Must Virtue Be Particular?
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
A resurgence of interest in virtue ethics has spawned its counterpart in legal theory. But in both legal theory and in moral theory, virtue ethics’ focus on the character of the moral agent (or the legal decision-maker) has been coupled with the view that the virtuous deliberator or decision-maker is also particularistic, striving to make the best all-things-considered decision for the particular matter at hand. The particularism of modern virtue ethics fits well with virtue ethics’ Aristotelian roots, and also with the modern interest in particularism associated with philosophers such as Jonathan Dancy. But must virtue theory’s focus on the agent’s character necessarily be coupled with particularism? In this paper, a response to a paper by H.L. Ho, I question the almost universal conjunction of virtue ethics (and virtuous legal decision-making) with particularism, and suggest that virtue need not be particularistic, and that, in some contexts, virtue, and especially the virtue of humility about one’s own decision-making capacities, may lie in non-particularism.