Schopenhauerian virtue ethics

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Philosophy Department

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Patrick Hassan

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Research Article

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The aim of this paper is to elucidate Schopenhauer’s moral philosophy in terms of an ethics of virtue. This paper consists of four sections. In the first section I outline three major objections Schopenhauer raises for Kant’s moral philosophy. In section two I extract from these criticisms a framework for Schopenhauer’s own position, identifying how his moral psychology underpins a unified and hierarchical conception of virtue and vice. I then ascertain some strengths of this view. In section three I focus in upon the issue of fixed character and moral education as at least one major point of divergence between Schopenhauer’s virtue ethics and typical trends within the tradition. In the fourth and final section, I consider and respond to this ethical framework’s possible susceptibility to the charge of egoism, and adjudicate among competing solutions in the secondary literature. I conclude that refined forms of Schopenhauer’s ethical views offer rich and plausible insights into both virtue and vice which have received less attention than they deserve. Hence, Schopenhauer warrants more serious concern in contemporary discussions of virtue ethics alongside the likes of Aristotle, Hume and Nietzsche.

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