The Neutrality of Rightness and the Indexicality of Goodness: Beyond Objectivity and Back Again

Ratio 21 (3):273-285 (2008)
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My purpose in the present paper is two-fold: to provide a theoretical framework for understanding the difference between rightness and virtue; and to systematically account for the role of objective rightness in an individual person's decision making. I argue that a decision to do something virtuous differs from a decision to do what's right not simply, as is often supposed, in being motivated differently but, rather, in being taken from a different point of view. My argument to that effect is the following. The 'objectively right' course of action must be right, 'neutrally' speaking, that is right for each of the participants in a given situation: if it is right for you to do A, then it cannot, at the same time, be right for me to prevent you from doing A. But the latter is precisely how things work with virtuous action: for instance, it may be virtuous of you to assume responsibility for my blunder, but it isn't virtuous of me to let you do so. I maintain, on this basis, that, while objectivity does have normative force in moral decision-making, the objective viewpoint is not, typically, the viewpoint from which decisions to act virtuously are taken. I then offer an account of objectivity's constraining power.



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Iskra Fileva
University of Colorado, Boulder

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