Descartes on the Unity of the Virtues

Journal of Philosophical Research 47:43-60 (2022)
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Abstract

Commentators have neglected a tension in Descartes’s virtue theory. In some texts, Descartes seems to argue that there are distinct virtues. In other texts, Descartes seems to argue that there is only a single virtue—the firm and constant resolution to use the will well. In this paper, I reconcile this tension. I argue that Descartes endorses a specific version of the unity of the virtues thesis, namely, the identity of the virtues. Nonetheless, Descartes has the resources to draw conceptual distinctions between various virtues. Distinct virtues are conceptually generated when we regard the firm and constant resolution to use the will well in different ways, that is, based on the different ways this resolution manifests in moral situations.

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Saja Parvizian
University of Illinois, Chicago (PhD)

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