Austen is particularly unusual among virtue ethicists past and present in according amiability so much importance, even though it is so obviously central to most people's lives working, if not living, in close confinement with others with whom one must and should get along. Austen presents these virtues as not merely a necessary accommodation to difficult circumstances, but as superior to the invidious vanity and pride of the rich and titled, which she often mocks. So, in Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet rejects Darcy's haughty condescension out of hand; the happy ending must wait until Darcy comes to see beyond her lowly connections and unaristocratic manners and fully recognise her true (bourgeois) virtue. That is a moral happy
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Austen carries out her mission of moral education with flair and brilliance, while charitably respecting the interests and capacities of her readers (which is why she is so much more readable than most moral theorists who, like Kant, seem often to write as if understanding is the reader's problem).
Yet there is one further striking feature that sets Austen's novels apart: her moral gaze. The omniscient author of her books sees right through people to their moral character and exposes and dissects their follies, flaws and self-deceptions. I cannot read one of her novels without thinking - with a shiver - about what that penetrating moral gaze would reveal if directed at myself.
This is virtue ethics at a different level - about moral vision, not just moral content. Austen shows us how to look at ourselves and analyse and identify our own moral character, to meet Socrates's challenge to "Know thyself." We have all the information we need to look at ourselves this way, to see ourselves as we really are - we have an author's omniscient access to the details of our own lives - but we generally prefer not to open that box.
Indeed, academic moral philosophers since the enlightenment have collaborated with this natural aversion by