Practical Intelligence and the Virtues

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One of the most important developments in modern moral philosophy is the resurgence of interest in the virtues. In this new book, Daniel Russell explores two important hopes for such an approach to moral thought: that starting from the virtues should cast light on what makes an action right, and that notions like character, virtue, and vice should yield a plausible picture of human psychology. Russell argues that the key to each of these hopes is an understanding of the cognitive and deliberative skills involved in the virtues. If right action is defined in terms of acting generously or kindly, then these virtues must involve skills for determining what the kind or generous thing to do would be on a given occasion. Likewise, Russell argues that understanding virtuous action as the intelligent pursuit of virtuous goals yields a promising picture of the psychology of virtue. This book develops an Aristotelian account of the virtue of practical intelligence or 'phronesis'—an excellence of deliberating and making choices—which Russell argues is a necessary part of every virtue. This emphasis on the roots of the virtues in the practical intellect contrasts with ambivalence about the practical intellect in much recent work on the virtues—a trend Russell argues is ultimately perilous for virtue theory. This book also takes a penetrating look at issues like the unity of the virtues, responsibility for character, and that elusive figure, 'the virtuous person'. Written in a clear and careful manner, Practical Intelligence and the Virtues will appeal to philosophers and students alike in moral philosophy and moral psychology.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199565795
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 6/22/2009
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel Russell is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Wichita State University, Kansas. His main research and teaching interests lie in ancient philosophy, ethics, and political philosophy. He is the author of Plato on Pleasure and the Good Life (Oxford, 2005).

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Table of Contents

1 Practical Intelligence and the Virtues: An Aristotelian Approach 1

1.1 Deliberation 4

1.2 Phronesis 13

1.3 The Phronesis Controversy 31

Part I Phronesis, Virtue, and Right Action 35

2 Right Action for Virtue Ethics 37

2.1 Right Action and Serious Practical Concerns 39

2.2 Two Constraints on Right Action 44

2.3 Must Virtue Ethics Accept the Act Constraint? 46

2.4 Can Virtue Ethics Accept the Act Constraint? 65

3 Right Action and Virtuous Motives 72

3.1 The Structure of Agent-Based Virtue Ethics 74

3.2 Virtuous Acts and Virtuous Motivations 77

3.3 Why Virtues are Virtues 86

3.4 Reasons for Virtue 95

4 Right Action and 'The Virtuous Person' 103

4.1 Doing Without 'The Virtuous Person' 104

4.2 'Virtuous Enough' 112

4.3 Ideals and Aspirations 123

4.4 Virtues, Persons, and 'The Virtuous Person' 130

4.5 Representing 'The Virtuous Person' 135

Part II The Enumeration Problem 143

5 The Enumeration Problem 145

5.1 The Enumeration Problem: An Introduction 145

5.2 Enumeration and Overall Virtuous Actions 161

5.3 Enumeration and Overall Virtuous Persons 166

5.4 Enumeration and Naturalism 172

6 Individuating the Virtues 177

6.1 From Individuation to Enumeration 178

6.2 'The Same Reasons' 188

6.3 Reasons, Individuation, and Cardinality 196

6.4 Implications for Hard Virtue Ethics 204

7 Magnificence, Generosity, and Subordination 209

7.1 Magnificence as a Virtue 212

7.2 Subordination, Specialization, and Cardinality 217

7.3 Alternatives to the Subordination View 221

Part III Situations, Dispositions, and Virtues 237

8 Situations and Broad-Based Dispositions 239

8.1 Situationism and Dispositionism 243

8.2 Situationism and Personality 252

8.3 Idiographic Predictions of Consistency 263

9 Situations and Dispositions: Examining the Evidence 268

9.1 How to Test Broad-Based Dispositions for Cross-Situational Consistency 269

9.2 Putting Dispositions to the Test: Four Representative Experiments 273

9.3 Interpreting the Findings 278

10 From Situationism to Virtue Theory 292

10.1 Situationism: From Empirical to Philosophical Psychology 295

10.2 Situationism and Virtue Theory: Normative Adequacy 304

10.3 From Common Sense to Virtue Theory? 306

10.4 Out-Sourcing the Empirical Work? 314

10.5 A Cognitive-Affective Approach to the Virtues 323

Part IV Defending Hard Virtue Theory 333

11 Phronesis and the Unity of the Virtues 335

11.1 The Unity of Which Virtues? 339

11.2 What Unifies the Virtues? 355

11.3 Attributive and Model Theses 362

12 Responsibility for Character 374

12.1 Depth, Self-Construction, and Responsibility 374

12.2 On Responsibility and 'Ultimate Responsibility' for Character 380

12.3 What is Critical Distance? 388

12.4 From Critical Distance to Responsibility 392

12.5 Objections to the Critical Distance View 404

Works Cited 415

Index Locorum 429

General Index 433

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