The Definition of
FROM ALL OF THE PRECEDING, it should be fairly clear where we are heading. This long series of distinctions and clarification of terms, combined with the arguments showing the inadequacies of what we have called the modern substitutes for virtue, has brought us to the point where we are beginning to understand that the only way to face realistically the human problem is to acknowledge the need for a deliberate disposition of the dynamic parts of our psyche that would make us existentially ready to do the right thing at the right time. In other words, from what has already been said, we know that virtue must be both a qualitative and an existential disposition. The only problem is that not all qualitative existential dispositions are virtues, and so we have to distinguish and clarify some more.
Take, for instance, the case of a businessman who always pays his bills and fulfills every single provision of his contracts in the most scrupulous fashion. He always does the right thing at the right time, and he should be praised for it. But even though he is thus rightly disposed and quite dependable, he still may not possess the virtue of justice. He may be practicing honesty as "the best policy," which would make him a good businessman but not a good man without any qualifications. His readiness to deal fairly with everyone is socially very constructive, and if all businessmen did the same, the economic life of the nation would be greatly improved. Thus honesty as the best policy is strongly to be recommended in all social transactions. But if it is pursued exclusively for the sake of business, it does not constitute moral virtue, because virtues are supposed to make us not only dependable citizens but also good people. As St. Augustine put it, virtue is the good quality of the soul by which we
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Publication information: Book title: The Definition of Moral Virtue. Contributors: Yves R. Simon - Author, Vukan Kuic - Editor. Publisher: Fordham University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1986. Page number: 91.
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