for many centuries, and then is given up, it is a natural result that the concepts of "obligation," of being bound or required as by a law, should remain though they had lost their root; and if the word “ought” has become in- vested in certain contexts with the sense of "obligation," it too will remain to be spoken with a special emphasis and special feeling in these contexts. It is as if the notion "criminal" were to remain when crim- inal law and criminal courts had been abolished and for- gotten. A Hume discovering this situation might conclude that there was a special sentiment, expressed by "criminal," which alone gave the word its sense. So Hume discovered the situation which the notion "obligation" survived, and the notion "ought" was invested with that peculiar for hav- ing which it is said to be used in a “moral” sense, but in which the belief in divine law had long since been aban- doned: for it was substantially given up among Protestants at the time of the Reformation. The situation, if I am right, was the interesting one of the survival of a concept outside the framework of thought that made it a really intelligible one. When Hume produced his famous remarks about the tran- 2They did not deny the existence of divine law; but their most characteristic doc- trine was that it was given, not to be obeyed, but to show man's incapacity to obey it, even by grace; and this applied not merely to the ramified prescriptions of the Torah, but to the requirements of “natural divine law." Cf. in this connection the decree of Trent against the teaching that Christ was only to be trusted in as mediator, not obeyed as legislator.

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    Elisa Grimi ed., Virtue Ethics: Retrosect and Prospect (Chaum: Springer, 2019) Some Questions about Virtue John Haldane Abstract. So far as Anglophone academic study is concerned, interest in the idea of virtue as a central concept in ethical theory only dates from the late 1950s beginning with Elizabeth Anscombe's “Modern Moral Philosophy" but getting its first specific discussion in Georg Von Wright's 1963 book The Varieties of Goodness in which he writes: "Virtue is a neglected topic in modern ethics". As the present essay shows, these words became a common refrain through the 1970s, 80s and 90s. The rise to prominence of ideas of virtue in philosophy and then in educational theory and in psychology, as well as in schemes for establishing good practice in various fields of professional and public life raises questions about how a focus on virtue relates to other ways of evaluating agents and actions, and of how virtue itself may be identified and assessed. Key words: Anscombe, Aquinas, Situationism, Von Wright, Virtue Ethics. *** I. Ideas of virtue and of its role in schooling, in the conduct of personal and social life, and in the achievement of mental well-being are now prominent in areas of educational theory, philosophy, and psychology, as well as in schemes for establishing good practice in various fields of employment, and professional and public life. This rise to prominence in areas of academic study and practical application is quite recent and it raises questions about how a focus on virtue relates to other ways of evaluating agents and actions, and of how virtue itself may be identified and assessed. A particular version of the latter point relevant to psychological studies and to the evaluation of practical efficacy is whether virtue (and vice) can be measured. One of the factors that gives current relevance to this question is the increasing interest and investment in character eduation and in the estimation of its benefits. Here I am concerned with aspects of these questions: in particular with how a virtue-centred ethics might be conceived of in relation to other kinds of normative ethical theories, and with whether degrees of virtue can be quantified. 1 Elisa Grimi ed., Virtue Ethics: Retrosect and Prospect (Chaum: Springer, 2019) II. I begin, however, with an exploration of the history in recent Anglophone philosophy of orientations towards virtue as being the primary ethical category. Given the currency of "virtue ethics" and the suggestion that it is an alternative to consequentialist and deontological ethical theories it is perhaps surprising that so far as mainstream, secular English-language academic study is concerned, interest in the idea of virtue as a central concept in ethical theory only begins to emerge at the end of the 1950s. I set aside here discussions of virtue(s) among mid-twentieth century moral theologians, though these were not prominent outside neo-scholastic circles¹, and among historians of philosophy who were not in any case much concerned with ethics. But even among the latter group, those who wrote broad histories of ethics did not make much of virtue other than in their accounts of Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics. The precedent was set by Sidgwick in his very widely read Outlines of the History of Ethics for English Readers first published in 1866, revised several times in his lifetime and supplemented by the American philosopher Alban Widgery in the 1930s. Sidgwick writes of Augustine's efforts "to Christianise the old Platonic list" and mentions Aquinas's scheme of virtues mainly to point to the influence of the ancient schools on his thinking. Given the frequency with which Aquinas is now cited in accounts of virtue ethics, second only among historical figures to Aristotle, it may again surprise readers to learn that even the Thomistic philosopher Vernon J Bourke in his 1968 History of Ethics makes little mention of virtue outside his account of the ancients. He has no entry on "virtue" in the index and while his chapter on the medieval writers describes the reception of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics he characterises the theories of the period as instances of 'right reason ethics' recta ratio, and his discussion of twentieth century ethics up to the up to the mid 1960s which includes the work of Kurt Baier, Richard Brandt, William Frankena, Stuart Hampshire, Richard Hare, John Rawls, Peter Strawson, and Stephen Toulmin, makes no mention of virtue. The exception among Anglo-American writers on the history of moral philosophy is Alasdair MacIntyre. His A Short History of Ethics was first published in 1966 two years before Bourke's book and it has many entries on "virtue” and “vice" as well as on particular virtues and vices. One may think this is not so surprising given that in the following decade he began the work that would be published in 1981 as After Virtue, but I think that apart from a greater sensitivity to the diversity of moral concepts reflective of a diversity of cultural assumptions, another factor is that he was aware of ideas developing within analytical moral philosophy, particularly in reaction to various kinds of emotivism. ¹For an exemplary neo-Thomist philosophical rather than theological treatment of ethics in which the virtues are extensively discussed see Oesterle 1957, reprinted in Haldane, 2004. 