Can there be 'unprincipled virtue'? Comments on Nomy Arpaly

Philosophical Explorations 10 (3):291 – 301 (2007)
Abstract
In her book, Unprincipled Virtue, Nomy Arpaly is suspicious of reflective endorsement or deliberative rationality views of agency, those which tie the possibility of responsibility and moral blame to the conscious exercise of deliberation and reflection, and which require as a condition of blame- or praise- worthiness an agent's explicit commitment to ethical principles. I am in sympathy with her attack on standard autonomy theories, but argue that she confuses the phenomenon of unknowing and unreflective responsiveness to the right-making features of an action with incomplete and merely provisional commitment to principles and maxims of action, and argue that she is often arguing against straw men. I also argue that she has misinterpreted the fascinating literary examples she adduces to make her case.
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