That “ought” does not imply “right”: Why it matters for virtue ethics

Southern Journal of Philosophy 46 (2):299-315 (2008)
Abstract
Virtue ethicists sometimes say that a right action is what a virtuous person would do, characteristically, in the circumstances. But some have objected recently that right action cannot be defined as what a virtuous person would do in the circumstances because there are circumstances in which a right action is possible but in which no virtuous person would be found. This objection moves from the premise that a given person ought to do an action that no virtuous person would do, to the conclusion that the action is a right action. I demon-strate that virtue ethicists distinguish “ought” from “right” and reject the assumption that “ought” implies “right.” I then show how their rejection of that assumption blocks this “right but not virtuous” objection. I conclude by showing how the thesis that “ought” does not imply “right” can clarify a further dispute in virtue ethics regarding whether “ought” implies “can.”
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Daniel Doviak (2011). A New Form of Agent-Based Virtue Ethics. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 14 (3):259-272.
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