How Should One Live? Essays on the Virtues

By Roger Crisp | Go to book overview

14
Community and Virtue

LAWRENCE BLUM


I

The revival of a virtue approach to ethics has been accompanied by a renewed concern with the notion of community, and many assume a close link between virtue and community. Yet most discussions of virtue proceed without ever mentioning community. The widespread assumption of a link between community and virtue may be due in part to the Aristotelian roots of virtue ethics, and to Alasdair MacIntyre's semi-Aristotelian After Virtue, probably the most influential single contemporary work in virtue ethics.1 Both Aristotle and MacIntyre emphasize the fundamentally social nature of virtue--the way that particular forms of social life are linked with particular virtues.

Another source of the assumption of a close link between community and virtue may be the moral theory or family of theories that proponents of both community and virtue reject. These theories emphasize the primacy of the rational, autonomous individual in moral agency and in the normative foundations of political structures. Communitarians differ both in placing value on communal entities--a value not reducible to the value of rational agency--and (sometimes) in according communal entities a more fundamental place in the formation or constitution of the moral self. Virtue theorists see the foundations of virtue as lying not only in rational agency but also in habit, emotion, sentiment, perception, and other psychic capacities.

I wish to explore some of the possible links between virtue and community, with two ends in mind. First, I wish to indicate the multifariousness of such links, and thus to suggest that the ties between community and virtue are more significant than moral theory has taken

____________________
1
A. MacIntyre, After Virtue ( London, 1981).

-231-

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