Toward a Role Ethical Theory of Right Action

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 21 (3):599-614 (2018)
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Despite its prominence in traditional societies and its apparent commonsense appeal, the moral tradition of Role Ethics has been largely neglected in mainstream normative theory. Role Ethics is the view that the duties and/or virtues of social life are determined largely by the social roles we incur in the communities we inhabit. This essay aims to address two of the main challenges that hinder Role Ethics from garnering more serious consideration as a legitimate normative theory, namely that it is ill-suited to support a theory of right action that can enhance moral reasoning, and that it countenances certain unjust roles such as that of slave or slave-owner. Taking inspiration from contemporary social science, we argue that proponents of Role Ethics can adopt a view that reduces the apparent diversity of role obligations to four prototypical types of role duties. We propose a contemporary version of Role Ethics that coheres with human moral psychology, and which lends itself to a relatively pragmatic theory of right action that precludes the possibility of unjust roles.



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Jeremy Evans
Boston College

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References found in this work

Ethics Without Principles.Jonathan Dancy - 2004 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Moral Reasons.Jonathan Dancy - 1993 - Blackwell.
Moral Luck.B. A. O. Williams & T. Nagel - 1976 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 50 (1):115-152.
Liberalism and the Limits of Justice.Michael J. Sandel - 1998 - Cambridge University Press.

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