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Faith and Philosophy

Volume 15, Issue 4, October 1998

Virtues and Virtue Theories From a Christian Perspective

Linda Zagzebski
Pages 538-553
DOI: 10.5840/faithphil199815446

The Virtues of God and the Foundations of Ethics

In this paper I give a theological foundation to a radical type of virtue ethics I call motivation-based. In motivation-based virtue theory all moral concepts are derivative from the concept of a good motive, the most basic component of a virtue, where what I mean by a motive is an emotion that initiates and directs action towards an end. Here I give a foundation to motivation-based virtue theory by making the motivations of one person in particular the ultimate foundation of all moral value, and that person is God. The theory is structurally parallel to Divine Command Theory, but has a number of advantages over DC theory without the well-known problems. In particular, DM theory does not face a dilemma parallel to the famous Euthyphro problem, nor does it have any difficulty answering the question whether God could make cruelty morally right. Unlike DC theory, it explains the importance of Christology in Christian ethics, and it has the advantage of providing a unitary account of all evaluative properties, divine and human. I call the theory Divine Motivation Theory.

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