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Can animals possess individual virtue?

I really don’t think virtue can be applied to individual dogs, the key reason being their lack of self-consciousness. While non-human species may have certain rights (a question I don’t really want to get too far into here) I will agree with most traditional thinkers that virtue and morality are not possible to them (Aristotle took this as almost self-evident, going past it rapidly in Book 1, Chapter 13 of his Nicomachean Ethics.). Ironically it is the anthropomorphic principle that causes us to so readily find human traits in other species, dogs being the working example here. Let us consider the example of the watch dog. What makes for excellence in a watch dog? In the end, it is training that differentiates the mediocre watch dog from the excellent one, and the training is really just a self-conscious human guiding the instincts of the dog to serve an end other than the dog’s own inclinations. In that sense, all domestic species are tainted by their dependence on humans. As for the famous loyalty in dogs, how much of that is instinct or habit, and how much is truly what we generally understand as loyalty? What would a moral dilemma look like in the life of a dog? For these reasons I see the animal kingdom as exempt from morality, but also thereby exempt from virtue.

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