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Topic: Exemplarist Moral Theory (Read 248 times) previous topic - next topic

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  • linus
Exemplarist Moral Theory
Don't know if this is just new to me or new to the field of moral philosophy, but maybe others enjoy it too:
Kripke and Putnam's argument concerns our definitions of certain substances, say, "water," "gold," and "tiger." The basic idea of direct reference is that "water" does not have a descriptive meaning that we could find in a dictionary and carry around in our heads. Instead, it should be defined as "stuff like that," "tiger" is defined as "creatures like that," and so on, where in each case the word "that" is used to point to real objects.

This is where the theory of exemplars comes back in. Using the same model, the argument is that moral exemplars are persons like that. We point directly to exemplars of goodness like Confucius, Socrates, Jesus, or whoever else. We pick them out through admiration, not by applying a descriptive concept in our heads. We then find out what makes them admirable by observation, just as we find out what makes water the substance that it is by observation.

  • Monad
Re: Exemplarist Moral Theory
Reply #1
"Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra."

  • borealis
  • Administrator
Re: Exemplarist Moral Theory
Reply #2
So do Kripke and Putnam know Star Trek writers scooped them ages ago?

  • MikeS
Re: Exemplarist Moral Theory
Reply #3
The "meaning" of historic peoples is only as good as the sources used.

Those who control the past control the future.
Those who control the present control the past.

  • nesb
Re: Exemplarist Moral Theory
Reply #4
This is like a distillation of one of my least favorite aspects of virtue theory. The arguments aren't bad, but using admiration to pick out virtue (or goodness, whatever) seems flawed, since we often admire bad people for bad reasons. I think you would have to specify moral admiration, but then we presuppose a way to pick out moral characteristics without having to find an exemplar to examine.

  • linus
Re: Exemplarist Moral Theory
Reply #5
I agree, but I'd put it a slightly differently: there seems to be no way for the exemplarist moral theory to resolve disagreements about who are good moral exemplars.

I haven't read Linda Zagzebski's book, though---presumably she does her best to address objections there.