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224 Philosophy & PublicAffairs miliar versions of the latter two sorts of theory, not, of course, with the intention of suggesting that they exhaust the field, but on the assump- tion that their very familiarity will provide a helpful contrast with virtue theory. Suppose a deontological theoryhas basicallythe following frame- work. We begin with a premise providing a specification of right action: P. i. An action is right iff it is in accordancewith a moral rule or prin- ciple. This is a purely formalspecification, forging a link between the concepts of right action and moral rule, and gives one no guidance until one knows what a moral rule is. So the next thing the theory needs is a prem- ise about that: P.2. A moral rule is one that ... Historically, an acceptable completionof P.2 would have been (i) is laid on us by God or (ii) is requiredby natural law. In secular versions (not, of course, unconnected to God's being pure rea- son, and the universality of natural law) we get such completions as (iii) is laid on us by reason or (iv) is requiredby rationality or (v) would command universal rational acceptance or (vi) would be the object of choice of all rational beings and so on. Such a specification forges a second conceptual link, between the concepts of moral rule and rationality. We have here the skeleton of a familiar version of a deontological the- ory, a skeleton that reveals that what is essential to any such version is the links between right action, moral rule, and rationality. That these This content downloaded from 129.62.170.215 on Thu, 29 Aug 2013 15:50:08 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
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225 Virtue Theoryand Abortion form the basic structure can be seen particularly vividly if we lay out the familiar act-utilitarianism in such a way as to bring out the contrasts. Act-utilitarianism begins with a premise that provides a specification of right action: P. i. An action is right iff it promotesthe best consequences. It thereby forges the link between the concepts of right action and con- sequences. It goes on to specify what the best consequences are in its second premise: P.2. The best consequences are those in which happiness is maxi- mized. It thereby forges the link between consequences and happiness. Now let us consider what a skeletal virtue theory looks like. It begins with a specification of right action: P. i. An action is right iff it is what a virtuous agent would do in the circumstances.' This, like the first premises of the other two sorts of theory, is a purely formalprinciple, giving one no guidance as to what to do, that forges the conceptual link between right action and virtuous agent. Like the other theories, it must, of course, go on to specify what the latter is. The first step toward this may appear quite trivial, but is needed to correct a pre- vailing tendency among many critics to define the virtuous agent as one who is disposed to act in accordance with a deontologist's moral rules.
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