What are the bearers of virtues?

In Hagop Sarkissian & Jennifer Wright (eds.), Advances in Experimental Moral Psychology. Continuum. pp. 73-90 (2014)
Authors
Mark Alfano
Delft University of Technology
Abstract
It’s natural to assume that the bearers of virtues are individual agents, which would make virtues monadic dispositional properties. I argue instead that the most attractive theory of virtue treats a virtue as a triadic relation among the agent, the social milieu, and the asocial environment. A given person may or may not be disposed to behave in virtuous ways depending on how her social milieu speaks to and of her, what they expect of her, and how they monitor her. Likewise, asocial environmental factors such as mood elevators, mood depressors, ambient sounds, and ambient smells mediate morally important behavioral dispositions. Many commentators have responded to such intrusions from outside the agent by arguing for the rarity of virtue understood as a monadic property. In contrast, I claim that we need to rethink the very nature of virtue, which would entail that cultivating virtue can be accomplished not only by habituation and other such interventions on the individual agent but also by selecting, modifying, and reinterpreting the social and asocial aspects of the environment.
Keywords virtue ethics  virtue epistemology  social construction
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