Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 85–98 | Cite as

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

  • Jennifer BakerEmail author


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.


Ethics Virtue ethics Practical rationality Aristotle Stoicism Hursthouse 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of CharlestonCharlestonUSA

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