Philosophical Studies

, Volume 171, Issue 1, pp 121–134 | Cite as

The notion of the moral: the relation between virtue ethics and virtue epistemology

  • Christine Swanton


In this paper I argue that virtue ethics should be understood as a form of ethics which integrates various domains of the practical in relation to which virtues are excellences. To argue this it is necessary to distinguish two senses of the “moral”: the broad sense which integrates the domains of the practical and a narrow classificatory sense. Virtue ethics, understood as above, believes that all genuine virtue should be understood as what I call virtues proper. To possess a virtue proper (such as an excellent disposition of open-mindedness, an epistemic virtue) is to possess a disposition of overall excellence in relation to the sphere or field of the virtue (being open to the opinions of others). Overall excellence in turn involves excellence in integrating to a sufficient degree, standards of excellence in all relevant practical domains. Epistemic virtues, sporting virtues, moral virtues, and so on are all virtues proper. In particular it is impossible for an epistemic virtue to be a moral (narrow sense) vice.


Virtue ethics Virtue epistemology Aristotle Notion of the moral Mary Midgley 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

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