Practical Intelligence and the Virtues

Research output: Book/ReportBook

315 Scopus citations


One of the most important developments in modern moral philosophy is the resurgence of interest in the virtues. This book explores two important hopes for such an approach to moral thought: that starting from the virtues should cast light on what makes an action right, and that notions like character, virtue, and vice should yield a plausible picture of human psychology. The book argues that the key to each of these hopes is an understanding of the cognitive and deliberative skills involved in the virtues. If right action is defined in terms of acting generously or kindly, then these virtues must involve skills for determining what the kind or generous thing to do would be on a given occasion. The book also argues that understanding virtuous action as the intelligent pursuit of virtuous goals yields a promising picture of the psychology of virtue. On the whole, this book develops an Aristotelian account of the virtue of practical intelligence or phronesis - an excellence of deliberating and making choices - and argues that phronesis is a necessary part of every virtue. This emphasis on the roots of the virtues in the practical intellect contrasts with ambivalence about the practical intellect in much recent work on the virtues. This book also examines issues like the unity of the virtues, responsibility for character, and "the virtuous person".

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages464
ISBN (Electronic)9780191721311
ISBN (Print)9780199565795
StatePublished - May 1 2009


  • Ethics
  • Moral philosophy
  • Moral psychology
  • Phronesis
  • Practical intelligence
  • Right action
  • Situationism
  • Social psychology
  • Virtue
  • Virtue ethics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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