I’m currently working on a book about the virtue of humility, and have been reading through parts of a great philosophical book by Robert C. Roberts and W. Jay Wood, Intellectual Virtues. They define virtues as traits that make one an excellent person. I like this definition, as it focuses not just on capacities or abilities of persons, but persons themselves.
There is an interesting discussion in chapter 3 about motive and virtue. Specifically, in a discussion of humility, Roberts and Wood state that
Humility presupposes an overriding interest in something…Christ’s humility is shown by his willingness to forfeit or set aside his divine standing (Phil. 2:6-8). It presupposes his charity towards sinners, which is what motivates him to undertake the task in which he exhibits his humility. But it seems to make sense that he is motivated, not by his humility, but by his charity (pp. 77-78).
This got me to thinking about the connections between virtue and motivation more generally. I don’t know if this is a proper motivation, but I think that sometimes I’m motivated to act in a particular way because I want to have or express the relevant virtue. For example, I am at times motivated to act patiently because I want to be patient. But I wonder if the motives for being courageous, humble, patient, or zealous should never ultimately be the virtue itself, but the good at which it ultimately aims?
What do you think?