The Unity of the Virtues Reconsidered. Competing Accounts in Philosophy and Positive Psychology

Abstract: In this paper, I show that the conception of a virtue in positive psychology is a mishmash of two competing accounts of what virtues are: a Common Sense View and an Aristotelian View. Distinguishing the strengths and weaknesses of these two frameworks leads also to a reconsideration of an old debate, namely, that concerning the Unity of the Virtues (UV) thesis. Such thesis is rejected by positive psychologist, as well as by some philosophers among the virtue-ethical field, on the basis, I argue, of a lack of accuracy in defining the very meaning of the concept of what virtues are, before examining the issues at stake. In the first part of the paper, I show (i) to what extent the conceptions of virtue employed by the different voices diverge and (ii) the consequences of this divergence for the UV problem. Then, I go on by arguing for one of the two competing accounts, namely, the Aristotelian View, over the other, that is, the Common Sense View. Finally, I show to which of CSV theses positive psychologists are committed, so to explain their rejection of the UV thesis, and to highlight their need for a clearer account of what a virtue is.

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Vaccarezza, M. S. (2017). The unity of the virtues reconsidered. Competing accounts in philosophy and positive psychology. Review of Philosophy and Psychology8(3), 637-651.