A Theory of Virtue: Introductory Remarks
Philosophical Studies, Volume 148, Number 1.
By Robert Marrihew Adams
What is virtue? A plausible first answer is that virtue is goodness of moral character. The theory of virtue proposed in my
book, A Theory of Virtue (Adams 2006),
belongs to the department of ethical theory that is concerned with the
evaluation of character and traits of character, or of relatively
persistent moral qualities, or moral states, of persons. I distinguish
that from another department of ethics that is concerned with the
evaluation of actions or types of action; and I distinguish both of
those, as departments of substantive
ethical theory, from metaethics, which is concerned with the
epistemology, semantics, and metaphysics of ethics. Unlike some of the
most influential contributors to the discussion of virtue in the last
half century or so, I do not believe that we can render metaethical
problems more tractable by explicating moral evaluations of actions in
terms of virtues. I believe that our ethical evaluations of actions
should be taken into account in our ethical evaluations of states and
traits, and vice versa, but neither type of evaluation is categorically
or systematically prior to the other. The best reason for having a
theory of virtue is that traits of character are important objects of
ethical evaluation in their own right.
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