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Journal of Philosophical Research

Volume 36, 2011

Liezl Van Zyl
Pages 103-114
DOI: 10.5840/jpr_2011_3

Rightness and Goodness in Agent-Based Virtue Ethics

In Morals from Motives (2001) Michael Slote puts forward an agent-based virtue ethics that purports to derive an account of deontic terms from aretaic evaluations of motives or character traits. In this view, an action is right if and only if it proceeds from a good or virtuous motive or at least does not come from a bad motive, and wrong if it comes from a bad motive. I argue that Slote does not provide an account of right action at all, that is, if ‘right action’ is understood in the strict deontic sense of an act that is either permissible or obligatory. An examination of Slote’s treatment of the problem of moral luck shows that he presupposes a conceptual link between what is morally wrong and what is blameworthy. I conclude by suggesting that agent-based virtue ethics may do better as an attempt to eliminate deontic notions altogether.

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