(Originally written November 27, 2006)
Virtues of the Mind
"Although a virtue is always a good thing for a person to have, then, there is a complication in that equal degrees of a virtuous trait are not always associated with equal degrees of internal good in the agent" (Zagzebski, 96).
This concept has existed since Aristotle's golden mean being relative to each person.
Intellectual virtues are similar to this, some people do their best work by "careful plodding" and others do their best work in "Exuberant intellectual impetuousness"
Zagzebski states that phronesis (practical wisdom) is an exception to this rule because it is a higher-order virtue.
Nietzsche maintains that virtues are not good for their possessor. A virtue makes its possessor the victim of the virtue.
Plato held that virtues are good for the possessor.
Alasdair MacIntyre holds that the benefit of a virtue is intrinsically valuable to its possessor by definition. MacIntyre defines virtue as "an acquired quality the possession and exercise of which tends to enable us to achieve those goods which are internal to practices and the lack of which effectively prevents us from achieving any such goods" (Zagzebski, 97-98).
Zagzebski applies MacIntyre's definition of virtues to intellectual virtues.
Virtues are good for the possessor and for the world. Virtues are good internally and externally.
Zagzebski holds that a virtue is good, but not because it increases the goodness of its possessor and the goodness for the world, but because it makes the possessor closer to the ideal level of admirability and the world closer to a high level of desirability.
Virtue is related to the good in a number of ways:
1) A person is good through the possession of virtue
2) A person who possess a virtue is closer to the good
3) The world is closer to the good because of #2
4) A virtue increases the possessor's moral worth
2.3 Virtues distinguished from natural capacities
The narrower conception of virtue maintains that virtue is acquired.
Phillippa Foot states nothing is virtue unless it involves the will and resistance to contrary temptation.
G.H. von Wright states that the virtuous person is no longer susceptible to temptation like he/she was at one point.
von Wright and Foot state virtue is not a natural trait and the opposite of virtue is actually the natural state of humanity. Zagzebski believes this is too strong.