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Practical Intelligence and the Virtues$
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Daniel C. Russell

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199565795

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199565795.001.0001

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Right Action and ‘The Virtuous Person’

Right Action and ‘The Virtuous Person’

(p.103) 4 Right Action and ‘The Virtuous Person’
Practical Intelligence and the Virtues

Daniel C. Russell (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

People often describe virtue ethics as holding that an action is right if and only if it is what an agent with a virtuous character would do in the circumstances. Nonetheless, virtue ethicists in recent years have increasingly retreated from ideas about what “the virtuous person” would do, viewing such ideas as too abstract and idealized to be of much real use. This chapter explores these objections, and particularly Christine Swanton's virtue ethical account of right action which avoids making any reference to ideal virtuous persons. Swanton argues that such ideals are perilous, and treats virtue as a “threshold concept”, on which one need only be “virtuous enough” to be genuinely virtuous. It is argued that “virtuous enough” has meaning only by relying on an ideal of virtuousness after all, that that ideal threatens none of the perils that worry Swanton, and that that ideal must include phronesis.

Keywords:   ideals, phronesis, phronimos, right action, Christine Swanton, threshold concepts, vagueness, virtue ethics, virtuous person

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