A New Mixed View of Virtue Ethics, Based on Daniel Doviak’s New Virtue Calculus
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- Ciurria, M. Ethic Theory Moral Prac (2012) 15: 259. doi:10.1007/s10677-011-9285-8
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In A New Form of Agent-Based Virtue Ethics, Daniel Doviak develops a novel agent-based theory of right action that treats the rightness (or deontic status) of an action as a matter of the action’s net intrinsic virtue value (net-IVV)—that is, its balance of virtue over vice. This view is designed to accommodate three basic tenets of commonsense morality: (i) the maxim that “ought” implies “can,” (ii) the idea that a person can do the right thing for the wrong reason, and (iii) the idea that a virtuous person can have “mixed motives.” In this paper, I argue that Doviak’s account makes an important contribution to agent-based virtue ethics, but it needs to be supplemented with a consequentialist account of the efficacy of well-motivated actions—that is, it should be transformed into a mixed (motives-consequences) account, while retaining its net-IVV calculus. This is because I believe that there are right-making properties external to an agent’s psychology which it is important to take into account, especially when an agent’s actions negatively affect other people. To incorporate this intuition, I add to Doviak’s net-IVV calculus a scale for outcomes. The result is a mixed view which accommodates tenets (ii) and (iii) above, but allows for (i) to fail in certain cases. I argue that, rather than being a defect, this allowance is an asset because our intuitions about ought-implies-can break down in cases where an agent is grossly misguided, and our theory should track these intuitions.