Some Complexities of Categorizing Character Traits

In Elisa Grimi, John Haldane, Maria Margarita Mauri Alvarez, Michael Wladika, Marco Damonte, Michael Slote, Randall Curren, Christian B. Miller, Liezl Zyl, Christopher D. Owens, Scott J. Roniger, Michele Mangini, Nancy Snow & Christopher Toner (eds.), Virtue Ethics: Retrospect and Prospect. Springer. pp. 81-98 (2019)
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With the explosion of interest in virtue and virtue ethics, one set of issues that has been comparatively neglected is how to categorize moral character traits. This paper distinguishes three approaches—what I call the Stoic, personality psychology, and Aristotelian—and critically assesses each of them. The Stoic approaches denies that virtues come in degrees. There is perfect virtue or nothing at all. The personality psychology approach denies that virtues have thresholds. So everyone has all the virtues to some degree or other. The Aristotelian approach accepts both degrees and thresholds. So some people might not have the virtues, and if they do, they might have them to various degrees. In addition, each of these positions takes a different stand on how to understand the vices as well. Using the virtue of honesty as the central example, the paper ends up favoring the Aristotelian approach but notes some of the complexities involved in adopting it.



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Christian Miller
Wake Forest University

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