2 Elisa Grimi ed., Virtue Ethics: Retrosect and Prospect (Chaum: Springer, 2019) III. The most commonly cited source of the rise of interest in virtue is Elizabeth Anscombe's 1958 article "Modern Moral Philosophy"; but while this is rightly celebrated for its philosophical energy, insight and imagination the discussion of virtue is only a small part of her concern and it is not introduced as part of a moral theory, though what is said is certainly interesting and reflection on it continues to bear fruit. By way of brief reminder, her first stated concern was with the failure of moral philosophers, as she saw it, to develop an adequate philosophy of psychology. She introduces the issue by considering the question of why it is bad to be unjust and returns to the general concern about moral psychology later, again focussing on the case of justice which is the only virtue that she actually discusses. The reason for this restriction, I believe, is that she thought that other traditional virtues (prudence, temperance, and courage) could be given broadly instrumental justifications in terms of the interests of the agent whereas injustice is intrinsically bad. She writes as follows: In present day philosophy an explanation is required how an unjust man is a bad man, or an unjust action a bad one; to give such an explanation belongs to ethics; but it cannot even be begun until we are equipped with a sound philosophy of psychology. For the proof that an unjust man is a bad man would require a positive account of justice as a “virtue." This part of the subject-matter of ethics, is however, completely closed to us until we have an account of what type of characteristic a virtue is - a problem, not of ethics, but of conceptual analysis - and how it relates to the actions in which it is instanced: a matter which I think Aristotle did not succeed in really making clear. For this we certainly need an account at least of what a human action is at all, and how its description as "doing such and such" is affected by its motive and by the intention or intentions in it; and for this an account of such concepts is required ³ 3 It is clear from this passage that Anscombe's interest was less in proposing a new (or renewing an older) theory for ethics, than in understanding the different factors that contribute to determining the value of an action. In the previous year or so she had published a pamphlet entitled Mr Truman's Degree; the text of a BBC radio talk "Does Oxford Moral Philosophy Corrupt the Youth?"; the short book Intention; and extracts from it as an academic paper of the same title. The first two items are ablaze with indignation at what she clearly regarded as the immorality of 2 See Anscombe 1958, reprinted in Geach and Gormally (eds) 2005, and related essays there and in Geach and Gormally (eds) 2008. See also Gormally, Jones and Teichmann (eds) 2016. 3 Anscombe, 1958, pp. 4-5. 4 See Anscombe 1956, 1957a and 1957b. 3 Elisa Grimi ed., Virtue Ethics: Retrosect and Prospect (Chaum: Springer, 2019) attitudes taken by academic moral philosophers towards the killing of the innocent; but her reaction included an element of puzzlement which was partly resolved by seeing that they had a shallow view of action. These concerns reappear in "Modern Moral Philosophy" again in the form of moral indignation and criticism of erroneous philosophical ideas about action. Later in the essay she returns to the latter, writing that: >5 Somewhat characteristically of Anscombe' work, her hard, compact, and sometimes fragmentary thoughts took time to be appreciated and developed; and her idea about how virtue might be related to human nature as a species norm only got its first proper development as late as the 1990s in the work Michael Thompson. That Anscombe herself has relatively little to say about virtue and that what she says is more from the side of philosophical psychology is due to the fact that she had not then thought about how to locate it within a larger scheme of moral evaluation, and nor did she explictly address that issue in later writings,; but her broad suggestion about how one might turn towards virtues as sources of norms did have influence in the thought of others. IV. Where the idea of virtue as a central concept for secular moral philosophy gets its first specific discussion is in chapter VII of Georg Von Wright's 1963 book The Varieties of Goodness which is based on his 1960 series of St Andrews Gifford 5 Anscombe, 1958, pp. 14-15. 6 See Thompson, 2008 Chs. 1-4 & 10 & 11. Elisa Grimi ed., Virtue Ethics: Retrosect and Prospect (Chaum: Springer, 2019) Lectures. The Chapter title is simply “Virtue” but the opening sentence of the first section runs "Virtue is a neglected topic in modern ethics". As we will see, these or similar words became a common refrain through the 1970s, 80s and 90s, though as already noted the recent situation is very different and attention to virtue is now a prominent feature in motivational psychology and educational theory as well as in moral philosophy. It is worth reading a bit further into Von Wright's discussion of the topic. He continues: >7 This passage and the account of virtue that follows it, is interesting for a number of reasons. First, it contains what may be the earliest purposeful use by an analytical philosopher of the expression ‘the ethics of virtue'. Second, it suggests, in line with earlier writers, that virtue as an ethical concept belongs most centrally within the Aristotelian tradition, and that later writers for whom virtue is a significant concept also belong within that tradition. Third, it implies that this tradition had not much developed from its ancient Aristotelian foundation. Neither Von Wright nor MacIntyre mention Anscombe in connection with the development of thinking about virtue, though they were both aware of her work and in the case of the former he was writing in a period during which it had attracted much attention 7G. Von Wright, 1963, pp. 136-7. 5

