Aristotle and Expertise: Ideas on the Skillfulness of Virtue

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 24 (2):599-609 (2021)
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Abstract

Many philosophers working on virtue theory have resisted the idea that the virtues are practical skills, apparently following Aristotle’s resistance to that idea. Bucking the trend, Matt Stichter defends a strong version of this idea in The Skillfulness of Virtue by marshaling a wide range of conceptual and empirical arguments to argue that the moral virtues are robust skills involving the cognitive-conative unification of Aristotelian phronêsis (‘practical intelligence’). Here I argue that Aristotle overlooks a more delimited kind of practical intelligence, strongly analogous to his own account of phronêsis, that unifies complex forms of expertise such as medicine or even high-level sports. Insofar as the skill model of virtue is compelling, it must draw on a robust conception of practical expertise (technê) like the one developed here rather than the ordinary, anemic conception of practical skills.

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Noell Birondo
University of Texas at El Paso

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