Virtue, Reason, and Principle

Canadian Journal of Philosophy 21 (4):469-495 (1991)
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Abstract

A common strategy unites much that philosophers have written about the virtues. The strategy can be traced back at least to Aristotle, who suggested that human beings have a characteristic function or activity, and that the virtues are traits of character which enable humans to perform this kind of activity excellently or well. The defining feature of this approach is that it treats the virtues as functional concepts, to be both identified and justified by reference to some independent goal or end which they enable people to attain. Some recent philosophers seem to have hoped that by following this perfectionist strategy, we might attain a more convincing account of our moral practices than rule-based theories of ethics have been able to provide.

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R. Jay Wallace
University of California, Berkeley

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