The Character Excellence Underlying Magnanimity: Reconceiving Aristotle's Crown Virtue




Martinez, Vincent E.

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Aristotle dedicates Book IV of the Nicomachean Ethics to discuss the excellences of character. Among these excellences, he gives a particularly intriguing discussion of magnanimity which has proven particularly problematic for interpreters. Aristotle describes magnanimity as the excellence of the person who believes he is worthy of great things and is worthy of them. In what follows, I show that if Aristotle intends to describe a proper character excellence then his account of magnanimity conflicts with habituation and intermediacy between two vices (essential characteristics of any character excellence). I propose an alternate conception of magnanimity which maintains Aristotle's intentions but also avoids inconsistencies between magnanimity and its status as a character excellence. Rather than a stand-alone character excellence, magnanimity is better conceived as the ultimate culmination of a more basic excellence, which I will call "moral ambition."


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Aristotle, Magnanimity, Pride, Self-worth, Virtue, Worthiness