, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 259-272

A New Form of Agent-Based Virtue Ethics

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Abstract

In Morals From Motives, Michael Slote defends an agent-based theory of right action according to which right acts are those that express virtuous motives like benevolence or care. Critics have claimed that Slote’s view— and agent-based views more generally— cannot account for several basic tenets of commonsense morality. In particular, the critics maintain that agent-based theories: (i) violate the deontic axiom that “ought” implies “can”, (ii) cannot allow for a person’s doing the right thing for the wrong reason, and (iii) do not yield clear verdicts in a number of cases involving “conflicting motives” and “motivational over-determination”. In this paper I develop a new agent-based theory of right action designed to avoid the problems presented for Slote’s view. This view makes morally right action a matter of expressing an optimal balance of virtue over vice and commands agents in each situation to improve their degree of excellence to the greatest extent possible.