Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Nancy Schauber


In the Aristotelian tradition, virtue ethicists often distinguish virtue from continence. Virtue is the ideal state of character, continence is the good but inferior character. While both virtuous and continent agents act in a way that is both (morally) correct, the virtuous person is considered most praiseworthy because she feels the right way about acting well. She takes pleasure in performing virtuous actions and is never tempted by considerations that compete with virtue. In contrast, the continent person feels ambivalent about performing virtuous actions. He is someone who possesses base appetites and is often tempted by them (and pained by their deprivation). Therefore, even though he performs virtuous actions, he finds them difficult and has to struggle with competing inclinations. Essentially, then, virtue is a state of internal harmony while continence is that of inner conflict. If this distinctively Aristotelian picture of virtue and continence is right, it raises an important question about the psychological differences between the two agents: How exactly do we explain the virtuous person’s supposed invulnerability to temptation? Is this person so good that the thought of performing a less than noble action never enters her mind? Does this person only dream chaste dreams?

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