Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 71–82 | Cite as

Virtuous Choice and Parity

  • Barbro FrödingEmail author
  • Martin Peterson


This article seeks to contribute to the discussion on the nature of choice in virtue theory. If several different actions are available to the virtuous agent, they are also likely to vary in their degree of virtue, at least in some situations. Yet, it is widely agreed that once an action is recognised as virtuous there is no higher level of virtue. In this paper we discuss how the virtue theorist could accommodate both these seemingly conflicting ideas. We discuss this issue from a modern Aristotelian perspective, as opposed to a purely exegetic one. We propose a way of resolving what seems to be a major clash between two central features of virtue ethics. Our proposal is based on the notion of parity, a concept which recently has received considerable attention in the literature on axiology. Briefly put, two alternatives are on a par (or are ‘roughly equal’) if they are comparable, although it is not the case that one is better than the other, nor that they are equally good. The advantages of applying the concept of parity to our problem are twofold. Firstly, it sheds new light on the account of choice in virtue theory. Secondly, some of the criticisms that have been mounted against the possibility of parity can be countered by considering the notion of choice from a virtue theory perspective.


Virtue Ethics Choice Parity On a par Aristotle 


  1. Brentano F (1969[1889]) The origin of our knowledge of right and wrong. London RoutledgeGoogle Scholar
  2. Broome J (1991) Weighing goods. Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  3. Carlson E (2007) Parity defined in terms of betterness. In: Rønnow-Rasmussen T et al (ed) Hommage a Wlodek, LundGoogle Scholar
  4. Carlson E (2011) The small improvement argument rescued. Philosophical Quarterly 61(242):171–174Google Scholar
  5. Chang R (2002) The possibility of parity. Ethics 112:659–688CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chang R (2005) Parity, interval value, and choice. Ethics 115(2):331–350Google Scholar
  7. Espinoza N (2008) The small improvement argument. Synthese 165:127–139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Foot P (2001) Natural goodness. Clarendon, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Gustafsson J, Espinoza N (2010) Conflicting reasons in the small-improvement argument. Philos Q, in pressGoogle Scholar
  10. Nussbaum M (1990) Love’s knowledge. CUPGoogle Scholar
  11. Parfit D (1984) Reasons and persons. Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  12. Peterson M (2007) Parity, clumpiness, and rational choice. Utilitas 19:505–513CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Quinn W (1994) Morality and action. CUPGoogle Scholar
  14. Rabinowicz W (2000) Money pump with foresight. In: Almeida MJ (ed) Imperceptible harms and benefits. Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp 123–154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Rabinowicz W (2008) Value relations. Theoria 74:18–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Schick F (1986) Dutch bookies and money pumps. J Philos 83:112–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Sorabji R (1973–74) Aristotle on the role of intellect in virtue. In: Rorty AO (ed) Essays on Aristotle’s ethics, 1980Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lincoln CollegeOxfordUK
  2. 2.Section of Philosophy & EthicsEindhoven University of TechnologyEindhovenThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations