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Posts from Edward Phelps, Houston

Edward Phelps, HoustonEdward Phelps, Houston
Edward Phelps, Houston

The idea that virtue is subjective is something of a misstatement, based, in part, on the common concept that virtue is interchangeable with values. The initial substitution can be traced, I believe, to Nietzsche and then Max Weber. In that construct, then, with the death of truth (an absolute condition and a virtue) we have the absence of good and evil and virtue and vice. With the acceptance in modern society of the substitution, Western society also accepted the concept that all moral ideas are subjective and relative, which is quite at odds even as late as the Victorian period in England. For the Victorians, virtues were fixed and absolute; this is at odds with Aquinas but not all of Western thought. Virtues included such things as work, discipline, thrift, self-help, and self-discipline. Virtue was the force behind manners, and manners the force behind a civilized people. Contrast, if you will, today's cultural and social exchanges with that of the Victorian period, particularly in the arena of criminal behavior. With the imposition of Victorian virtue, crime fell dramatically as all classes embraced the virtue of honesty and integrity. We would do better to consider that same condition.

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