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Minor Virtues: A Deweyan Approach

            In this paper, I shall begin to sketch a Deweyan account of the central virtues of character. I call it Deweyan because it draws heavily on discussions of character development in Dewey's educational writings such as Democracy and Education.(1) It is not however Dewey's own theory. And this invites the question - why a Deweyan account of the virtues rather than Dewey's own? The answer is that Dewey's own account as presented in texts such as Ethics(2) and Human Nature and Conduct(3) does not contain the material for developing a robust theory of the virtues as things valuable in their own right distinct from their value as means to other ends. Thus I shall argue that it is a Deweyan rather than Dewey's account of the moral virtues that we need.
             In the first part of the paper, I shall critically examine Dewey's few sustained discussions of the virtues in order to explain and defend my rejection of these as the basis for a pragmatic account. In the second part, I shall follow up what I take to be more fruitful suggestions in Dewey's educational writings. On the basis of these, I shall lay the groundwork for a pragmatic view of the virtues central to a flourishing character.
             Because Dewey identifies right action as action that promotes human flourishing, his ethics has usually been classified as consequentialist. Saying exactly what sort of consequentialist Dewey is has been difficult, since his account of human flourishing does not specify any particular state(s) of affairs, internal or external, that would serve as the basis for evaluating human acts, choices, or life plans or as the object of maximizing calculations. For this reason, Dewey's pluralistic welfare consequentialism was rather vaguely grouped with other non-maximizing "consequentialists" such as Aristotle and David Hume.
             So long as ethical theories were necessarily either consequentialist or deontological, there was of course little choice.

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