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Sreenivasan, Gopal, and . Disunity of Virtue

2009, Journal of Ethics 13 (2-2):195 - 212.

Abstract: This paper argues against the unity of the virtues, while trying to salvage some of its attractive aspects. I focus on the strongest argument for the unity thesis, which begins from the premise that true virtue cannot lead its possessor morally astray. I suggest that this premise presupposes the possibility of completely insulating an agent’s set of virtues from any liability to moral error. I then distinguish three conditions that separately foreclose this possibility, concentrating on the proposition that there is more to morality than virtue alone—that is, not all moral considerations are ones to which some virtue is characteristically sensitive. If the virtues are not unified, the situationist critique of virtue ethics also turns out to be more difficult to establish than some have supposed.

Comment: This paper offers a discussion of some strong objections against virtue ethics, and as such it is best used to support modules focusing on this neo-Aristotelian view. Further, it addresses problems which seem to follow from empirical research into virtues and character, which makes it particularly useful in teaching students who tend to confuse moral psychology and philosophy.