Review of Philosophy and Psychology

, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 637–651 | Cite as

The Unity of the Virtues Reconsidered. Competing Accounts in Philosophy and Positive Psychology

Article

Abstract

In this paper, I show that the conception of a virtue in positive psychology is a mishmash of two competing accounts of what virtues are: a Common Sense View and an Aristotelian View. Distinguishing the strengths and weaknesses of these two frameworks leads also to a reconsideration of an old debate, namely, that concerning the Unity of the Virtues (UV) thesis. Such thesis is rejected by positive psychologist, as well as by some philosophers among the virtue-ethical field, on the basis, I argue, of a lack of accuracy in defining the very meaning of the concept of what virtues are, before examining the issues at stake. In the first part of the paper, I show (i) to what extent the conceptions of virtue employed by the different voices diverge and (ii) the consequences of this divergence for the UV problem. Then, I go on by arguing for one of the two competing accounts, namely, the Aristotelian View, over the other, that is, the Common Sense View. Finally, I show to which of CSV theses positive psychologists are committed, so to explain their rejection of the UV thesis, and to highlight their need for a clearer account of what a virtue is.

References

  1. Adams, R.M. 2006. A theory of virtue: Excellence in being for the good. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alfano, M. 2013. Identifying and defending the hard core of virtue ethics. Journal of Philosophical Research 38: 233–260.Google Scholar
  3. Annas, J. 1993. The morality of happiness. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Annas, J. 2011. Intelligent Virtue. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Banicki, K. 2014. Positive psychology on character strengths and virtues. A disquieting suggestion. New Ideas in Psychology 33: 21–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Becker, L.C. 2004 (manuscript). Virtue, health, and eudaimonistic psychology. Available online at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=996242.
  7. Chappell, S.-G. 2015. Lists of the virtues. Etica & Politica/Ethics & Politics, XVII 2: 74–93.Google Scholar
  8. Doris, J.M. 1998. Persons, situations, and virtue ethics. Noûs 32 (4): 504–530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Doris, J.M. 2002. Lack of character: Personality and moral behaviour. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Doris, J.M. 2005. Replies: Evidence and sensibility. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 73: 656–677.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Doris, J.M. 2010. Heated agreement: Lack of Character as Being for the Good. Philosophical Studies 148: 135–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Duckworth, A.L. 2016. Grit: The power of passion and perseverance. London: Vermilion.Google Scholar
  13. Duckworth, A.L., P.D. Quinn, D.R. Lynam, R. Loeber, and M. Stouthamer-Loeber. 2011. Role of test motivation in intelligence testing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108 (19): 7716–7720.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Duckworth, A.L., P. Quinn, and E. Tsukayama. 2012a. What No Child Left Behind leaves behind: The roles of IQ and self-control in predicting standardized achievement test scores and report card grades. Journal of Educational Psychology 104 (2): 439–451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Duckworth, A.L., D. Weir, E. Tsukayama, and D. Kwok. 2012b. Who does well in life? Conscientious adults excel in both objective and subjective success. Frontiers in Personality Science and Individual Differences 3 (356): 1–8.Google Scholar
  16. Fowers, B.J. 2005. Virtue and psychology: Pursuing excellence in ordinary practices. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fowers, B.J. 2010. Instrumentalism and psychology: Beyond using and being used. Theory & Psychology 20 (1): 102–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fredrickson, B.L. 1998. What good are positive emotions? Review of General Psychology 2 (3): 300–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fredrickson, B.L. 2003. The value of positive emotions. American Scientist 91 (4): 330–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Grant, A.M., and B. Schwartz. 2011. Too much of a good thing: The challenge and opportunity of the inverted U. Perspectives on Psychological Science 6 (1): 61–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Irwin T.H. 1988. Disunity in the Aristotelian virtues. Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, 72: 61–78.Google Scholar
  22. Kristjánsson, K. 2013a. Virtues and vices in positive psychology. A Philosophical Critique: Cambridge University Press, New York.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kristjánsson, K. 2013b. Aristotelian motivational externalism. Philosophical Studies 164 (2): 419–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kristjánsson, K. 2015. Aristotelian character education. London-New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  25. McDowell J. 1998. “Virtue and reason”. Id., Mind, Value and Reality, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 50-73.Google Scholar
  26. Merritt, M.W. 2000. Virtue ethics and Situationist personality psychology. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 3: 365–383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Miller C. 2014. “The problem of character”. The Handbook of Virtue Ethics, S. Van Hooft and N. Athanassoulis (eds.). Acumen, Durham, 418–429.Google Scholar
  28. Nagel T. 1979. “The fragmentation of value”. Id., Mortal Questions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 128–141.Google Scholar
  29. Nussbaum, M.C. 1988. Non-relative virtues: An Aristotelian approach. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 13 (1): 32–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Nussbaum, M.C. 1999. Virtue ethics: A misleading category? The Journal of Ethics 3: 163–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Nussbaum, M.C. 2012. Who is the happy warrior? Philosophy, happiness research, and public policy. International Review of Economics 59: 335–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Park, N. 2009. Character strengths (VIA). S. J. Lopez (Ed.), The encyclopedia of positive psychology. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.: 135–141Google Scholar
  33. Peterson, C. 2006. The Values in Action (VIA) classification of strengths. M. Csikszentmihályi, & I. Selega (Eds.), Life worth living: Contributions to positive psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 29–48.Google Scholar
  34. Peterson C. and Seligman M.E.P. 2004. Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Peterson, C., Park, N., & Seligman, M.E.P. 2005. "Assessment of character strengths". G. P. Koocher, J. C. Norcross, & S. S. Hill, III (Eds.), Psychologists’ desk reference. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 93–98.Google Scholar
  36. Russell, D.C. 2009. Practical intelligence and the virtues. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Schwartz, B., and K.E. Sharpe. 2006. Practical wisdom: Aristotle meets positive psychology. Journal of Happiness Studies 7 (3): 377–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Seligman, M.E.P. 2002. Authentic happiness. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  39. Sherman, N. 1989. The Fabric of Character: Aristotle’s Theory of Virtue. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Snow N.E. 2014. “Situationism and character: New directions”. The Handbook of Virtue Ethics, S. Van Hooft and N. Athanassoulis (eds.). Durham: Acumen: 430–439.Google Scholar
  41. Telfer E. 1989-90. The unity of moral virtues in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 91, 35–48.Google Scholar
  42. Tough, P. 2012. How Children Succeed: Grit, curiosity, and the hidden power of character. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.Google Scholar
  43. Tough, P. 2016. Helping Children Succeed: What works and why. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.Google Scholar
  44. Walker A.D.M. 1993. The incompatibility of the virtues. Ratio, VI, 44–62.Google Scholar
  45. Watson, G. 1984. Virtues in Excess. Philosophical Studies 46: 57–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Williams B. 1982. “Conflicts of values”. Id., Moral Luck, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 71–82.Google Scholar
  47. Wolf, S. 2007. Moral psychology and the unity of the virtues. Ratio (new series) XX 2: 145–167.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Classics, History and Philosophy (DAFIST)University of GenoaGenoaItaly

Personalised recommendations