Doing the Right Thing from Malice

Steven Sverdlik

in Motive and Rightness

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780199594948
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191725401 | DOI:
Doing the Right Thing from Malice

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The deontic relevance of motives in virtue ethics is examined. Various types of virtue ethics are distinguished. Only some of them endorse the usage of the deontic concepts of obligation, wrongness, and permissibility. Hursthouse's neo‐Aristotelian theory is a type of virtue ethics that utilizes deontic concepts, but it yields a completely objective conception of deontic status. That is, motives never make a difference to the deontic status of an action. This is problematic. Michael Slote's non‐Aristotelian theory is examined next. In his theory a motive like malice is strongly wrong‐making: any action from malice is wrong. An example of a prosecutor acting from malice is considered. Slote's position that such a person necessarily acts wrongly is refuted. Further objections to his position are presented. Slote's recent position aligns him with Hursthouse. Virtue ethics oscillates between asserting that motives are never relevant deontically and asserting that some motives are strongly wrong‐making.

Keywords: virtue ethics; motives; Rosalind Hursthouse; Michael Slote; Aristotle; moral wrongness; moral obligation; neo‐Aristotelianism

Chapter.  8053 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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