Being good, doing right, faring well
In this dissertation, I use virtue theory to answer a number of different questions in the normative ethics of behavior and in welfare axiology.
In chapter 1, I provide an introduction to the Normative Ethics of Behavior. I present some of the conceptual background necessary for answering the question “What makes right actions right?” In chapter 2, I provide critical summaries of some of the most popular virtue-ethical theories of right action. In chapter 3, I present and defend my own virtue-ethical theory of right action and show why this rather simple theory is not vulnerable to any of the objections that challenge its virtue-ethical rivals.
In chapter 4, I turn to the question of how to measure the extent to which a person acts justly in the performance of an action. I argue that there are at least four variables that determine how just a person’s action is at a time. I try to show how we can integrate these four variables into a single measure for just action.
In chapter 5, I consider whether being just is intrinsically, prudentially rewarding. Most modern philosophers answer: no, at least not as a matter of necessity. In a recent and influential paper, Wayne Sumner disagrees with this popular position. I rehearse and criticize his arguments. In chapter 6, I offer a new argument for Sumner’s conclusion, one that avoids the problems that his own argument faces. My argument turns on the fact that a just person’s own moral virtue will make a distributional claim on her that she is bound to satisfy in a way that will enhance her welfare.