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Neoclassical Public Virtues: Towards an Aretaic Theory of Law-Making (and Law Teaching)


Sherman J. Clark


University of Michigan Law School

February 13, 2010

VIRTUE IN THE LAW, UK, Hart Publishing, 2010
U of Michigan Public Law Working Paper No. 189

Abstract:     
Whether we live full and satisfying lives – whether we thrive – depends as much on what sort of people we become as on how safe or prosperous we are, or how well or efficiently we satisfy preferences, or how closely we hew to some set of normative principles. If so, characterological concerns ought be given consideration alongside, valued in equal measure with, and seen in relation to, the more narrowly consequentialist and deontological dimensions of law and politics which are now the almost-exclusive focus of legal scholarship. In the first part of this essay, I identify and describe some of the mechanisms through which law may construct character, either directly or indirectly, and often inadvertently. In the second half of this essay, I elaborate on one possible connection between character and thriving. I argue tentatively that there are particular traits we ought to try to engender or preserve in ourselves if we hope to thrive in a democratic free market society. The virtues I describe are analogs to or versions of the classical virtues of courage, temperance, and wisdom. In addition, and central to this account, I argue for the importance of preserving a particular trait or attitude, analogous to the classical virtue of piety, for which I use the term “aspiration.”

Number of Pages in PDF File: 37

Keywords: Virtue, Character, Aretaic, Thriving, Rhetoric, Courage, Temperance, Wisdom, Piety, Justice, Virtue Ethics, Socrates, Plato, Marcus Aurelius

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Date posted: February 13, 2010 ; Last revised: December 14, 2012

Suggested Citation

Clark, Sherman J., Neoclassical Public Virtues: Towards an Aretaic Theory of Law-Making (and Law Teaching) (February 13, 2010). VIRTUE IN THE LAW, UK, Hart Publishing, 2010; U of Michigan Public Law Working Paper No. 189. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1552413

Contact Information

Sherman J. Clark (Contact Author)
University of Michigan Law School ( email )
625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States
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