Author(s)Brown, Christopher Anthony
Full recordShow full item record
AbstractThere are certain elements of Kant's moral philosophy that I believe no moral theory can afford to ignore. On the other hand, there are others which Kant's theory evidently would be better off without. I will be developing an account of human virtue by defending and exploiting some of Kant's most fertile and sustainable ideas, while arguing against other theses of his, a few of which have come to be regarded as definitive of Kantian Ethics.I begin by showing that we can plausibly interpret Kant's texts on "the good will" and "actions from duty" as presupposing that an agent's moral goodness consists in her aptitude for lawful conduct, that is, her aptitude for living in accord with practical principles valid for all possible agents. I build my basic account of virtue by showing that this aptitude inheres in the possession of certain traits. The cornerstone of virtue, I argue, is the moral commitment: the stable, non-instrumental aim of living lawfully. For, when this commitment prevails in determining an agent's actions, lawful conduct necessarily ensues--which cannot be said of any other commitment or aim. I identify four additional elements of virtue by searching for traits that a perfectly morally committed agent might possess, and which together would guarantee that her moral commitment prevails. These are: moral understanding, strength of will, empirical understanding, and empirical power. And I suggest that when an agent violates a moral requirement, this is always saliently attributable to a lack of one or more of the five proposed elements of virtue.I supplement the basic account of virtue by arguing that the morally committed human agent is rationally required to adopt four further, general aims: the efficient pursuit of her own happiness, the happiness of other agents and non-agents, her own moral perfection, and that of other similarly committed agents. This part of my view differs significantly from Kant's, so I will be largely concerned with critiquing the relevant arguments of his. But the result is still very much a Kantian account, and one that warrants serious consideration in contemporary debates about virtue.