The Structure of the Virtues: A Study of Thomas Aquinas’s and Godfrey of Fontaines's Accounts of Moral Goodness

  • Date:
  • Location: Sal VIII, Universitetshuset, Biskopsgatan 3, 753 10, Uppsala
  • Doctoral student: Stöpfgeshoff, Alexander
  • About the dissertation
  • Organiser: Filosofiska institutionen
  • Contact person: Stöpfgeshoff, Alexander
  • Disputation

This dissertation is a study of Thomas Aquinas’s (1225–1274) and Godfrey of Fontaines’s (d. 1306) moral philosophies. In this study, I conduct a detailed analysis of two Aristotelian commitments concerning the character virtues, namely, The Plurality of the Character Virtues and The Connection of the Character Virtues.

Both Aquinas and Godfrey think that there are many distinct character virtues (such as moderation and justice), however, one cannot (perfectly) possess these character virtues in separation from each other.

In Chapter I, it is established that Aquinas believes in the plurality of the character virtues not because of a specific account of the human soul, but because he is committed to a plurality in what he calls “the notion of goodness.” In Chapter II, it is argued that Aquinas’s account of virtuous action requires that there be a likeness between a person and their actions in terms of the notion of goodness explored in Chapter I. Chapters III through V lay out my account of how to reconstruct both Aquinas’s and Godfrey’s arguments for The Connection of the Character Virtues. The focus here lies on finding an interpretation that provides a valid argument for the connection of the character virtues. I argue that we ought to focus on a dependence between prudence and the character virtues. A central problem for this analysis is how to account for prudence as a unified virtue. On this issue, Godfrey provides an explicit argument that conceives of prudence as unified because prudence strikes a balance between the character virtues. Chapter VI investigates whether different groups, such as men and women, possess different types of character virtues. Godfrey offers a novel argument for the impossibility of male- and female-specific virtues. Finally, Chapter VII explores the question of how we should understand Godfrey’s account of prudence itself. I show that his discussion emphasizes the variable nature of ethics and that he endorses a view that has certain affinities with ethical particularism (in the contemporary sense).