Value commitments and the balanced life

Utilitas 17 (1):24-45 (2005)
Abstract
According to critics such as Bernard Williams, traditional ethical theories render it impossible to lead good and meaningful lives because they emphasize moral duty or the promotion of external values at the expense of the personal commitments that make our lives worth living from our own perspective. Responses to this criticism have not addressed the fundamental question about the proper relationship between a person's commitments to moral values and her commitments to non-moral or personal values. In this article, I suggest that we think about this relationship by reflecting on the way that a prudentially virtuous person who has commitments to both moral and non-moral values would regard these commitments. I argue that people with the virtue of balance do have reasons to act in accordance with their moral commitments, but that whether or not these reasons are overriding depends on the type of commitment in question.
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