The Doing of Justice and the Priority of Acting from Virtue

In: Phronesis
Patricio A. Fernandez Department of Philosophy, University of California Santa Barbara USA

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Aristotle famously distinguishes between merely doing a virtuous action and acting in the way in which a virtuous person would. Against an interpretation prominent in recent scholarship, I argue that ‘acting virtuously,’ in the sense of exercising a virtue actually possessed, is prior to ‘virtuous action,’ understood generically. I propose that the latter notion is best understood as a derivative abstraction from the former, building upon a reading of a neglected distinction between per se and coincidentally just action in Nicomachean Ethics 5, and thus shed light on the meaning and philosophical significance of the priority of acting from virtue.

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