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Ethics, Evil, and Fiction$
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Colin McGinn

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780198238775

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198238770.001.0001

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Beauty of Soul

Beauty of Soul

(p.92) 5 Beauty of Soul
Ethics, Evil, and Fiction

Colin McGinn (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The ‘aesthetic theory of virtue’ or ATV, is the thesis, partly inspired by Thomas Reid, that virtue coincides with beauty of soul and vice with ugliness of soul. The basic idea of ATV is that for a person to be virtuous is for his soul (character or personality) to have certain aesthetic properties, which are necessary and sufficient conditions for personal goodness. The relation between morally aesthetic properties and moral attributes is one of supervenience of the former upon the latter. McGinn cites the film Brief Encounter to illustrate the concept of the beautiful soul, and he also draws upon Nabokov's discussion of the aesthetic in Lolita. A morally bad character, McGinn argues, cannot have a beautiful soul, nor can a morally good character have an ugly soul.

Keywords:   aesthetic theory of virtue, aesthetics, beauty, Brief Encounter, character, Nabokov, personality, Thomas Reid, supervenience

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