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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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The Enumeration Problem

The Enumeration Problem

Chapter:
(p.145) 5 The Enumeration Problem
Source:
Practical Intelligence and the Virtues
Author(s):

Daniel C. Russell (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199565795.003.0005

This chapter articulates a problem that virtue ethicists and their critics alike have almost entirely ignored, but which if unresolved would jeopardize the very possibility of virtue ethics. This problem stems from the conjunction of a necessary feature of virtue ethics and a commonplace one. The necessary feature is that virtue ethics understands right actions and virtuous persons in terms of the virtues, in the plural; and the commonplace is that virtue ethicists tend to be so open-handed about what “the virtues” are that on many theories there will be infinitely many of them. If right action is action in accordance with the virtues, and a virtuous person a person who has the virtues, but virtue ethics tells us that the virtues are infinitely many, then virtue ethics cannot say what right action is action in accordance with, or what it would be to be a virtuous person. This problem is called here the “enumeration problem”.

Keywords:   cardinal virtues, enumeration of virtues, identification of virtues, individuation of virtues, naturalism, phronesis, right action, situationism, stoics, virtue ethics

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