Academic virtues: Site specific and under threat

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Journal Article

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Levine, M. P., & Cox, D. (2016). Academic virtues: Site specific and under threat. The Journal of Value Inquiry, 50(3), 1-15.

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016


0022-5363 (print), 1573-0492 (online)



Clearly, academic life takes place at the intersection of many social practices. If MacIntyre is right, the role-specific virtues of academic life should be understood in terms of these practices.2 Academic virtues are those excellences required to obtain the internal goods of the social practices constituting academic life. And the social practices of academic life are sustained, competitive and cooperative attempts to achieve a set of academic goals (e.g. to advance and transmit knowledge, abilities and values) and realize academic forms of excellence. They are also sustained attempts to expand and improve conceptions of these goals and forms of excellence. They emerge out of traditions—for instance the tradition of scientific argument— and must be understood in terms of these traditions.

MacIntyre argues that this preliminary account of virtues in relation to social practices needs to be deepened in two ways: connecting it to the unity of an individual’s life on the one hand and to a coherent historical tradition on the other. Virtues are not just any set of traits delivering the internal goods of social practices, but those that serve to make coherent a person’s life and her place in an on-going tradition. They are crucial to lending meaning to one’s life and its struggles.

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