How Should One Live? Essays on the Virtues

By Roger Crisp | Go to book overview
Save to active project

Kant's Virtues


Most proponents of virtue ethics in recent years find little to admire in Kantian ethics, which they depict as rigidly rule-governed, unable to take account of differences between persons and cases, based on unconvincing accounts of self, freedom, and action, burdened with an excessive individualism, fixated on rights, and specifically unable to give an adequate account of the virtues.1 Some, if not all, of these and kindred accusations may be true of those recent liberal theories of justice which are conventionally labelled 'Kantian', many of which indeed say nothing about the virtues. However, it is less obvious whether or how far they apply to Kant's ethics. In particular, Kant thought that his conception of practical reasoning could be used to develop an account of virtue as well as one of justice. He presents this account in some detail in the second part of the Metaphysic of Morals2 and frequently alludes to and elaborates it in other works. Of course, what Kant offers under the heading of a 'Doctrine of Virtue' (Tugendlehre) may have all the inadequacies commonly attributed to Kantian ethics. Or it may not.

The accusations are to be found in a wide range of works, and have been particularly prominent in communitarian writings and discussions of virtue ethics during the last decade. See, for example, A. MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory ( London, 1981); M. Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice ( Cambridge, 1982); L. W. Blum, Friendship, Altruism and Morality ( London, 1980).
The assumed tension between theories of justice and accounts of the virtues is foreshadowed in the history of Kant Metaphysik der Sitten. Its two parts, the Meta- physische Anfangsgründe der Rechtslehre (usually: Rechtslehre) and the Tugendlehre, did not appear in a single volume in Kant's lifetime, and appeared in a single volume in English only recently ( The Metaphysics of Morals, tr. M. Gregor ( Cambridge, 1991)). A recent critical edition of the Rechtslehre argues that the original printing--and all subsequent editions--muddled the sequence of Kant's text, and seeks to reconstruct a more perspicuous version; see Metaphysische Anfangsgründe der Rechtslehre ed. B. Ludwig ( Hamburg, 1986). This reconstruction is important for the Tugendlehre too, since the most substantial alternations proposed are in the introduction to the entire work.


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
How Should One Live? Essays on the Virtues


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 264

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?