Virtue without excellence, excellence without health

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In this paper I respond to Edward Harcourt’s suggestion that human excellences
are structured in a way that allows us to see the multiplicity of life forms that can be instantiated by different groups of excellences. I accept this layered (as he calls it) model, but suggest that Harcourt’s proposal is not pluralistic enough, and offer three critical points. First, true pluralism would need to take a life-cycle view, thus taking into account plurality within, as well as between, lives. Second, Harcourt’s pluralism still posits physical health as a requirement for excellence, whereas I claim that the challenges of illness give more, not less, opportunity for excellence. Third, I make a more general claim that in certain salient cases (illness being one of them) it is precisely the absence of excellence that can facilitate virtue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-253
Number of pages17
JournalAristotelian Society Supplementary Volume
Issue number1
Early online date28 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016
EventJoint session of the Aristotelian Society and Mind Association (2016) - Cardiff University, Cardiff , United Kingdom
Duration: 8 Jul 201610 Jul 2016

Structured keywords

  • Centre for Humanities Health and Science


  • Virtue
  • FASD
  • vulnerability
  • illness
  • virtue in defect
  • excellence

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