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Four Solutions the the Alleged Incompleteness of Virtue Ethics

by Sean McAleer

In “Virtue and Right,” Robert Johnson argues that virtue ethics that accept standards such as Virtuous Agent (A’s x-ing is right in circumstances c iff a fully virtuous agent would x in c) are incomplete, since they cannot account for duties of moral self-improvement. In this paper I offer four solutions to the problem of incompleteness. The first discards Virtuous Agent and counts actions as wrong iff a vicious person would perform them. The second retains Virtuous Agent but counts self-improving actions as countererogatory: wrong but nonetheless good to do. The third replaces Virtuous Agent with a standard appealing to the Mengzian virtue of righteousness, understood as situational appropriateness. The fourth replaces Virtuous Agent with a standard that holds an action right if it promotes the agent’s virtue. Each solution accommodates duties of moral self-improvement, so a virtue ethics embracing any of them would not be incomplete.

ISSN 1559-3061
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