Strongly disagree. If you think of Virtue-with-a-capital-V as a Hellenic deity or a Platonic essence, then sure, Virtue doesn’t exist. But if “virtue” is like “honesty”, ie. a name for a particular pattern of action that is observable and which can be somewhat-objectively evaluated, then virtue absolutely exists, even if we might disagree about its identification.
I could rephrase my claim here by saying that utility is what actually matters, and that there isn’t actually a thing called virtue that matters in and of itself. I agree that virtue can still be a useful concept for generating utility. But it seems wrong to me to say ‘virtue can be a useful concept for generating utility, and therefore virtue has intrinsic value’. To me, it’s just a useful concept.
Now, about the actual meat of your argument: you seem to have inverted the classical way of thinking of the virtues, which is that a person is virtuous precisely insofar as their virtues are habituated. You suggest that we award Virtue Points for initially acquiring some skill which is both difficult and praiseworthy, but stop awarding them thereafter. To the classical authors, this is backwards: the state in which you effortlessly always do the right thing is virtue, while the struggles to get there are merely the process of its acquisition.
(And yeah, this implies that some people are naturally more virtuous than others, just like some people are taller or smarter than others. C’est la vie.)
I don’t think I agree with virtue ethics, but I definitely agree that the virtue that I’m talking about and the virtue that virtue ethicists talk about are different things.
I don’t think the models are totally incompatible: your Virtue Points are just the delta between different levels of virtue.
Interesting. I guess since I’m not a virtue ethicist, I think it’s probably not a good idea to define my virtue with respect to that kind of virtue.
Nonetheless, I think it’s more useful to model virtue as a state and not as a series of events, and to think of yourself and others as virtuous based on their expressed habits, not on how much they’re struggling to acquire them.
I think that utility comes from people’s expressed habits and not how much they’re struggling to acquire them, but my claim in the post is that we shouldn’t be internally praising expressed habits as opposed to effort to acquire them as much as we currently do. It’s probable that we also shouldn’t be externally praising expressed habits as much as we currently do either, although this isn’t a claim I explicitly make in the post, and one I’d need to think about more in order to be confident in.