Virtues in Action

Part of the Modern Studies in Philosophy book series


It is a familiar feature of the tradition of moral philosophy which began with Socrates that its primary concern is with virtues and vices, with what it is to be a good man and why one should aspire to perfection of the soul. By contrast, the focus of much modern ethics is on actions rather than on character, the primary concern being with principles of right conduct.


Moral Philosophy Moral Psychology Action Virtue Slow Reader Abstract Noun 
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  1. 1.
    Cf. e.g., G. E. M. Anscombe, “Modern Moral Philosophy” (Philosophy, 1958), or Bernard Mayo, Ethics and the Moral Life (London, 1958), chap. XI.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    Cf. Gregory Vlastos, Introduction to the Library of Liberal Arts Volume, Plato’s Protagoras (Indianapolis, 1956), pp. xlvii ff.Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    Richard Robinson, Plato’s Earlier Dialectic 2 (Oxford, 1953), pp. 15–17, with further details in chaps. 1–6.Google Scholar
  4. 10.
    Cp. J. L. Austin, “A Plea for Excuses” in his Philosophical Papers (Oxford, 1961), pp. 147–48.Google Scholar
  5. 23.
    Cf. also Hp. Mi. 365E, Chrm. 160D6–E4, 170C1–D9, Euthd. 280A6–8, Men. 98B7–C10, 99B5, and John Lyons, Structural Semantics—an analysis of part of the vocabulary of Plato (Oxford, 1963), p. 158.Google Scholar
  6. 25.
    Gabriele Taylor and Sybil Wolfram, “The Self-Regarding and Other-Regarding Virtues” (Phil Quart, [18] 1968), p. 240; cp.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Anthony Kenny, Action, Emotion and Will (London, 1963), chap. 4.Google Scholar
  8. 27.
    Georg Henrik von Wright, The Varieties of Goodness (London, 1963), p. 142, who agrees that the virtues are not properly dispositions. The prominence of the character sketch in Greek discussions of virtues and vices, from Plato’s Republic through Aristotle’s Ethics to Theophrastus’ Characters, is no mere literary embellishment.Google Scholar
  9. 28.
    Cp. Bernard Williams, Morality and the Emotions (London, 1965), pp. 17–18. Conrad’s novel Lord Jim is an extended attempt to assess a putative act of cowardice against the background of a whole life.Google Scholar

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© Gregory Vlastos 1971

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