SOPhiA 2019

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Must good cooks be virtuous cooks?
(Ethics, English)

This talk focuses on how we delineate the domain in which moral virtues are developed. This question arises specifically in the analogy between virtues and practical skills. This analogy tries to offer a psychologically satisfying model of how the virtuous person knows what to do. Just like expertise in practical skills, virtues are developed by practice, and exercised intelligently.

A weak spot for this analogy is how it deals with practical wisdom, the virtuous person's ability to identify genuine virtues, and to arbitrate between seemingly conflicting demands. What makes a person wise seems much more vague and contentious than virtues like bravery, let alone practical skills like chess and piano-playing. It then seems inadequate to analyze wisdom as a separate skill with its own domain.

This challenge must be met by a sophisticated account of wisdom. The resources for this are provided by Julia Annas' view that practical wisdom develops along with your character as a whole, as opposed to being a separate skill with its own domain. We are wise to the extent that we successfully integrate the demands of different virtues into our character as a whole. To be generous, I must also be sensitive to demands of justice, kindness, and courage for example. What Annas overlooks is the question of what the scope of practical wisdom is. If we define it too narrowly we fail to recognize the extent to which the virtues are integrated in our everyday practices. If we define it too broadly we are ultimately committed to the idea that to be really virtuous, we must also excel at our everyday practices like cooking. I will defend such a broad account. The idea is that my conception living well involves many roles such as being a good student, being a good friend, or being a good cook. "Being a good cook" in this sense is a thick description that means more than just being able to cook nice food, just like "being a good doctor" means more than being able to perform surgery well.

Chair: Amit Pinsker
Time: 11:20-11:50, 19 September 2019 (Thursday)
Location: SR 1.004

Michiel Esseling 
(Utrecht University, Nederland)

Michiel Esseling is a student in the philosophy research master program at Utrecht University, and an intern in the Fair Limits project. He holds a bachelor's degree in Philosophy from Utrecht University, where he is currently enrolled in the Research Master program in Philosophy. He is interested in many subfields of practical philosophy, like moral psychology, metaethics and distributive justice, but also in fields like action theory and social philosophy.

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