Virtue and Salience

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 94 (3):449-463 (2016)
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Abstract

This paper explores two ways in which evaluations of an agent's character as virtuous or vicious are properly influenced by what the agent finds salient or attention-grabbing. First, we argue that ignoring salient needs reveals a greater deficit of benevolent motivation in the agent, and hence renders the agent more blameworthy. We use this fact to help explain our ordinary intuition that failing to give to famine relief is in some sense less bad than failing to help a child who is drowning right before your eyes, in a way that's compatible with the contention that there's no principled reason to see the one life-saving act as any more or less choiceworthy than the other. Second, we argue that alleged ‘virtues of ignorance’ are better understood as ‘virtues of salience’. Rather than placing demands on what we believe, these virtues place demands on what we find salient.

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Author Profiles

Richard Y. Chappell
University of Miami
Helen Yetter-Chappell
University of Miami

References found in this work

Freedom and Resentment.Peter Strawson - 1962 - Proceedings of the British Academy 48:187-211.
Famine, affluence, and morality.Peter Singer - 1972 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (3):229-243.
Unprincipled virtue: an inquiry into moral agency.Nomy Arpaly - 2003 - New York: Oxford University Press.
The limits of morality.Shelly Kagan - 1989 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Freedom and Resentment.Peter Strawson - 2003 - In Gary Watson (ed.), Free Will. Oxford University Press.

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