Philosophy 68 (266):523 - 539 (1993)
Suppose your friends had to ascribe a single vice to you in large measure, along with any virtues that could be coherently combined with that salient vice. Suppose further that the vice had to be either cowardice or impatience. Which would you choose? I believe almost everyone would choose impatience without hesitation. There are sound moral as well as purely self-regarding reasons for despising cowardice, and to that extent our preference would be reasonable. If we say that a man who is a coward is also compassionate, we know that his compassion cannot be relied upon in any circumstances where it must contend with fear, and if he has a sense of justice, that will be useless if oppression has to be resisted. We cannot even expect him to pursue his own good whenever he perceives that to be hazardous, and so even the self-regarding virtues are corrupted by his dominating vice. On the other hand, a pronounced impatience may seem to be compossible with abundant virtue. Those who are just but cannot patiently endure tyranny are perhaps the most formidable threat to tyranny, and people who boldly go out to seize their own good often fare rather better than those who patiently await its arrival.
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