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In recent years, the virtues have made a dramatic reappearance in Anglophone ethics, and it is safe to credit Elizabeth Anscombe with sparking this interest in her 1958 essay, ‘Modern Moral Philosophy’. In urging a return to Aristotle, Anscombe sets us a task that she does not know how to complete. Her bafflement should set constraints on interpreting the essay. I argue that Anscombe's complaints against neo-Kantianism and social contract were of a piece with her sense that virtue-centred ethics presented serious philosophical challenges. The problem becomes clear when we notice that accounting for just interaction requires that various agents act from a single source. The uniformity cannot rest on an accidental convergence of individuals (hence cannot be built up, person by person). Nor can it be a simple matter of the internalization of social norms. Neo-Aristotelians taking their cue from Anscombe seek that source in our species. But even after we have rejected empiricist accounts of our species, the hard work of explaining how something of virtue belongs to our kind remains to be done.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Philosophy University of Chicago 1115 E. 58th Street Chicago, IL 60637 USA

Publication date: May 1, 2006

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