'Ought' and well-being

Inquiry 36 (3):287 – 306 (1993)
Abstract
The idea that there is an inherent incentive in moral judgment or, in Classical terms, that there is an essential relationship between virtue and well?being is sharply criticized in contemporary moral theory. The associated theses that there is a way of living which is objectively good for human beings and that living that way is part of understanding moral truth are equally problematic. The Aristotelian argument proceeded via the premise that a human being was a rational social being. The present reworking of that thesis builds on the internal connection between rationality and concept use. Moral judgment is linked to the grasp of moral concepts and thereby to an appreciation of how it is with other persons. The judgment that another person instances a morally relevant ascription is grounded on an empathic grasp of how it is with that person and thus tied to the thought that one ought to act in such and such a way or. in other words, to a disposition to act. Because the empathically grasped content of moral concepts is related to a number of mental ascriptions and reactive attitudes, the grasp of that content is interwoven deeply in the structure of human mental life and any attempt systematically to devalue or undermine it is threatening to one's mental integrity as a rational social being. Thus there is a deep link between moral sense or the disposition to act morally and an adequately grounded conception of human well?being
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