Does Moral Virtue Require Knowledge? A Response to Julia Driver

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 15 (4):533 - 546 (2012)
A long-standing tenet of virtue theory is that moral virtue and knowledge are connected in some important way. Julia Driver attacks the traditional assumption that virtue requires knowledge. I argue that the examples of virtues of ignorance Driver offers are not compelling and that the idea that knowledge is required for virtue has been taken to be foundational for virtue theory for good reason. I propose that we understand modesty as involving three conditions: 1) having genuine accomplishments, 2) being aware of the value of these accomplishments, and 3) having a disposition to refrain from putting forward one's accomplishments. When we understand modesty this way, we can properly identify genuine cases of modesty and see how modesty requires knowledge. Something similar can be said about other alleged virtues of ignorance. With the proposal in place, we have no serious reason to think that moral virtue requires ignorance. Additionally, we have good reasons for thinking that acting virtuously requires having good intentions and that a necessary condition of having a virtue is having knowledge. Although some might take these results to be trivial or obviously true, I think the Julia Driver's challenge should not be dismissed out of hand. Even though there are some reasons for thinking that some situations suggest that knowledge and virtue can be separated from one another, close analysis reveals this impression is only surface deep
Keywords Moral virtue  Moral knowledge  Weakness of will  Huck Finn  Moral principles
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References found in this work BETA
John McDowell (1979). Virtue and Reason. The Monist 62 (3):331-350.
Julia Driver (2001). Uneasy Virtue. Cambridge University Press.

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