Against idealization in virtue ethics

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Abstract

Many virtue ethicists implicitly or explicitly make use of an ideal-the concept of a perfect character, a character that is at best approximated, but never realized. I shall argue against the use of ideals (idealization) in virtue ethics on both theoretical and practical grounds. The widespread, implicit assumption that ideals are necessary bits of theoretical machinery is not only false, but counterproductive. The widespread use of ideals as goals is not only unhelpful, but pernicious. I shall identify three familiar doctrines as idealizations: the corrective doctrine of virtue, the identification of right actions with characteristic actions of virtuous agents, and the reciprocity of virtues doctrine. I shall reject these doctrines and recommend alternatives. “The Best Is the Enemy Of the Good” (Voltaire).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationVarieties of Virtue Ethics
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Pages53-71
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781137591777
ISBN (Print)9781137591760
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

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