Does Moral Virtue Constitute a Benefit to the Agent?
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____________________