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The Impossibility of PerfectionAristotle, Feminism, and the Complexities of Ethics$
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Michael Slote

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199790821

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199790821.001.0001

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Alternative Views

Alternative Views

(p.54) Chapter 3 Alternative Views
The Impossibility of Perfection

Micheal Slote

Oxford University Press

There are at least four main views about the structure of the virtues. Aristotle holds that the virtues are a unity and that perfection is possible; Peter Geach claims that they don't form a unity, but that they are mutually compatible and allow for perfection; A. D. M. Walker says that the virtues neither form a unity nor are mutually compatible, but appears to hold, nonetheless, that perfect virtue is possible; and Isaiah Berlin and I think that the virtues aren't a unity and that they conflict in ways that make perfect virtue impossible. Berlin's views and my own stand diametrically opposed to Aristotle's in this ethical spectrum. But it is also important to see that the examples that were used to support our view aren't open to certain obvious objections. One can’t, for example, ensure the possibility of perfection by assigning conflicting goods or virtues to different periods of life or by making it (too) easy to possess them.

Keywords:   Aristotle, Isaiah Berlin, conflicts of virtues, counterexamples, Peter Geach, Gary Watson, partial values, perfection, unity thesis, A. D. M. Walker

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