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Must Virtue Be Particular?

LAW, VIRTUE & JUSTICE, A. Amaya, H. L. Ho, eds., Oxford, Hart Publishing, 2010

Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2011-01

22 Pages Posted: 14 Jan 2011 Last revised: 7 Feb 2011

Frederick Schauer

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: January 13, 2011

Abstract

A resurgence of interest in virtue ethics has spawned its counterpart in legal theory. But in both legal theory and in moral theory, virtue ethics’ focus on the character of the moral agent (or the legal decision-maker) has been coupled with the view that the virtuous deliberator or decision-maker is also particularistic, striving to make the best all-things-considered decision for the particular matter at hand. The particularism of modern virtue ethics fits well with virtue ethics’ Aristotelian roots, and also with the modern interest in particularism associated with philosophers such as Jonathan Dancy. But must virtue theory’s focus on the agent’s character necessarily be coupled with particularism? In this paper, a response to a paper by H.L. Ho, I question the almost universal conjunction of virtue ethics (and virtuous legal decision-making) with particularism, and suggest that virtue need not be particularistic, and that, in some contexts, virtue, and especially the virtue of humility about one’s own decision-making capacities, may lie in non-particularism.

Suggested Citation

Schauer, Frederick, Must Virtue Be Particular? (January 13, 2011). LAW, VIRTUE & JUSTICE, A. Amaya, H. L. Ho, eds., Oxford, Hart Publishing, 2010; Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2011-01. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1739920 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1739920

Frederick Schauer (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States
434-924-6777 (Phone)

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