A Preface to Morality by John Wilson (auth.)

By John Wilson (auth.)

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Sample text

That, however, turns out to be comparatively harmless, because there is no very effective way in which such categories can be kept distinct. This is ultimately because the virtues have to be regarded as aspects of a single attitude towards life and the world, and the vices all boil down to, or at least relate to, the failure to adopt this attitude wholeheartedly: a thesis which I hope will become clearer as this book proceeds. Nevertheless, it is still possible and useful in an ad hoc sort of way to make some distinctions.

Why should a man . ' and so on. That is, indeed, how the questions normally arise: we already assume the existence of a collective, a number of people discussing what each and every one of them ought to do. So deep-rooted in us is the idea, not so much that justice is expected of us, but that reasons should be public and universal; indeed it is not too monopolistic a move to say that 'reason' is connected with the public and universal (a man only has reason if there is reason), and that a person may indeed have 'internal' motivations but can hardly have purely 'internal' reasons in the sense of justifications- to justify, as the term implies, has some fairly tight connection with justice, which is a public notion.

An important distinction divides these distinctions themselves. We may distinguish (1) between different types of virtues or bits of moral equipment. Thus we can distinguish between self-regarding and other-regarding virtues and vices, or between executive (courage, determination) and non-executive or judgemental virtues (justice, wisdom). There are problems about these and other distinctions, but it is certainly possible to sketch out various types of men or 'characters', in the manner of Aristotle or Theophrastus, who can be described as lacking or possessing this or that virtue or swathe of virtues.

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