Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 18, Issue 5, pp 983–993 | Cite as

Skill, Practical Wisdom, and Ethical Naturalism

  • John Hacker-Wright


Recent work in virtue theory has breathed new life into the analogy between virtue and skill. 1 There is good reason to think that this analogy is worth pursuing since it may help us understand the distinctive nexus of reasoning, knowledge, and practical ability that is found in virtue by pointing to a similar nexus found outside moral contexts in skill. In some ways, there is more than an analogy between skill and virtue. Clearly, both are what might be called ‘practical states,’ that is, conditions of agents with regard to action. For some virtue theorists, the analogy is superseded in favor of a claim to identity. As Paul Bloomfield puts it:

… adopting the thesis that virtues are skills hands us a viable moral epistemology by reducing the problem of moral epistemology to the analysis of the epistemology of diagnosis and problem solving employed by doctors, navigators, and chess players. (2000)

The analogy or identity allows us to bring to bear on virtue a wealth of...


Virtue ethics Skill Practical wisdom 



I am grateful to Cristina Carrillo, Micah Lott, Nancy Snow, and two anonymous referees for helpful comments that greatly improved this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada

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