Graduate studies at Western
Analysis 66 (289):69–76 (2006)
|Abstract||Everyday moral thought uses the concepts of virtue and vice at two different levels. At what I will call a global level it applies these concepts to persons or to stable character traits or dispositions. Thus we may say that a person is brave or has a standing trait of generosity or malice. But we also apply these concepts more locally, to specific acts or mental states such as occurrent desires or feelings. Thus we may say that a particular act was brave or that a desire or pleasure felt at a particular moment was malicious. Even when they concern acts, these last judgements are of virtuousness rather than of moral rightness. They therefore turn essentially on a person’s motives; while he can act rightly from a bad motive, he cannot act virtuously from a bad motive. But they assess the virtue or vice of particular acts and mental states rather than of persons or traits of character. These global and local uses of the virtue-concepts are clearly connected, in that we expect virtuous persons to perform and have, and virtuous traits to issue in, particular virtuous acts, desires, and feelings. A philosophical account of virtue should explain this connection, but there are two different ways of doing so. Each takes one of the two uses to be primary and treats the other as derivative, but they disagree about which is the primary use. A dispositional view takes the global use to be primary and identifies virtuous acts, desires, and feelings in part as ones that issue from virtuous..|
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