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Keywords:

  • virtue;
  • right action;
  • motives

Abstract: The concepts of virtue and right action are closely connected, in that we expect people with virtuous motives to at least often act rightly. Two well-known views explain this connection by defining one of the concepts in terms of the other. Instrumentalists about virtue identify virtuous motives as those that lead to right acts; virtue-ethicists identify right acts as those that are or would be done from virtuous motives. This essay outlines a rival explanation, based on the “higher-level” account of virtue defended in the author's Virtue, Vice, and Value. On this account rightness and virtue go together because each is defined by a (different) relation to some other, more basic moral concept. Their frequent coincidence is therefore like a correlation between A and B based not on either's causing the other but on their being joint effects of a single common cause.