[lit-ideas] Re: Virtue Epistemology/Ethics

  • From: "Phil Enns" <phil.enns@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 28 Jun 2004 09:25:52 -0400

Walter Okshevsky wrote:

"For Phil, the proferred candidate for the common root underlying moral
and epistemic criteria and virtues is the pursuit of a coherent, unified
life. But such a pursuit bears a necessary connection neither to a moral
life, since morally evil persons may be consistent in the actions and
judgments constituting the "whole of one's life,"  nor to epistemic
virtue or obligation since consistency and coherence are possible
independent of truth or knowledge."

On the contrary, I would like to suggest that inconsistency is a
characteristic mark of moral failure and that perhaps it is consistency
that locates the intersection of moral and epistemic virtue.  The liar
requires the appearance of truth-telling on his own part and the
conviction of truth-telling in others.  The murderer asserts the
intrinsic value of life in his own person while at the same time
destroying the life of the other.  The thief asserts the scarcity of
goods but only for others and not for himself.  Isn't the hallmark of
moral failure the act of asserting what is true but denying it, in one's
own self, at the same time?  Isn't it ultimately the case that the truth
is not merely what one asserts but what one does?  Here moral and
epistemic virtue coincide in the consistent life where one wills the
good and true.  The moral dimension branches out in developing character
formation, that is developing one's self so that one consistently wills
the good, while the epistemic dimension branches out in developing
understanding so that one knows what one is to will.  Ultimately every
decision, no matter how insignificant, is both an assertion of what one
ought to do and what is true, and so I don't see how a morally evil
person can be consistent in their actions and judgments.

I just recently watched the movie 'The Matchstick Men", which did a good
job of making my point about the importance of a consistent life.

In another post, Walter states that he prefers to understand phronesis
in Kantian rather than Aristotelian terms and I was wondering whether
he, or anyone else, would be willing to expand on what the important
differences are and why the Kantian version is to be preferred.


Phil Enns
Toronto, ON

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