, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 85-98
Date: 15 Nov 2011

Who’s Afraid of a Final End? The Role of Practical Rationality in Contemporary Accounts of Virtue

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In this paper I argue that excising a final end from accounts of virtue does them more harm than good. I attempt to establish that the justification of contemporary virtue ethics suffers if moved this one step too far from the resources in traditional accounts. This is because virtue, as we tend to describe it, rests on an account of practical rationality wherein the role of the final end is integral. I highlight the puzzles that are generated by the ellipsis that is “the role of a final end” in contemporary theories of virtue. The authors of these theories devise ad hoc solutions for these puzzles, puzzles that do not exist for traditional final end-based accounts. Recent critics of virtue ethics have certainly not been satisfied the explanations being offer in lieu of references to a final end. As a remedy, I recommend that the role of a final end be reintroduced in contemporary virtue ethics. I hope to explain that there is nothing to be frightened of and much to be gained.

Thanks go to Brad Inwood and Tad Brennan for their helpful comments and discussion. Thanks to Fred Miller, Richard Bett, Patrick Goodin, Thanassis Samaras, James Mahon, and Alan Pichanick for their comments on an earlier draft. This paper was developed while I was a visiting scholar at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center in Bowling Green, Ohio. And thanks especially to two anonymous reviewers, who were each very helpful and kind.