Believe it or not, I’ve heard people describe modesty as a “virtue.” It obviously isn’t: it’s a direct, frontal assault on truth-telling. There should be less of it in the world, and more grandstanding.
With that ill-argued and implausible preface, I make a plug for a modest essay of mine, “David Solomon on Egoism and Virtue,” just published in a festschrift for the same Solomon, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Notre Dame, until recently Director of ND’s De Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture, and in perhaps his most daunting academic role, my dissertation advisor. My essay appears in the volume, ridiculously, among essays by the likes of Alasdair MacIntyre, John Haldane, and Candace Vogler, not to mention a response (which I haven’t yet read) by Solomon himself.
As for what he’s responding to: I honor my mentor and repay his patient forbearance of me by singling out a paper of his from a 1988 issue of Midwest Studies in Philosophy, and subjecting it to a sustained barrage of below-the-belt criticisms based on a fundamentally uncharitable reading of the article itself. Because that’s how I roll. It ain’t pretty, but it is published and for sale. I encourage readers to buy two copies, one for themselves, and one to leave at random on mass transit. The book itself is called Beyond the Self: Virtue Ethics and the Problem of Culture, published by Baylor, and edited by Raymond Hain of Providence College. As you’ve probably guessed by now, I didn’t pick the title.
While I’m at it, let me make a plug for David Riesbeck’s review of The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Ethics, edited by Christopher Bobonich (in Polis 36:2), which he describes, much too modestly, as a discussion of “a bunch of chapters by a bunch of people, adding up to a pretty decent book.” It’s more than that, but I wouldn’t want to brag, especially since I didn’t write it.
Speaking of virtue, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the virtue of courage–in particular, about what strikes me as the neurotic “superhero” conception of it that now seems to command adherence, at least in this country. I’m thinking, obviously, about the Scot Peterson case that I’ve mentioned a few times before, but also about a spate of other related cases, like that of Cordell Hendrex, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police officer who was first on the scene at the Las Vegas massacre of October 2017. Hendrex, assisted by a trainee and a few security guards, was expected to confront and take out Stephen Paddock, the heavily armed psychopath who barricaded himself on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, killing 58 and wounding 800 at a concert nearby. Instead, Hendrex “froze,” paralyzed into inaction by terror, and was recently fired from the police force. Unlike Peterson, he has not been subjected to ridicule or condemnations as a “coward,” in part because he’s managed to beat his critics to the punch.
I have real doubts about the conceptions of courage and cowardice implicit in the popular and legal/bureaucratic reactions to these cases, and am curious whether treatments of courage/cowardice in the virtue ethics literature have anything useful to contribute to our understanding of them. If you’ve got bibliographic recommendations, I’d like to hear them; feel free to mention them in the comments, perhaps with an explanation of what you take to be of value in the item you recommend. I’m not looking for stuff from any particular tradition or style of philosophy (whether analytic, Continental, historical, etc.), just anything worth reading.
P.S. Just got my copy of Beyond the Self yesterday. Turns out that Solomon’s essay is not a response to critics, but a 23-page historical essay on the dialectical arc of virtue ethics from Anscombe’s “Modern Moral Philosophy” to the near-present: “Elizabeth Anscombe and the Late Twentieth-Century Revival of Virtue Ethics.” Have only managed to skim it for now, but on a quick glance, it seems to give a very useful account of a somewhat neglected topic: the analytic reaction to work by philosophers working in the Catholic philosophical tradition, and vice versa. A lot of good stuff in the volume, overall. This link takes you to the Table of Contents.