How Should One Live? Essays on the Virtues

By Roger Crisp | Go to book overview
Save to active project

9
Does Moral Virtue Constitute a Benefit to the Agent?

BRAD HOOKER


1. INTRODUCTION

Something is instrumentally beneficial to someone if it is a means to some further thing that itself constitutes a benefit to that person. Being morally virtuous is often instrumentally beneficial to the agent. It can bring the agent pleasure and peace of mind and such social rewards as others' co-operation and respect.1 But as my title indicates, this essay is about constitutive benefits rather than instrumental ones. Different theories of individual welfare--of what makes a person's life go well or badly for him or her--differ over what things constitute benefits to people. What do the main theories of individual welfare say about whether moral virtue constitutes a benefit to the agent?

Theories of individual welfare fall into three main categories: hedonism, the desire-fulfilment theory (sometimes called the preference- satisfaction theory), and the list theory.2 Hedonism claims that how beneficial something is to us is entirely a matter of how much pleasure

____________________
1
But a long-standing dispute exists over whether having moral dispositions always has enough instrumental benefit to the agent to outweigh the costs to him or her of developing or retaining those dispositions. For an excellent discussion of this issue, see G. Sayre- McCord , "'Deception and Reasons to be Moral'", American Philosophical Quarterly 26 ( 1989), 113-122.
2
Though this way of dividing the theories is common, the terminology comes from D. Parfit, Reasons and Persons ( Oxford, 1984), Appendix I, except that what I call the list theory he calls 'the Objective List Theory'. I have deviated from his terminology in order to inhibit the assumption that the list theory, which is a view about what constitutes individuals' welfare, is committed to an objectivist or realist view about the nature of prudential values. As I explain in "'Theories of Welfare, Theories of Good Reasons for Action, and Ontological Naturalism'", Philosophical Papers 20 ( 1991), 25-36, the list theory of welfare is compatible with anti-realist metaphysical views (such as projectivism) and with expressivist views about the nature of evaluative judgement.

-141-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
How Should One Live? Essays on the Virtues
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 264

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?