Moral Moments

The Usefulness of Theory

by Joel Marks

I am a theory buff. While I grant that the ultimate point of ethics is to be a good person, I view the peculiar task, and pleasure, of the ethicist to be the formulation and assessment of theories. Theories about what? Why, precisely what it means to be a good person (or to live the good life, or to do the right thing, etc). After all, one’s conception of ethics can vary over a wide range, from being effective in a certain sort of way (finding happiness, helping others, etc.), as so-called consequentialist theorists maintain, to being motivated in a certain sort of way (fearing God, caring about others, etc.

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