The Definition of Moral Virtue

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

3
Further Necessary
Distinctions

AS WE SAID BEFORE, the moral problem is essentially the problem of good human use both of things and of one's powers in relation to oneself as well as other people. There is no denying that this is an immensely complex subject, and in the preceding we have no more than touched some of its dimensions related specifically to modern substitutes for virtue. But if we can agree (1) that distinguishing between nature and use makes sense in this context, (2) that the superiority of primeval feelings over rational deliberation cannot be taken for granted, and (3) that in the process of socialization people are made not only to conform but also to be themselves, we are ready for the next step. In contrast to the modern approaches, all of which appear to want to assure human dependability with the least cost in effort to individuals, in the Aristotelian tradition becoming good and true is primarily a personal achievement. One has to work hard to attain that stable state of character which enables one to remain kind and honest, courageous and truthful in any type of situation. But while this recognition of the need for personal effort may be said to distinguish the classical from the modern approach to morality, the exact nature of that achievement is in dispute among the classics themselves. Aristotle's understanding is not the same as Plato's understanding of virtue. Contrary to what Socrates seems to have held, virtue for Aristotle is not reducible to knowledge. But neither is it reducible to mere habit or opinion, as some modern interpretations imply. Virtue for Aristotle is a special kind of a quality I shall call habitus, which may resemble either habit or opinion but is neither. This is the topic of the following discussion. How virtue differs from science will be taken up in the next chapter.

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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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