What is it about?

Critics of virtues tend to begin with a perfectionistic concept of a virtue, and no one can live up to that. As a result, these critics dismiss virtue as a possibility. Instead, we propose a more realistic understanding of virtues. This has three key components. First, virtues are on a continuum from less to more, rather than an all or none dichotomy. Second, no one has perfect virtue because that is impossible. Third, situational factors are always important in virtue expression.

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Why is it important?

It is important to recognize that ordinary humans can have virtues and can develop them. Having a realistic idea about virtues makes it possible to cultivate virtues in oneself and teach others how to have them. Virtues are trait-like features that underwrite consistently moral behavior, which is highly desirable. Moreover, practicing the virtues, as we present them, is the best way to live well. Having a good life is important to everyone.


The critical work of scholars like Doris and Miller have been criticized for many reasons, but no one has argued that their criticisms are based on an unrealistic understanding of virtues. It was a pleasure to write this article with my friend, the philosopher Brad Cokelet because it gave us a chance to think carefully about what a realistic virtue looks like.

Blaine Fowers
University of Miami

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Realistic virtues and how to study them: Introducing the STRIVE-4 model, Journal of Moral Education, November 2018, Taylor & Francis, DOI: 10.1080/03057240.2018.1528971.
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