The Definition of Moral Virtue

By Yves R. Simon; Vukan Kuic | Go to book overview

2
Clearing up Some Confusions

ENGLISH NOT BEING MY NATIVE TONGUE, I may be more sensitive to such things but I really think that the very common expression "he is a good man," applied indiscriminately to a boxer, preacher, teacher, businessman, medical doctor, or psychiatrist, is a rather infelicitous colloquialism. There would, of course, be nothing wrong with this expression, if its intended meaning were that whoever is referred to is indeed a good man, a good person. But in daily use, the expression "he is a good man" means that he is a good boxer, businessman, psychiatrist, and so on, which, when you stop to think, is obviously not the same thing. One may be the best doctor there is, say the best specialist in internal medicine or in psychiatry, and still leave much to be desired as a human being. Now I am not saying that people who use the expression "he is a good man" to praise an expert do not know that. It is just that it does not sound right, to me at least, not only as a relative newcomer to the English language but especially as a philosopher. Indeed, the fact that ever since Plato generations after generation of philosophers have recognized the importance of his distinction between a good carpenter, on the one hand, and a good man, without qualifications, on the other, is sufficient proof that there is more to this than linguistic sensibilities. For ethical theory, that distinction is absolutely decisive.


NATURE AND USE

To elaborate on this distinction, let us again proceed by way of examples and common understanding of experience. And because our inquiry cannot do without it, I propose that we consider first of all the notion of "use." Consulting the dictionary, we find the following meanings for the verb "to use": to employ for some purpose, put into service, make use of, to avail oneself, to practice habitually

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The Definition of Moral Virtue
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Editor's Preface vii
  • Yves R. Simon (1903-1961) a Bio-Bibliography ix
  • 1 - Modern Substitutes for Virtue 1
  • Conclusion 15
  • Notes 17
  • 2 - Clearing Up Some Confusions 19
  • Notes 44
  • 3 - Further Necessary Distinctions 47
  • Notes 67
  • 4 - Virtue is Not Science 69
  • Notes 87
  • 5 - The Definition of Moral Virtue 91
  • Notes 119
  • 6 - The Interdependence of Virtues 125
  • Notes 131
  • Index 133
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