Hegel on Rectitude and “Virtue as Such”

Southern Journal of Philosophy 53 (4):405-426 (2015)

Samuel Duncan
Tidewater Community College
Many philosophers read Hegel as rejecting Kant's ethics of duty and advocating a more or less Aristotelian conception of virtue. However, in the Philosophy of Right Hegel sharply criticizes the ancient conception of virtue, or “virtue proper,” in his terms, and distinguishes it from a more modern concept of virtue, which he calls “rectitude.” In this paper I argue that interpretations that overlook or downplay the significance of the distinction between rectitude and virtue proper are wrong, and I also put forward my own positive interpretation of Hegel's views on virtue. I am mainly concerned with defending two sets of claims: Rectitude is fundamentally different from Aristotelian and other ancient conceptions of virtue. Hegel believes that in modern society acting with rectitude is, in all normal circumstances, superior to attempting to use virtue proper to try to figure out what one should do. I also argue that the conception of virtue I attribute to Hegel has some distinct advantages over Aristotelian conceptions of virtue
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DOI 10.1111/sjp.12153
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