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The Case for GreatnessHonorable Ambition and Its Critics$
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Robert Faulkner

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780300123937

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300123937.001.0001

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Honorable Greatness Denied (2): The Premises

Honorable Greatness Denied (2): The Premises

(p.219) Chapter Eight Honorable Greatness Denied (2): The Premises
The Case for Greatness

Robert Faulkner

Yale University Press

This chapter aims to outline the underlying dynamic of modern political theories at work in the stories, complicated doubts, and paradoxical denials of John Rawls and Hannah Arendt. The chapter then sketches a representative early modern critique of virtue and especially superior virtue (Hobbes's), the leading attempt to recover morality by a teaching of equal dignity (Kant's), and finally how Nietzschean thought brought about the relativism and postmodern efflorescence—all of which would create the sense of skepticism about human excellence. Thomas Hobbes began this attack by targeting ancient, biblical virtue, as well as the ancients' praise of magnanimity. What Aristotle defined as magnanimity, Hobbes would refer to as foolish and dangerous “vanity.” Thus this chapter outlines the possible origins of this modern skepticism by looking at its critics and their attacking theories on the idea and concept of greatness in an individual.

Keywords:   modern political theories, John Rawls, Hannah Arendt, modern critique of virtue, superior virtue, Thomas Hobbes, Kant, human excellence

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