Notes on Virtue
By Peter Lawler, The Big Think
An excerpt: So we've basically completed our two-year series of conferences, publications, and such at Berry College funded by a grant from the Science of Virtues project at the University of Chicago. My concluding presentation—following directions—is about saying what we (co-investigator Marc Guerra and myself) think virtue is. This is, of course, meant only to be the roughest sketch of the key issues in the form of talking points, with something to offend everyone:
What is VIRTUE?
Aristotle: Knowledge of MORAL VIRTUE is IMPRECISE. More than RHETORIC (or PERSUASIVE BALONEY). Less precise or certain than MATHEMATICS. Definitions will be imprecise or admit of exceptions. The problem of measurement goes with the territory.
Virtue is the action that flows from knowing: 1. Who we are. 2. What we’re supposed to do.
Doing, as Aristotle says, doesn’t flow automatically from knowing. But doing presupposes knowing. The conditions of knowing aren’t mainly about theory or philosophy. Knowing involves habituation. Knowing also involves “class” (in the sense of being “classy”) or knowing your place in the world. We’re the beings open to the truth and compelled to live morally demanding lives. We’re stuck with virtue. That means in some sense we’re stuck with courage—or having the guts to act in response to what we can’t help but know.
Read the article.