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    As the world’s leaders prepare to gather in Glasgow for the UN Climate Change Conference, it is worth reflecting on how each of us as individuals might respond to the environmental crisis. To this end, I propose going back in time to ancient Athens when philosophy began. In that remarkable “golden age”, a trio of philosophers — Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle — thought hard about how each of us should live in ways that are highly relevant to us now.

  • Aquinas and the Infused Moral Virtues

    This study locates Aquinas's theory of infused and acquired virtue in his foundational understanding of nature and grace. Aquinas holds that all the virtues are bestowed on humans by God along with the gift of sanctifying grace. Since he also holds, with Aristotle, that we can create virtuous dispositions in ourselves through our own repeated good acts, a question arises: How are we to understand the relationship between the virtues God infuses at the moment of grace and virtues that are gradually acquired over time? In this important book, Angela McKay Knobel provides a detailed examination of Aquinas's theory of infused moral virtue, with special attention to the question of how the infused and acquired moral virtues are related. Part 1 examines Aquinas's own explicit remarks about the infused and acquired virtues and considers whether and to what extent a coherent "theory" of the relationship between the infused and acquired virtues can be found in Aquinas. Knobel argues that while Aquinas says almost nothing about how the infused and acquired virtues are related, he clearly does believe that the "structure" of the infused virtues mirrors that of the acquired in important ways. Part 2 uses that structure to evaluate existing interpretations of Aquinas and argues that no existing account adequately captures Aquinas's most fundamental commitments. Knobel ultimately argues that the correct account lies somewhere between the two most commonly advocated theories. Written primarily for students and scholars of moral philosophy and theology, the book will also appeal to readers interested in understanding Aquinas's theory of virtue.

