Agent-Basing, Consequences, and Realized Motives

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 19 (3):649-661 (2016)
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Abstract

According to agent-based approaches to virtue ethics, the rightness of an action is a function of the motives which prompted that action. If those motives were morally praiseworthy, then the action was right; if they were morally blameworthy, the action was wrong. Many critics find this approach problematically insensitive to an act’s consequences, and claim that agent-basing fails to preserve the intuitive distinction between agent- and act-evaluation. In this article I show how an agent-based account of right action can be made sensitive to an act’s consequences. According to the approach which I defend, an action is right just in case it realizes an agent’s morally praiseworthy motive. Conversely, an action is wrong just in case it realizes a morally blameworthy motive. Specifying act-evaluation in terms of the realization, rather than the expression, of an agent’s motives allows an agent-based approach to distinguish between agent- and act-evaluation. This is because an agent may act from a morally praiseworthy motive, but fail to realize that motive. Her action will therefore not have been the right one, despite its being the expression of morally praiseworthy motives.

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Assessing Recent Agent-Based Accounts of Right Action.Graham Renz - 2020 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 23 (2):433-444.

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References found in this work

On Virtue Ethics.Rosalind Hursthouse - 1999 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Moral Luck: Philosophical Papers 1973–1980.Bernard Williams - 1981 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Natural goodness.Philippa Foot - 2001 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Moral Luck.B. A. O. Williams & T. Nagel - 1976 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 50 (1):115-152.
Kant's Theory of Freedom.Henry E. Allison - 1990 - New York: Cambridge University Press.

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