Published online by Cambridge University Press: 30 January 2009
Moral theories which, like those of Plato, Aristotle and Aquinas, give a central place to the virtues, tend to assume that as traits of character the virtues are mutually compatible so that it is possible for one and the same person to possess them all. This assumption—let us call it the compatibility thesis—does not deny the existence of painful moral dilemmas: it allows that the virtues may conflict in particular situations when considerations associated with different virtues favour incompatible courses of action, but holds that these conflicts occur only at the level of individual actions. Thus while it may not always be possible to do both what would be just and what would be kind or to act both loyally and honestly, it is possible to be both a kind and a just person and to have both the virtue of loyalty and the virtue of honesty.
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6 Compare Bernard Williams's distinction between inconsistent beliefs and conflicting beliefs in ‘Ethical Consistency’, Problems of the Self (Cambridge University Press), 166–167.Google Scholar
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11 Op. cit. note 10, 128.
12 Op. cit. note 10, 90.
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26 I should like to thank Angela Walker and T. S. Champlin for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper and Renford Bambrough for editorial advice.