Avoiding the Conflation of Moral and Intellectual Virtues

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One of the most pressing challenges facing virtue theorists is the conflation problem. This problem concerns the difficulty of explaining the distinction between different types of virtue, such as the distinction between moral virtues and intellectual virtues. Julia Driver has argued that only an outcomes-based understanding of virtue can provide an adequate solution to the conflation problem. In this paper, I argue against Driver’s outcomes-based account, and propose an alternative motivations-based solution. According to this proposal, intellectual virtues can be identified by the shared motivation for cognitive contact with reality, while moral virtues are identified by appeal to the characteristic motivations of kindness and justice. I defend the proposal by demonstrating that it produces plausible verdicts concerning the virtue status of candidate moral and intellectual virtues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1037-1050
Number of pages14
JournalEthical Theory and Moral Practice
Issue number5
Early online date4 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017


  • intellectual virtue
  • moral virtue
  • the conflation problem
  • virtue ethics
  • virtue epistemology


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