Nick Schuster: A Deontological Model of Moral Skill


Modeling virtue on ordinary practical skills is a promising strategy for explaining, in conceptually and empirically plausible terms, how virtue is acquired and how virtuous agents determine what to do. This is an important project for any ethical theory, but only the eudaimonist tradition has made extensive use of the skill model of virtue thus far. In this paper, I develop an alternative, deontological model of moral skill. I first argue that, like eudaimonist ethics, deontological ethics stand to benefit from a skill-like conception of virtue. I then identify three apparent challenges for a deontological conception of moral skill: skillful agency can involve breaking rules; mechanical decision-procedures are no substitute for practiced skill; and conforming to rules exhibits mere competence, not expertise. By responding to these challenges, I show that not only can deontological ethics conceive of virtue as moral skill, a deontological approach has distinct advantages over eudaimonism here.