Moral cacophony: When continence is a virtue

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
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1023/A:1026111711649
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 21,496
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Wouter Sanderse (2015). An Aristotelian Model of Moral Development. Journal of Philosophy of Education 49 (3):382-398.
Geoffrey Scarre (2013). The Continence of Virtue. Philosophical Investigations 36 (1):1-19.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

33 ( #125,675 of 1,911,838 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

2 ( #323,440 of 1,911,838 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.