Morals from Motives

Morals from Motives

Morals from Motives

Morals from Motives


Morals from Motives develops a virtue ethics inspired more by Hume and Hutcheson's moral sentimentalism than by recently-influential Aristotelianism. It argues that a reconfigured and expanded "morality of caring" can offer a general account of right and wrong action as well as social justice. Expanding the frontiers of ethics, it goes on to show how a motive-based "pure" virtue theory can also help us to understand the nature of human well-being and practical reason.


Till very recently, most of the contemporary revival of virtue ethics has led in the direction of Aristotle. But in the past few years, Stoic ideas have started to have an influence on current debates, and the moral sentimentalism of Hume and Hutcheson has also begun to be related to the themes and methods of virtue ethics.

The present book deliberately avoids patterning its ideas on Aristotle. Although my earlier book, From Morality to Virtue, works in a neo-Aristotelian vein, the historical Aristotle seems irrelevant to some of the most important problems of contemporary ethics, and neo-Aristotelian virtue ethicists have to take Aristotle in some unaccustomed new directions if they wish to make that approach completely attractive. Let me be a bit more specific.

It has long and often been said (e.g., by Grotius) that Aristotle's doctrine of the mean has no way of dealing with virtues like truthtelling and promise-keeping, and though I by and large agree with this criticism, I believe there is a deeper problem with Aristotle's (own) ethical views. Although Aristotle mentions the fact that we tend to praise lovers of humankind, his theory of morality doesn't seem to require a concern for human beings generally, and for any moral philosophy seeking to deal with the increasingly connected world we live in, this lack is very telling.

The moral philosophies that today dominate the philosophical scene, (utilitarian) consequentialism and Kantianism, are both ready with answers as to why we must be concerned, at least to some . . .

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