How Bad Can Good People Be?

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 17 (4):731-745 (2014)
Authors
Nancy Schauber
University of Richmond
Abstract
Can a virtuous person act contrary to the virtue she possesses? Can virtues have “holes”—or blindspots—and nonetheless count as virtues? Gopal Sreenivasan defends a notion of a blindspot that is, in my view, an unstable moral category. I will argue that no trait possessing such a “hole” can qualify as a virtue. My strategy for showing this appeals to the importance of motivation to virtue, a feature of virtue to which Sreenivasan does not adequately attend. Sreenivasan’s account allows performance alone to be a reliable indicator of the possession of virtue. I argue that, at least with respect to a classical, Aristotelian conception of virtue, this assumption is mistaken: a person is said to possess a virtue only when she is properly motivated. In my view, the nature of motivation required for the possession of Aristotelian virtue does not admit of blindspots. I am not primarily interested in details about the situationist critique of virtue theory but rather the implications that blindspots have for our conception of virtue. I argue that because the practical reasoning of the virtuous requires both cognitive and motivational coherence, the motivational structure of the virtuous agent cannot accommodate blindspots. My conclusion is neither a defense of motivational internalism nor of an idealized conception of Aristotelian virtue. My aim is to show that because blindspotted virtue does not cohere well with Aristotle’s conception of virtuous agency, friends of virtue theory must choose one or the other; they cannot have both
Keywords Virtue  Character  Blindspot  Moral motivation  Reasons
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DOI 10.1007/s10677-013-9475-7
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What We Owe to Each Other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Virtue and Reason.John McDowell - 1979 - The Monist 62 (3):331-350.

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