In Defense of the Primacy of the Virtues

Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 3 (2):1-21 (2009)
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Abstract

In this paper I respond to a set of basic objections often raised against those virtue theories in ethics which maintain that moral properties such rightness and goodness (and their corresponding concepts) are to be explained and understood in terms of the virtues or the virtuous. The objections all rest on a strongly-held intuition that the virtues (and the virtuous) simply must be derivative in some way from either right actions or good states of affairs. My goal is to articulate several distinct, though related, objections grounded in this intuition, and to argue that virtue ethicists have ample resources to respond to these worries. The explanatory primacy of the virtuous over the right or the good emerges as a distinct and viable position.

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Jason Kawall
Colgate University

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