David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Journal of Ethics 7 (4):339-363 (2003)
Contemporary virtue ethicists widely accept thethesis that a virtuous agent''s feelings shouldbe in harmony with her judgments about what sheshould do and that she should find virtuousaction easy and pleasant. Conflict between anagent''s feelings and her actions, by contrast,is thought to indicate mere continence – amoral deficiency. This ``harmony thesis'''' isgenerally taken to be a fundamental element ofAristotelian virtue ethics.I argue that the harmony thesis, understoodthis way, is mistaken, because there areoccasions where a virtuous agent will findright action painful and difficult. What thismeans is that the generally accepteddistinction between continence and virtue isunsupportable. This conclusion affects severalwell-known accounts of virtuous action,including those of Philippa Foot and JohnMcDowell. A closer look at Aristotle, however, providesanother way of distinguishing betweencontinence and virtue, based in hiscategorization of goods as noble or base. Iargue that virtue is exhibited when anagent''s feelings harmonize with his correctjudgments of value, while discrepancies betweenfeelings and correct judgments of valueindicate continence. This understanding ofcontinence and virtue enables us to accommodatethe problem cases I raise.
|Keywords||Aristotle continence Philippa Foot John McDowell temperance virtue virtue ethics akrasia|
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Citations of this work BETA
Wouter Sanderse (2015). An Aristotelian Model of Moral Development. Journal of Philosophy of Education 49 (3):382-398.
Nicholas Schroeder (2015). The Problem of Continence in Contemporary Virtue Ethics. Journal of Ethics 19 (1):85-104.
Rebecca Stangl (2008). A Dilemma for Particularist Virtue Ethics. Philosophical Quarterly 58 (233):665-678.
Liezl van Zyl (2007). Can Virtuous People Emerge From Tragic Dilemmas Having Acted Well? Journal of Applied Philosophy 24 (1):50–61.
Geoffrey Scarre (2013). The Continence of Virtue. Philosophical Investigations 36 (1):1-19.
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