Mattias Haase - June 2016 Working Group Meeting

Creatures of Habit

Recently it has been suggested that the concept of a virtue is to be elucidated by analogy to the concept of a skill in order to render intelligible how virtue can be a disposition that requires habituation without being mere routine. Like a skill it is a kind of intelligence or knowledge, a practical knowledge. According to the proposed picture, each of these two modes of practical knowledge – knowing how to do A and knowing to do A – is introduced by distinguishing it from what is called a mere or blind habit. In this way the concepts skill and virtue appear as the rational species of the general categories acquired capacity and acquired tendency that are taken to also apply to sub-rational animals. I call this the Modern Approach to habit. It rests on the assumption that the contrast between habituated and non-habituated dispositions and as well as the contrast between capacity and tendency are intelligible independently of the rational sub-categories. I criticize this view and oppose to it what I call the Orthodox Doctrine on habit endorsed by Aristotle, Aquinas and Hegel. On this view, the distinction between capacity, dynamis or potentia, on the one hand, and habit, hexisor habitus, on the other hand, is a formal feature that properly belongs to idea of a rational power. In this way only rational animals are, properly speaking, creatures of habit.