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The Retrieval of Ethics$
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Talbot Brewer

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199557882

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199557882.001.0001

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Virtues and Other Selves

Virtues and Other Selves

Chapter:
(p.236) 7 Virtues and Other Selves
Source:
The Retrieval of Ethics
Author(s):

Talbot Brewer (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199557882.003.0008

A central thesis of Aristotelian virtue ethics is that practical wisdom cannot be captured in a tractable set of general principles. This raises the question how virtue might be learned and how we could ever fully articulate or assess our ethical convictions. The task of this chapter is to retrieve a recognizably Aristotelian view that is capable of clarifying these puzzles. On this view, we learn to be good by engaging in relationships sustained by continuously deepening approval by each participant of the other participant's evaluative outlook considered in itself. Healthy parent‐child relationships and good friendships are both relationships of this sort. The seeds of this view can be found in Aristotle's discussion of friendship (philia). This chapter develops a recognizably Aristotelian idea of philia and shows that it both fosters, and requires for its flourishing, an uncodifiable evaluative outlook whose verdicts are affirmable from all relevant social perspectives. This recognizably moral achievement emerges not as a limit on self‐interested pursuits but as a concomitant of a kind of human relationship that is essential to individual flourishing. The connection between virtue and philia lends support to Aristotle's otherwise counterintuitive claim that certain recognizably moral virtues are necessary conditions for happiness.

Keywords:   virtue, friendship, happiness, eudaimonia, philia, virtue ethics, moral learning, self‐love, nous, irreplaceability, realism, Aristotle

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