Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Tracy Isaacs


In On Virtue Ethics, Rosalind Husthouse outlines an account of virtue ethics and human flourishing grounded in an understanding of human beings as emotionally complex, social, and rational animals. These attributes give rise to a set of ends against which the goodness of our behavioural, affective, and intellectual dispositions are measured, namely, 1) survival of the individual, 2) continuance of the species, 3) characteristic enjoyment of pleasures (and avoidance of pain), and 4) the good functioning of the social group.

I contend, however, that this picture is incomplete. More specifically, I outline the psychological effects of prolonged solitary confinement to make the case that Hursthouse’s model excludes an important and morally salient human attribute: relationality. Moreover, as a result of this exclusion, Hursthouse’s model also leaves out an important end against which to measure the goodness of character traits, namely, the granting of recognition.

Taking seriously the role of recognition in evaluations of goodness gives rise to a number of virtues that are not normally foregrounded by virtue ethicists. I identify and discuss six of these virtues of recognition. The first three are reflexivity, reflectivity, and attentiveness. I characterize these three as “virtues of cognizing” insofar as they play a role in apprehending (with reasonable accuracy) the ways others experience the world. The other three character traits I offer as examples of virtues of recognition are epistemic temperance, deference guided by humility, and a moralized notion of etiquette. I characterize these as virtues of recognizing since they are involved in communicating to others our recognition of the character of their experiences.