Volume 19, 1994
Robert B. Louden
On Pincoffs’ Conception of Ethics
This essay focuses on Edmund Pincoffs’ arguments in defense of virtue ehtics and against ethical theory. His advocacy of virtue ethics hinges on the claims that: 1) the virtues are central to ancient ethics, modern ethics representing an unjustifiable change in orientation; 2) modern ethics is overly legalistic, construing morality merely as a set of universalistic action-guiding rules; 3) modern ethics is objectionably reductivistic, reducing morality to conscientiousness. Pincoffs’ opposition to ethical theory is based on the claims that: 4) ethical theories are objectionably reductivistic (in numerous ways); 5) they exhibit an individualist bias which results in an indefensible abstractness; 6) they mistakenly assume that moral experts exist; 7) they lack justificatory power; 8) they are a modern invention toward which we should be skeptical. In my crítical remarks concerning Pincoffs’ positions. I argue (with numberous qualifícations) against each of the above claims.