How Did She Get So Good? On Virtue and Skill [Book Review]

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 24 (2):563-575 (2021)
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In his recent book on skill and virtue, Matt Stichter provides an account based on work in empirical psychology, specifically on self-regulation. In this paper I wish to argue that while this account is novel and well informed, it falls short. I present several examples that I believe Stichter’s view cannot explain and I try to identify the reasons for that. I argue that while trying to avoid the completely anti-intellectualist account of skill especially when it comes to virtue, Stichter may have inadvertently presented an account that is too intellectualist. To clarify my claims, I start with a brief explanation of Stichter’s account of skill as self-regulation, a quick discussion of how he sees this as applying to virtue and then I turn to objections. I present cases in which the skill one acquires was never set as a goal to be achieved as Stichter’s picture would suggest, but simply comes as a byproduct of either aiming at developing a different skill or behaving in ways that don’t involve any goals at all. To this end, I discuss cases with no set goal and cases of transferable skills both in the moral and non-moral domains. I conclude that by defining virtue as self-regulation with a specific moral standard, Stichter may have violated one of the original motivations for the return to virtue ethics, namely that other views tend to over-intellectualize our moral behavior.



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Bana Bashour
American University of Beirut

Citations of this work

Introduction: Symposium on Stichter’s The Skillfulness of Virtue.Noell Birondo - 2021 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 24 (2):545-547.

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References found in this work

Thinking, Fast and Slow.Daniel Kahneman - 2011 - New York: New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
On Virtue Ethics.Rosalind Hursthouse - 1999 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Lack of Character: Personality and Moral Behavior.John M. Doris - 2002 - New York: Cambridge University Press.

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