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The Measure of Greatness: Philosophers on Magnanimity

The Measure of Greatness: Philosophers on Magnanimity

Magnanimity is a virtue that has led many lives. Foregrounded early on by Plato as a philosophical virtue par excellence, it became one of the crown jewels in Aristotle’s account of human excellence and was accorded equally salient place by other ancient thinkers. It is one of the most
distinctive elements of the ancient tradition to filter into the medieval Islamic and Christian worlds. It sparked important intellectual engagements and went on to carve deep tracks through several of the later philosophies to inherit from this tradition. Under changing names and reworked forms, it
would continue to breathe in the thought of Descartes and Hume, Kant, and Nietzsche. Its many lives have been joined by important continuities, yet they have also been fragmented by discontinuities — discontinuities reflecting larger shifts in ethical perspectives and competing answers to questions
about the nature of the good life, the moral nature of human beings, and their relationship to the social and natural world they inhabit. They have also been punctuated by moments of intense controversy in which the vision of human greatness has itself been called into doubt. The aim of this volume
is to provide an insight into the complex trajectory of a virtue whose glitter has at times been as dazzling as it has been divisive. By exploring the many lives it has lived, we will be in a better position to evaluate whether this is a virtue we still want to make central to our own ethical lives,
and why.

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