We compare the definition of virtue in philosophy with the definition and operationalization of virtue in psychology. We articulate characteristics that virtue is presented as possessing in the perennial western philosophical tradition. Virtues are typically understood as (a) dispositional (b) deep-seated (c) habits (d) that contribute to flourishing and (e) that produce activities with the following three features: they are (f) done well, (g) not done poorly, and (h) in accordance with the right motivation and reason. We form a definition (...) from these characteristics and defend our exclusion of some other characteristics from the definition. Using our definition as a rubric, we evaluate conceptions of virtue in psychology, showing how many fall short at operationalizing at least one component of the philosophical notion of virtue. (shrink)
Thomas Aquinas produced a voluminous body of work on moral theory, and much of that work is on virtue, particularly the status and value of the virtues as principles of virtuous acts, and the way in which a moral life can be organized around them schematically. Thomas Osborne presents Aquinas's account of virtue in its historical, philosophical and theological contexts, to show the reader what Aquinas himself wished to teach about virtue. His discussion makes the complexities of Aquinas's moral thought (...) accessible to readers despite the differences between Thomas's texts themselves, and the distance between our background assumptions and his. The book will be valuable for scholars and students in ethics, medieval philosophy, and theology. (shrink)
A trait that is often associated with a good person is caring about the truth. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle, describes a virtue that concerns truths (truthfulness). However, he limits the virtue to being truthful about who one is and what one's achievements are. This restriction seems almost arbitrary and exceedingly narrow. In this paper, I explore the motivation for Aquinas's restricted account and argue that his view is motivated by broader virtue theoretical commitments and that his approach to the role (...) of truth for being a good person is distinct and worthwhile. (shrink)
In this review of Dominik Perler’s book Eine Person sein, Perler’s reconstruction of the relationship between Thomas Aquinas’s unitarist position and his theory of incontinence is analyzed. Perler argues that the unitarist position of Thomas allowes him to conceive of incontinence as a weakness of the whole psychological system of the person. Unlike the mad person, the incontinent has responsibility because she has preserved a degree of rational control. Perler argues that the incontinent person is not responsible for the spontaneous (...) emergence of desire, which is a natural process, only for the way in which she rationally controls it (or not). By analyzing Aquinas’s notion of naturality with respect to desires, I argue that the person is actually responsible for the emergence of a desire, just in case the content of the desire is constituted by a rational choice of end. (shrink)
This paper offers an analysis of work on human development in evolutionary anthropology from a Thomist perspective. I show that both fields view care for others as fundamental to human nature and interpret cooperative breeding as expression of the virtue of charity. I begin with an analysis of different approaches to the relationship between evolutionary anthropology and moral theory. I argue that ethical naturalism is the approach best suited to interdisciplinary dialogue, since it holds that natural facts are useful for (...) moral theory but do not encompass it. This forms the basis for a Thomist analysis of some key features of human evolution including bipedalism, higher encephalisation and extended childhood. In each case I explain how these parts of our nature contributed to the evolution of modern humans, and how each is reliant upon communal care. Finally, I offer three observations on these facts from a Thomist perspective. Firstly, that a good human life necessarily involves caring for others and being cared for ourselves. Secondly, that this is exemplified in the virtue of charity, which is the ground of all virtue. Finally, that the need for such care shows that human flourishing cannot be attained without divine aid. (shrink)
Moral education requires interdisciplinary engagement across philosophy, psychology, and education. Positive psychologists regularly acknowledge the breadth and depth of wisdom regarding the cultivation of virtues present in philosophical and religious texts and consult such writings when creating constructs, but they are less prone to integrate scientific findings with historical texts as inquiry proceeds. Thus, we provide a comparative analysis of the advice given in Lorenzo Scupoli’s The Spiritual Combat, from traditional Christian moral wisdom literature and the research findings from positive (...) psychology on the cultivation of the virtue of patience. Points of convergence relate to the utility of engaging activities that include cognitive reappraisal, habit formation through daily practice, activating positive motivation, prayer, mantra/transcendental meditation, and cultivating elevation through meditation on moral exemplars. Areas of divergence include the advisability of suppression, the role of motivation, and necessity of spiritual intervention, which suggest areas for future inquiry in moral education. (shrink)
In this paper I discuss the role of non-humans in Aquinas’ account of moral learning. I intend to show that the entire created order can play an important role in demonstrating to us the life of virtue, and argue that non-human exemplars offer important advantages to the moral learner. I begin by addressing apparent problems with this approach, founded on the observation that human virtue, for Aquinas, is unique to humans. I resolve these by showing that Aquinas’ approach to exemplars (...) is fundamentally analogical, meaning that exemplars point beyond themselves and need not necessarily live the good life to which they direct learners. I show that this means that Aquinas can use non-humans as moral exemplars and offer examples of him doing just that. Finally, I offer an assessment of the benefits of this approach. Among other things, it offers ethicists new ways to focus on particular virtues and provides a plausible way to include non-humans in the moral realm. (shrink)
This article considers the substantive difference Aquinas's theological commitments make to his otherwise Aristotelian account of courage in the Summa Theologiae. (Author's note: This article appeared in Medieval Philosophy and Theology, not Nietzsche Studies, but Philpapers is not allowing me to edit that line.).