Accidental rightness

Philosophia 37 (1):91-104 (2009)
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In this paper I argue that the disagreement between modern moral philosophers and (some) virtue ethicists about whether motive affects rightness is a result of conceptual disagreement, and that when they develop a theory of ‘right action,’ the two parties respond to two very different questions. Whereas virtue ethicists tend to use ‘right’ as interchangeable with ‘good’ or ‘virtuous’ and as implying moral praise, modern moral philosophers use it as roughly equivalent to ‘in accordance with moral obligation.’ One implication of this is that the possibility of an act being right by accident does not pose a problem for consequentialism or deontology. A further implication is that it reveals a shortcoming in virtue ethics, namely that it does not—yet needs to—present an account of moral obligation.



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Liezl Van Zyl
University of Waikato

Citations of this work

Right Action as Virtuous Action.Nicholas Ryan Smith - 2018 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 96 (2):241-254.
A New Form of Agent-Based Virtue Ethics.Daniel Doviak - 2011 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 14 (3):259-272.
Political Anti-Intentionalism.Matthias Brinkmann - 2018 - Res Publica 24 (2):159-179.

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References found in this work

Mortal questions.Thomas Nagel - 1979 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
On Virtue Ethics.Rosalind Hursthouse - 1999 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Utilitarianism.J. S. Mill - 1861 - Oxford University Press UK. Edited by Roger Crisp.
The Right and the Good. Some Problems in Ethics.W. D. Ross - 1930 - Oxford: Clarendon Press. Edited by Philip Stratton-Lake.
Modern Moral Philosophy.G. E. M. Anscombe - 1958 - Philosophy 33 (124):1 - 19.

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