What about ought? Response to practical intelligence and the virtues
van Zyl, L. (2011). Discussion Note: What about ought? Response to practical intelligence and the virtues. Journal of Ethics & Social Philosophy, September, 1-5.
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/5930
According to a qualified-agent account of right action, an action is right iff it is what a virtuous agent would characteristically do in the circumstances (V).¹ A frequent objection to this account is that it gives the wrong result in cases where the agent faces a dilemma because of previous wrongdoing. Robert Johnson gives the example of the chronic liar who undertakes a series of remedial actions to improve his character. Commonsense tells us that he acts rightly (or does what he ought to do), but (V) denies this, for no virtuous agent will find herself in these circumstances. Johnson concludes from this that virtue ethics fails to make room for a genuine moral obligation to improve your character.²
University of Southern California
This article has been published in Journal of Ethics & Social Philosophy. © 2011 Copyright Liezl van Zyl.