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date: 23 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Ideal virtue theories posit what counts as good character and then ask how one gets there from here. This chapter defends a non-ideal theory, on two fronts. One, getting better is path-dependent: to understand moral development, one must first understand what psychological paths are available, and then determine what developments that are possible along those paths would count as genuine improvements. Ideals like “the virtuous person” help one understand in which direction “better” lies, and one cannot do that work without them. Second, that is all the work ideals do, because doing better is also path-dependent. While the virtue of generosity (say) has the right goal of helping others, that goal is indeterminate, and it takes practical intelligence to appreciate what is feasible in the world as one finds it to determine what it would mean to realize one’s goal in a way that is genuinely excellent.

Keywords: ideal theory, moral development, psychology, practical intelligence, virtue theory

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