Date of Award

May 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Nataliya Palatnik

Committee Members

William Bristow, Blain Neufeld


I defend a realist, Aristotelian theory of moral normativity on which moral virtue is the natural conclusion of the successful exercise of practical reason. More specifically, I argue that the avoidance of regret is a constitutive feature of practical rationality, and that because we are social beings, moral virtue serves as a general strategy for the minimization of regrets, and especially of serious regrets. Because I draw on aspects of John McDowell's Aristotelian moral realism, I begin with an examination of his view, and a discussion of why he thinks that virtuous conclusions require the prior possession of virtuous dispositions. McDowell argues that statements of the form “we need moral virtue in view of x” can only sway the already-virtuous, since it is possible, through incorrect habituation, for us to come to value things that do not require virtue. I argue, however, that once we understand the avoidance of regret as a requirement of practical rationality, and sociability as an innate characteristic humans share, we can see that even the unvirtuous require moral virtue. While this does not mean good reasoning alone can make us virtuous—since seeing the world as the virtuous person does requires habituation—it does suggest that we all share the capacity to appreciate the necessity of such habituation.