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    View the text-only version of this page. Skip to main content Skip to quick search Skip to global navigation Quick search: Current Archive About Subscribe PDF Share+ Twitter Facebook Reddit Mendeley Be Not Afraid: The Virtue of Fearlessness Tyler Paytas Skip other details (including permanent urls, DOI, citation information) 2021, Volume 21, No. 23, pp. 1-13 Permalink: http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.3521354.0021.023    Permissions: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Please contact [email protected] to use this work in a way not covered by the license. For more information, read Michigan Publishing's access and usage policy. View Abstract Abstract Most contemporary virtue theorists hold that fear of genuine dangers is appropriate, and that what matters is one’s ability to surmount it when necessary. To overcome fear for the sake of the good is an act of courage, while succumbing to it is the manifestation of cowardice. This orthodox view comprises a significant oversight. While it is true that overcoming one’s fear in a moment of crisis is a mark of excellence, courage is not the highest ideal toward which we ought to strive. Virtue theories that give courage an exalted status fail to appreciate the excellence exhibited by those who dutifully or lovingly put themselves in harm’s way without having to overcome an inclination to avoid. While courage is certainly admirable, fearlessness is more excellent in two respects. First, the fearless agent possesses more robust psychological harmony, which includes a deeply internalized acceptance of the fact that one’s personal safety is not the most important thing in life. This attribute is valuable for its own sake. Second, the fearless agent is able to successfully act in accordance with her values with greater reliability because she never has to override a desire to avoid when she ought to confront instead. Hide Abstract - 150% + image Note: selecting options from the following navigation form controls will automatically load a new page. Page 12345678910111213 Next » Next » Top of page Permanent URL for this title: http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.3521354.0021.023 Hosted by Michigan Publishing, a division of the University of Michigan Library. For more information please contact [email protected]. Online ISSN: 1533-628X

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    The Virtues

    Recorded in 2003. The Church understands the cultivation of holiness as a lifelong process of cooperating with the graces that God gives. The history of the Church makes clear that there are various reliable approaches, including those of Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas, Ignatius Loyola, Teresa of Avila, and John of the Cross. In one way or another, all of these figures show us the importance of three stages in this process: (1) the purgative way (confronting sin and gaining freedom from disordered inclinations and aversions), (2) the illuminative way (receiving and accepting the light of Christ), and (3) the unitive way (growing in union with God through prayer). This course emphasizes the thought of great figures in the history of Catholic spirituality.

  • Honesty: The Philosophy and Psychology of a Neglected Virtue

    Honesty is an important virtue. Parents want to develop it in their children. Close relationships depend upon it. Employers value it in their employees. Surprisingly, however, philosophers have said very little about the virtue of honesty over the past fifty years. In this book, Christian B. Miller aims to draw much greater attention to this neglected virtue. The first part of the book looks at the concept of honesty. It takes up questions such as: What does honesty involve? What are the motives of an honest person? How does practical wisdom relate to honesty? Miller explores what connects the many sides of honesty, including not lying, not stealing, not breaking promises, not misleading others, and not cheating. He argues that the honest person reliably does not intentionally distort the facts as she takes them to be. Miller then examines the empirical psychology of honesty. He takes up the question of whether most people are honest, dishonest, or somewhere in between. Drawing extensively on recent studies of cheating and lying, the model Miller articulates ultimately implies that most of us have a long way to go to reach an honest character. Honesty: The Philosophy and Psychology of a Neglected Virtue provides both a richer understanding of what our character looks like, as well as what the goal of being an honest person actually involves. Miller then leaves it up to us to decide if we want to take steps to shrink the character gap between the two.

  • The Formation of Character in Education

    The Formation of Character: From Aristotle to the 21st Century offers an introduction to the foundations, practices, policies and issues of character formation historically. Following a chronological order, it charts the idea of character formation in the Western tradition by critically examining its precursors, origins, development, meanings and uses. The book is based on the premise that current conditions and debates around character formation cannot be fully understood without knowledge of the historical background. It introduces many of the debates character formation has generated in order to offer different perspectives and possibilities and uses Aristotle as a lens to gain a better understanding of some of these positions, particularly the theoretical goals of character formation. Chapters explore character education from the classical period through the medieval, early modern, enlightenment and Victorian eras to 20th century influences, ending with a discussion of contemporary policies and themes relating to character education. This book will appeal to academics, researchers, and post-graduate students in the fields of character and virtue education as well as the history of education.