Right action and the targets of virtue

Authored by: Liezl van Zyl

The Handbook of Virtue Ethics

Print publication date:  November  2013
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9781844656394
eBook ISBN: 9781315729053
Adobe ISBN: 9781317544777


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One of the central questions in normative theory is the question of what makes an action right: which quality (or qualities) must an action possess in order for it to be right? Consequentialism and deontology answer this question by making reference to consequences and duty respectively, so it seems that if virtue ethics is to be taken seriously as an alternative normative theory, it should provide an account of right action that is distinctive in some way. The most popular virtue-ethical theory of right action is the qualified-agent account developed by neo-Aristotelians like Rosalind Hursthouse (1999: 28):

(V): An action is right if and only if it is what a virtuous agent would characteristically do in the circumstances.

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