Department of Philosophy

Civic Virtues and Vices

Project summary

There has been a significant recent revival of interest in virtues – and vices – in some parts of philosophy. In particular, virtues and vices have been the subject of considerable recent discussion in ethics and epistemology (eg, DePaul and Zagzebski 2003; Alfano 2015; Cassam forthcoming).

Painting of a one man being pulled away from a table as he argues with another man sat at the table. There are people around the table shouting and watching; bar games have fallen off the table.

Philosophers working in these areas have made significant progress in discussing the nature of virtue and vice in general, and in identifying and articulating the significance of particular virtues, especially the ethical and epistemic virtues. By contrast, there has been relatively little attention paid to civic or political virtues, despite the ‘citizenship revival’ of the 1980s and 1990s. 

This project aims to develop new insights about civic virtues by considering them in the light of recent philosophical work on virtues and vices in ethics and epistemology. Some civic virtues and vices are ethical or epistemic, while others may be hybrid ethic-epistemic virtues. Where that is true, recent work in these other areas will directly illuminate civic virtues and vices.

But it is equally important to consider the distinctiveness of civic virtues and vices from ethical and epistemic virtues and vices. Moreover, we are hopeful about the causal importance of civic virtues and vices in producing political outcomes. If we wish to achieve good political outcomes – however those are defined – we need to pay attention to the causal importance of citizens and their qualities, and not just to the causal importance of political institutions and procedures. This is not a new insight, but its importance is underlined by recent political events in mature democracies. 



Department of Philosophy

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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