The nature of moral virtue
The dissertation is centered around the Moral Virtuosity Project (the attempt to provide necessary and sufficient conditions for a thing's being a moral virtue). The central task of the dissertation is to examine what other philosophers have had to say on this topic and ultimately to successfully complete this project.
Chapter One is concerned exclusively with Aristotle's attempt to complete the Moral Virtuosity Project. I defend the view that Aristotle holds that each moral virtue is a disposition toward proper practical reasoning, action, and emotion within a certain sphere. I critically examine Aristotle's argument for the unity of the virtues. I then try to point to some areas where Aristotle's views on moral virtue fail to correspond with our ordinary common sense views on moral virtue.
Chapter Two has three main parts. First, I consider Immanuel Kant's attempt to complete the Moral Virtuosity Project. I develop an interpretation of Kant's views on this topic. Second, I take up the topic of the relationship between Aristotle's views on moral virtue and Kant's views on moral virtue. Third, I examine some objections to Kant's views on moral virtue. I conclude that Kant's account of moral virtue goes wrong because it is inextricably tied up with the concept of moral obligation.
Chapter Three is devoted to critical discussions of contemporary attempts to complete the Moral Virtuosity Project. Authors whose views are discussed include: G. H. von Wright, Philippa Foot, Judith Thomson, Linda Zagzebski, and Thomas Hurka. I conclude that each view has serious problems.
In Chapter Four I develop a novel account of moral virtue by appealing to the concept of admirability. Drawing on work on virtue by Michael Slote, I try to shed some light on the concept of admirability and distinguish the concept from related concepts. I then appeal to the concept of admirability to explicate the concept of a moral virtue, thus completing the Moral Virtuosity Project. I discuss a number of other topics, including “hard cases”, excessive virtue, and two sorts of morally virtuous persons: the Good Hearted Hero and the Conflicted Hero.