Denise Vigani

Welcome!

I am an assistant professor in philosophy at Seton Hall University. My primary areas of research are virtue ethics and moral psychology.

I work in the Aristotelian tradition. My research involves elaborating and elucidating Aristotle’s views on the virtues, developing accounts of individual virtues, and investigating the relationship between virtue and practical reasoning. Much of my work is informed by empirically-oriented research in psychology and cognitive science. My aim is to elaborate an empirically plausible moral psychology of neo-Aristotelian virtue.

Research

“Aristotle’s Account of Courage,” History of Philosophy Quarterly, forthcoming.

Aristotle’s account of courage in the Nicomachean Ethics leaves readers with several unresolved issues. In this paper, I draw out three: 1) questions regarding the scope of the virtue; 2) the extent to which, or even if, the courageous experience fear; and 3) if—and if so, how—Aristotle’s distinction between virtue and continence might hold in the case of courage. I argue that there are good reasons to extend the scope of courage beyond the battlefield and risk of life and limb, that Aristotle does not acknowledge the possibility that the courageous experience fear when exercising courage, and that the distinction between continence and virtue can, indeed, hold in the case of courage.

“Is Patience a Virtue?” Journal of Value Inquiry, 2017, 51(2): 327-340.

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‘Patience is a virtue,’ so the saying goes. But there are actually significant challenges to developing a neo-Aristotelian account of a virtue of patience. First, on an Aristotelian understanding, virtue is both instrumentally good and good in itself. Yet, with the exception of Christian ethics, a primarily—and often, exclusively—instrumental view of patience is pervasive in the philosophical literature. Can we provide a secular account of patience as not merely instrumentally valuable, but also valuable in itself? Furthermore, these instrumental views of patience make it seem more like a psychological skill than a virtue of character. But skills can be misused. If patience is to be a virtue, we need an account of it that entails goodness in its possessor. Finally, there is the challenge of specifying a field, or sphere of concern, for patience, especially given the wide diversity of phenomena that we tend to attribute to it. I propose a thin account of a virtue of patience that, I contend, can meet these challenges.

“Moral Judgments and Motivation: Making Sense of Mixed Intuitions,” Ethical Perspectives, 2016, 23(2): 209-230.

This paper suggests an approach to the debate between motivational judgment internalism and motivational judgment externalism that can accommodate the fact that most individuals seem to hold a mix of internalist and externalist intuitions. Drawing on psychologist Augusto Blasi’s ‘self model,’ I contend that the notion of identity-based motivation can provide a straightforward story about moral judgments and motivation in a way that makes sense of our mix of intuitions. Despite not appearing to fit neatly under either internalism or externalism, the resulting view seems able to account for many of the longstanding concerns of the debate.

“Virtuous Construal: A Qualified Defense of Silencing”

The contemporary literature presents two competing models of how virtuous individuals reason practically. One is the overriding view, which holds that a virtuous individual can acknowledge competing reasons for acting but that some considerations are overridden or outweighed when virtue demands. The other is the silencing view, most notably advanced by John McDowell. On the silencing view, considerations in favor of acting contrary to virtue are not outweighed or overridden, but rather silenced altogether; they fail to operate as reasons at all. The silencing view has faced substantial criticism. Even those who are sympathetic to the view seem to think that there is something wrong about the notion that considerations such as one’s life, health, or loved ones, can be altogether silenced. As a result, the overriding view appears to be the dominant view in the literature. I contend that neither the silencing view nor the overriding view gets things right when it comes to how the virtuous reason practically. In this paper, I offer a modified silencing view of practical reasoning. Unlike the silencing and overriding views, the view that I develop can account for the virtuous person’s invulnerability to temptation while also allowing that the virtuous can and do weigh reasons for and against various courses of actions in particular situations.

Curriculum Vitae

Employment

Assistant Professor in Philosophy
Seton Hall University
Aug 2017–present

Adjunct Assistant Professor in Philosophy
Drew University
Aug 2016–May 2017

Graduate Teaching Fellow in Philosophy
Brooklyn College, CUNY
Aug 2010–Dec 2012

Education

Ph.D., Philosophy, The Graduate Center, CUNY

Certificate in Women’s Studies, The Graduate Center, CUNY

M.A., Philosophy, University of Auckland

B.A., Philosophy, French, and English, Drew University

AOS

Virtue Ethics, Moral Psychology

AOC

Business Ethics, Feminist Philosophy, Ancient and Medieval Philosophy, Philosophy of Art

Publications

“Aristotle’s Account of Courage,” History of Philosophy Quarterly, forthcoming.

“Is Patience a Virtue?” Journal of Value Inquiry, 2017, 51(2): 327-340.

“Moral Judgments and Motivation: Making Sense of Mixed Intuitions,” Ethical Perspectives, 2016, 23(2): 209-230.

Selected Presentations

“Virtue and Embodied Skill: Refining the Virtue-Skill Analogy”
Virtue, Skill, and Practical Reason Conference, Cape Town, South Africa, August 2017

“Is Patience a Virtue?”
Neglected Virtues: A Conference in Honour of Rosalind Hursthouse, Auckland, NZ, August 2015

“Finding Normativity in Subjective Construal”
Poster, APA Pacific Division, San Diego, CA, April 2014

“Individuating the Virtues”
Columbia-NYU Graduate Conference in Philosophy, New York, April 2014

“Moral Judgments and Identity-Based Motivation”
Australasian Association of Philosophy, Wollongong, Australia, July 2012

Grants and Awards

Dissertation Completion Fellowship, Mellon/American Council of Learned Societies

Dissertation Year Award, The Graduate Center, CUNY (declined for Mellon/ACLS)

Enhanced Chancellor’s Fellowship, The Graduate Center, CUNY

Doctoral Student Research Grant, The Graduate Center, CUNY (twice)

Provost’s Summer Research Award, The Graduate Center, CUNY

Teaching

Fall 2017, Seton Hall University
Ethics
Modern Society & Human Happiness

Spring 2017, Drew University
Introduction to Ethics
Feminist Perspectives in Ethical Theory

Fall 2016, Drew University
Introduction to Ethics
History of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy

About Me

I was born and raised in New Jersey and received my B.A. in Philosophy, French, and English from Drew University. I spent two years in New Zealand getting my M.A. in philosophy from the University of Auckland before beginning my doctoral studies at The Graduate Center, CUNY.

I have been teaching one thing or another for most of my adult life. I trained as a tap dancer in New York City while an undergraduate and taught tap for several years both during and after college. I’ve also been a ski instructor. Before returning to graduate school, I taught high school English.

I can be reached at .