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Thread: What is the Virtue of ‘Virtue’?

  1. #1 What is the Virtue of ‘Virtue’? 
    Forum Ph.D.
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    What is the Virtue of ‘Virtue’?

    I was listening to NPR and the speaker said something to the effect ‘let the market decide the value of our higher education system…and the market appears to think that our higher education system is doing a fine job’. Who or what determines values in our society?

    “There is a tendency to use the term ‘virtue’ in an abstract “moralistic” sense—a way that makes it almost Pharisaic in character.”--John Dewey My first thought after reading this and ‘looking up’ the word ‘Pharisaic’ (self-righteous) turns to William Bennett, gambler, ideologue, czar, and author of “The Book of Virtues”.

    John Dewey wrote the above quote about virtue in his book “Ethics”. He further identifies the concept ‘virtue’ to mean a talent turned toward enhancing social values. Dewey says “every natural capacity, every talent or ability, whether of inquiring mind, of gentle affection, or of executive skill, becomes a virtue when it is turned to account in supporting or extending the fabric of social values.”

    When I read recently that Warren Buffet had given thirty billion dollars to the Gates charitable foundation I thought immediately of Dewey’s conception of the word ‘virtue’. I remembered having discussed Dewey’s concept of virtue in a Great Books Discussion Group decades ago.

    Warren Buffet and Bill Gates have manifested for us the Dewey concept of virtue. Two individuals who have used their respective talents to make scads of money have then turned that money into a virtue by placing that wealth toward “extending the fabric of social values”.

    I will include George Soros with Buffet and Gates. Soros, philosopher/tycoon in my judgment, started many decades ago The Open Society Foundation. This foundation began in 1979 when Soros’ foundation provided scholarships to African students for their enrolment to the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

    Money is not the metric of value here but is a medium for converting the unique and wonderful talents of these three men into a virtue. I never before thought of these men as being exemplars of virtue but I certainly do now.

    Is it wise to allow the market to set the standard of value for our colleges and universities?

    It seems to me that the only value the market knows is ‘cash value’.

    Does there exist in our society any other means for determining the value of anything? Is the market our ‘default’ position for determining value for most everything?

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