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Abstract

This paper explores the relationships between philosophical ethics and literary narratives. The focus on virtues and vices in recent ethics has made narratives more integrally relevant to ethics. Some of the best literature displays moral (and immoral) character in richer ways than philosophy alone has resources to do, but philosophy brings to its description a schematic precision that narrative alone cannot supply. As traits of character, virtues differ from events like the actions, thoughts, emotions, and episodic desires that express the traits; traits are not episodes, but dispositions, and so require cumulative diachronic representation of such episodes. The paper illustrates this point particularly with respect to emotions. It ends with reflections on the constitutive narratives by which the grammar of the virtues of some moral traditions, such as Judaism and Christianity, is shaped.