On Pincoffs's Conception of Ethics

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Journal of Philosophical Research


This essay focuses on Edmund Pincoffs’ arguments in defense of virtue ehtics and against ethical theory. His advocacy of virtue ethics hinges on the claims that: 1) the virtues are central to ancient ethics, modern ethics representing an unjustifiable change in orientation; 2) modern ethics is overly legalistic, construing morality merely as a set of universalistic action-guiding rules; 3) modern ethics is objectionably reductivistic, reducing morality to conscientiousness. Pincoffs’ opposition to ethical theory is based on the claims that: 4) ethical theories are objectionably reductivistic (in numerous ways); 5) they exhibit an individualist bias which results in an indefensible abstractness; 6) they mistakenly assume that moral experts exist; 7) they lack justificatory power; 8) they are a modern invention toward which we should be skeptical. In my crítical remarks concerning Pincoffs’ positions. I argue (with numberous qualifícations) against each of the above claims.