Moral Psychology Lab Meeting - Nick Schuster, Washington University in St. Louis
Abstract: In this paper, I bring out a tension within contemporary virtue ethics. First, virtue ethics is committed to the primacy of agent assessment. That is, action assessment depends on agent assessment, not vice versa. This basic commitment makes virtue ethics a distinct approach to ethical theory. Second, some virtue ethicists have recently developed the skill model of virtue to shed light on the kind of reasoning involved in virtuous activity. Since practical skills are less obscure and philosophically suspect than virtue, the skill model promises a clear and plausible account of virtuous reasoning. But for ordinary practical skills, action assessment is primary. That is, a practitioner is good because her performance meets certain independent standards, like knocking down pins for a bowler. Hence, virtue ethics must give up either the primacy of agent assessment or the skill model of virtue. Both horns are costly.