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EXEMPLARIST VIRTUE THEORY

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Abstract

Abstract: In this essay I outline a radical kind of virtue theory I call exemplarism, which is foundational in structure but which is grounded in exemplars of moral goodness, direct reference to which anchors all the moral concepts in the theory. I compare several different kinds of moral theory by the way they relate the concepts of the good, a right act, and a virtue. In the theory I propose, these concepts, along with the concepts of a duty and of a good life, are defined by reference to exemplars, identified directly through the emotion of admiration, not through a description. It is an advantage of the theory that what makes a good person good is not given a priori but is determined by empirical investigation. The same point applies to what good persons do and what states of affairs they aim at. The theory gives an important place to empirical investigation and narratives about exemplars analogous to the scientific investigation of natural kinds in the theory of direct reference.

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