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The Virtues (and a Few Vices) of Daniel Russell's Practical Intelligence and the Virtues

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Daniel Russell's Practical Intelligence and the Virtues is principally a defense of the Aristotelian claim that phronesis is part of every unqualified virtue—a defense of what Russell calls "hard virtue theory" and "hard virtue ethics." The main support for this is the further claim that we would be unable to act well reliably, or form our character reliably, without phronesis performing its "twin roles": correctly identifying the mean of each virtue, and integrating the mean of each virtue with those of others so as to enable us to act in an overall virtuous manner. In following Russell's argument for these claims, we find much else of interest, including a persuasive account of right action and a resurrection of the old doctrine of cardinal virtues. Here I seek first to give readers a sense of the range and depth of this important book by summarizing the main lines of its argument. But I also raise some critical points, the most substantive of which concern his treatments of the unity of the virtues and of responsibility for character.


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