How Bad Can Good People Be?

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 17 (4):731-745 (2014)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Can a virtuous person act contrary to the virtue she possesses? Can virtues have “holes”—or blindspots—and nonetheless count as virtues? Gopal Sreenivasan defends a notion of a blindspot that is, in my view, an unstable moral category. I will argue that no trait possessing such a “hole” can qualify as a virtue. My strategy for showing this appeals to the importance of motivation to virtue, a feature of virtue to which Sreenivasan does not adequately attend. Sreenivasan’s account allows performance alone to be a reliable indicator of the possession of virtue. I argue that, at least with respect to a classical, Aristotelian conception of virtue, this assumption is mistaken: a person is said to possess a virtue only when she is properly motivated. In my view, the nature of motivation required for the possession of Aristotelian virtue does not admit of blindspots. I am not primarily interested in details about the situationist critique of virtue theory but rather the implications that blindspots have for our conception of virtue. I argue that because the practical reasoning of the virtuous requires both cognitive and motivational coherence, the motivational structure of the virtuous agent cannot accommodate blindspots. My conclusion is neither a defense of motivational internalism nor of an idealized conception of Aristotelian virtue. My aim is to show that because blindspotted virtue does not cohere well with Aristotle’s conception of virtuous agency, friends of virtue theory must choose one or the other; they cannot have both



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 84,292

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Character, reliability and virtue epistemology.Jason Baehr - 2006 - Philosophical Quarterly 56 (223):193–212.
Kant's Conception of Virtue.Lara Denis - 2006 - In Paul Guyer (ed.), Cambridge Companion to Kant and Modern Philosophy. Cambridge University Press.
Reasons, Holism And Virtue Theory.Andrew Jordan - 2013 - Philosophical Quarterly 63 (251):248-268.
God, the Self, and the Ethics of Virtue.Andrew J. Dell’Olio - 1998 - Philosophy and Theology 11 (1):47-70.
Virtue Ethics as a Resource in Business.Robert Audi - 2012 - Business Ethics Quarterly 22 (2):273-291.
The motivational state of the virtuous agent.Lorraine Besser-Jones - 2012 - Philosophical Psychology 25 (1):93 - 108.
Right act, virtuous motive.Thomas Hurka - 2010 - In Heather D. Battaly (ed.), Virtue and Vice, Moral and Epistemic. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 58-72.
The Skill of Virtue.Matthew Stichter - 2007 - Philosophy in the Contemporary World 14 (2):39-49.


Added to PP

75 (#181,057)

6 months
5 (#168,081)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Nancy Schauber
University of Richmond

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

What we owe to each other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
What We Owe to Each Other.Thomas Scanlon - 2002 - Mind 111 (442):323-354.
Lack of Character: Personality and Moral Behavior.John M. Doris - 2002 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Virtue and Reason.John Mcdowell - 1979 - The Monist 62 (3):331-350.

View all 25 references / Add more references