Moral Philosophy: Virtuous Actions and Obligations

What preliminary steps mat be necessary before we can intuitively appreciate the rightness of action?

According to Prichard in order to appreciate the rightness of a deed, two preliminary actions should be made. First, it is necessary to distinguish the consequences of the given action more fully than it has been done before in order to understand that this action should originate a situation of a certain kind. Explaining this Prichard gives an example of a storytelling, the consequences of which may not be appreciated until a person realizes that this story may offend somebody from the audience. Then it is necessary to take into consideration the relation of an agent to others or to himself. For example, we may not consider it necessary to give a person a present until we recollect some good deeds of this person towards us.

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What is required to a morally good action, in addition to the action being right?

Prichard distinguishes between the notions of a moral rightness and a moral goodness stating that these notions are not the same. He states that “the rightness of the right action lies solely in the origination in which the act consists, whereas the intrinsic goodness of an action lies solely in motive” (Prichard, 2015, p.48). From this follows that a morally good action does not mean by all means a right action. It is good not because of the fact of its rightness. According to Prichard (2015), the action is morally good “because it is a right action done because it is right” (p.49), that is out a sense of duty.

Does an action done from a sense of obligation have a purpose (end, goal)? Does it have a motive?

Prichard states that an action done from a sense of obligation does not have a purpose as well as an end. By the notion of purpose, Prichard (2015) understands something “the existence of which we desire, and desire of the existence which leads us to act” (p.49). From this follows that if a person acts form a sense of obligation he has no purpose, “consisting either in the action itself or in anything which it will produce” (Prichard, 2015, p.49).

Nevertheless, Prichard emphasizes the necessity of the correct interpretation of this statement. He distinguishes between the notions of purpose and motive. A motive is something that makes a person act. A sense of obligation also moves somebody to act and that is why in an ordinary consciousness it is considered that a sense of obligation serves as a motive for action. Prichard (2015) states that “desire and the sense of obligation are coordinate forms or species of motive” (p.49).

How does a virtuous action differ form a moral action? Why cannot there be an obligation to act virtuously?

Any virtuous action is done with pleasure. It is made willingly inspired by some positive feelings or emotions. In the act of generosity, a persons behavior is predetermined by the desire to help other people caused by sympathy to them. In such a way a person protects himself form a possible feeling of shame. The goodness of such an action differs from the deed to which the notion of morality may be applied. In such a way, the motives of moral acts and acts of obligation are different. At the same time, these motives may be combined. According to Prichard (2015), the best man is a person in whom “virtue and morality are united” (p.50).

Why is it a mistake to expect moral philosophy to prove through argumentation that we ought to fulfil our obligation? What can we expect moral philosophy to provide?

Prichard states that moral philosophy rests on a mistake as it is based on the assumption that such things as moral action and obligation can be proved. He is convinced that this mistake lies in the false supposition of the possibility of proving “what can only be apprehended directly by an act of moral thinking” (Prichard, 2015, p.52). At the same time, Prichard acknowledges the role of moral philosophy in the reflection of knowledge of moral rightness and the goodness of the virtues.

Reference List

Prichard, H. (2015). Does moral philosophy rest on mistake? In O. Roca & M. Schuh (Eds.), An Examined Life. Critical Thinking and Ethics. (pp.46-53). USA: McGraw-Hill Education. Web.

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