Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 23 (1):223-235 (2020)

Alkis Kotsonis
University of Edinburgh
In this paper, I highlight and discuss two significant limitations of Zagzebski’s exemplarist moral theory. Although I focus on Zagzebski’s theory, I argue that these limitations are not unique to her approach but also feature in previous versions of moral exemplarism. The first limitation I identify is inspired by MacIntyre’s understanding of the concept of virtue and stems from the realization that the emotion of admiration, through which agents identify exemplars, should not be examined in vacuo. Scholars working on moral exemplarism have failed to note that admiration is substantially influenced by prevailing socio-cultural norms and values. I show that ‘the admirable’ varies across cultures and time; and the employment of one’s own emotion of admiration in order to derive the meaning of terms such as virtue and duty would only result in a culture-specific understanding of morality. The second limitation, inspired by Butler’s social constructivist understanding of gender, rests on the realization that several features and characteristics of the agent influence their perception of moral excellence. I focus on the issue of gender and highlight that exemplarist theories justify a counter-intuitive gender-specific understanding of morality.
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DOI 10.1007/s10677-020-10061-8
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After Virtue.A. MacIntyre - 1981 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 46 (1):169-171.
Naming and Necessity.Saul A. Kripke - 1985 - Critica 17 (49):69-71.
Virtue Ethics.Rosalind Hursthouse & Glen Pettigrove - 2009 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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