Acts, agents, and the definition of virtue


Book Section

© the several contributors 2017. All rights reserved. This chapter discusses the direction of epistemological priority between traits and actions in the definition of virtue. Do we first identify a character trait as kind, say, and only then identify its characteristic expressions as kind acts? Or do we identify various acts as kind acts first, and only then identify the agents who perform them as kind agents? This chapter defends a modest agent-centered view: some kind acts can be identified as kind without reference to any kind agent, while other kind acts cannot be identified as kind except by identifying them as the characteristic expressions of a certain trait (kindness). Many proponents of virtue ethics are committed to a privileged role for agents in the definition of virtue; and they regard this commitment as making their enterprise distinctive. In preserving an indispensable role for virtuous agents in the identification of virtuous actions, the present argument vindicates their aspiration.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Sreenivasan, G

Published Date

  • November 23, 2017

Volume / Issue

  • 7 /

Book Title

  • Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics

Start / End Page

  • 251 - 274

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 9780198808930

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1093/oso/9780198808930.003.0013

Citation Source

  • Scopus