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The Moral Importance of Admiration

Linda Zagzebski | Joint Session of the Aristotelian Society and the Mind Association | University of Warwick

Admiration and the Admirable

Linda Zagzebski (Oklahoma)



The category of the admirable has received little attention in the history of philosophy, even among virtue ethicists. I don’t think we can understand the admirable without investigating the emotion of admiration. I have argued that admiration is an emotion in which the object is “seen as admirable,” and which motivates us to emulate the admired person in the relevant respect. Our judgments of admirability can be distorted by the malfunction of our disposition to admiration. We all know many ways in which admiration misfires when people admire someone who is not admirable. In this paper I focus on a different kind of mistake, one in which there is resistance to moving from admiring to emulating someone admirable. I think that Aristotle’s zelos is in between admiration and envy, and it points us to a predictable line of deviation from admiration to the path of envy, spite, and ressentiment. I think these are mistakes to which people in the modern age are particularly prone.


Linda Zagzebski is George Lynn Cross Research Professor and Kingfisher College Chair of the Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at the University of Oklahoma. She received her B.A. from Stanford University, her M.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and her Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles. A native Californian, she taught at Loyola Marymount University for twenty years before moving to Oklahoma. She is Vice President and President-elect of the American Philosophical Association Central Division. She is also past President of the Society of Christian Philosophers, and past President of the American Catholic Philosophical Association. In 2012-13 she held a Guggenheim Fellowship to complete her book, Epistemic Authority: A Theory of Trust, Authority, and Autonomy in Belief (Oxford University Press, 2012). She will give the Gifford Lectures at the University of St. Andrews in fall 2015 on the topic of her current book project, Exemplarist Virtue theory. Among her other endowed lectures, she has given the Aquinas Lecture at Marquette University (2013), the Romanell Lectures of Phi Beta Kappa (2005), the McCarthy Lectures at the Gregorian University in Rome (2006), the Wilde Lectures in Natural Religion at Oxford (2010), the Kaminski Lectures at the Catholic University of Lublin, Poland (2011), and the Olaus Petri Lectures at the University of Uppsala (2011). Her Aquinas Lecture, Omnisubjectivity: A Defense of a Divine Attribute, is published by Marquette University Press (2013). Other books include The Dilemma of Freedom and Foreknowledge, (Oxford University Press, 1991), Virtues of the Mind (Cambridge University Press, 1996), Divine Motivation Theory (Cambridge University Press, 2004), Philosophy of Religion: An Historical Introduction (Blackwell, 2007), and On Epistemology (Wadsworth, 2008), as well as many edited books and articles in virtue epistemology, philosophy of religion, and virtue ethics, translated into ten languages.

Terence Irwin | Joint Session of the Aristotelian Society and the Mind Association | University of Warwick

Nil admirari? Uses and abuses of admiration

Terence Irwin (Oxford)



Terence Irwin is Professor of Ancient Philosophy in the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Keble College. From 1975 to 2006 he taught at Cornell University. He is the author of: Plato’s Gorgias (translation and notes), Clarendon Plato Series, Oxford UP, 1979; Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (translation and notes), Hackett Publishing Co., 2nd edn., 1999; Aristotle’s First Principles, Oxford UP, 1988; Classical Thought, Oxford UP, 1989; Plato’s Ethics, Oxford UP, 1995; The Development of Ethics, 3 vols. (Oxford UP, 2007-9).

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