Thursday, July 6, 2017

What a Virtue is - Zagzebski

(Originally written December 2, 2006)

Virtues of the Mind continued...

Happy Birthday Dad!

Sudden, radical change of character cannot foster virtue. "Conversion does not produce instant virtue" (Zagzebski, 123).

Creativity and originality as a virtue is problematic for the theory of virtue acquisition by habit.

Thoroughly original people may have the same virtues as other people, but these virtues may be completely different.


"Virtues are traits that are vitally connected with a person's identity" (Zagzebski, 125).

Virtue is the result of moral work performed by the virtue's possessor. The moral work is done through habituation.

2.6 Virtues, feelings and motivations

Both virtues and feelings are states of the soul.

Aristotle distinguishes feelings (pathe) from virtues in 2 ways:
1. We don't praise/reproach men for their feelings
2. Virtues are modes of choice or involve choice

Neither of these two arguments is very convincing.

Response to 1: Hatred, envy, bitterness, etc. are blamable feelings regardless of the circumstances and love, sympathy, compassion, etc. are praiseworthy feelings.

Response to 2: It is too strong to state that virtues are modes of choice. Neither feelings nor virtues are direct results of choice, but both are effected by choice or series of choices.

Virtues are voluntary in a way that a habit is voluntary, not the way an act is voluntary.

Feelings and virtues are not the same, but not because of Aristotle's arguments. Virtues are not feelings because feelings are like acts in that they occur at a specific time.

Virtues may not be feelings, but nearly every moral philosopher has connected the two.

Most philosophers have seen emotions/feelings as bad, in that they cloud practical judgment.

Many view virtues as a way to avoid a negative, not as a way to produce a positive.

Philippa Foot holds motives as a form of emotion that is action-guiding.

Zagzebski sees motive as the point where we see the connection between virtues and feelings/emotions.

Motive is more than an aim or a desire. A motive has a bit of desire for "X" in it, but also includes why "X" is desired. Emotions are frequently felt, but differ from mere sensations.

"A 'motive' in the sense relevant to an inquiry into virtue is an emotion or feeling that initiates and directs action towards an end" (Zagzebski, 131).

Motives are emotions that are nearly constantly in effect, doing their work at moderate or weak levels of intensity.

Motives drive behavior

Motivation is a "persistent tendency to be moved by a motive of a certain kind" (Zagzebski, 132).

Each individual virtue is a sort of motivation to itself.

Virtue possession requires success in obtaining the ends of the motivational component of virtue.

Virtue involves knowledge and understanding in its particular area; a virtuous person cannot be systematically wrong in their judgment.

2.7 General account of virtue

It is difficult to distinguish virtues from feelings and to give a full account of virtue theory because the language is ambiguous and inadequate.

A virtue is:
1) An acquired excellence of the soul in a deep and lasting sense. A vice is an acquired defect of the soul.
2) Virtue (vice) is acquired by work of the possessor
3) Virtue is not simply a skill
4) Virtue has a component of motivation
5) Virtue is a success term
6) Virtue requires knowledge of some nonmoral facts about the world

Virtue's motivation component much reach its end, thus becoming a success term. But, to do so it must use knowledge of nonmoral facts.

A virtue has two main elements:
1) A motivational element
2) An element of reliable success in achieving the ends of said motivational element

A virtue is "a deep and enduring acquired excellence of a person, involving a characteristic motivation to produce a certain desired end and reliable success in bringing about that end" (Zagzebski, 137).

No comments:

Post a Comment