Unformatted text preview: then he must lack in virtue. And since
the action he should be motivated to conduct is a self-endangering one then he must lack a
virtue which enables one transform his self-preserving motivation into ones which allow selfendangering actions his role in a practice requires of him – and that is – courage. If Owen
lacks courage, than he is a coward, that is, he has a certain character deficiency which bars
him from taking his part in pursuing the good of the Wingrave family practice even if he
indeed does care for these goods and the practice itself.
That would, in short, be the Macintyreian interpretation of the argument that the CEU eTD Collection Wingraves are making against Owen, and I believe that it is much more accurate than the one
made by Williams. First, because it fits better with the explicit claims that they are making,
and second because it is able to explain their accusation of cowardice that they are raising
On one point, however, Williams is obviously right: the Wingrave family argument,
indeed, misses that point, but, as I am going to show, for completely different reasons than the 39 Consider for instance this passage from James’ story, in which Spencer Coyle, Owen’s military instructor
describes Owen’s aunt: “She’s formidable, if you mean that, and it’s right that she should be; because somehow
in her very person very person, good maiden lady as she is, she represents the might, she represents the tradition
and the exploits of the British army.”, Henry James, Owen Wingrave 23 ones that Williams offers. For one, what Wingraves claim is wrong in a very obvious way –
Owen is not a coward, as he will prove by risking his life in the end of the story. So, there has
to a different reason for his declining to join the army. What is that reason?
The obvious answer is the one Owen himself offers for his behavior: he believes that
war is a terrible thing, and that causing and participating in it is morally wrong. What is the
nature of this claim? James implies in one place that Owen puts this claim as a claim of
personal belief and nothing else (“He [Owen] evidently didn’t pretend that his wisdom is
superior; he only presented it as his own”), however, if it is also obvious that it is a very
strong claim about the military practice as such, and the goals and goods that it is pursuing.
And if, according to Macintyre, a tradition of practice, and the institution bearing it, are
largely constituted by “continuous conflict” about the very goods and goals of the practice are
and what they ought to be, than Owen’s objection would have to be treated as a claim in this
conflict. But, it is not so treated, and indeed can not be so treated. Why is that?
First of all, it is unclear on the level of which tradition, or its accompanying institution
could Owen’s claim be discussed. And this lack of clarity, I argue, is a result of a lack of
clarity on a more basic issue, and that is the issue of the exact relationship between the
tradition of the practice of the family life on one side, and the trad...
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