What connection is there between living well, in the sense of living a life of ethical virtue, and faring well, in the sense of living a life good for the agent whose life it is? Defenses of a connection between exercising the virtues and living a good life often display two commitments: first, to addressing their answer to the person whose life is in question and, second, to showing that virtue is what I call a reliability conferring property. I challenge both commitments. I propose we take up the question from the dialogical point of view implicit in contexts where one person (an "ethical trustee") is charged with the care of the character of another (an "ethical trustor") and argue that virtue is what I call a status conferring property. Ethical trustees benefit their trustors by inculcating the virtues because in doing so they bestow on them a status that is necessary for a good life.
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I wish to thank audiences at Claremont McKenna College, Vassar College, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Arizona (especially Julia Annas), Bowling Green State University, the University of Colorado at Boulder, and the University of Auckland (including Christine Swanton) for discussion of the ideas expressed here. I owe special thanks, as well, to Gary Ebbs, Patrick Maher, Dan Jacobson, Sarah Holtman, and Valerie Tiberius. Christian Miller deserves special thanks for written comments on a late draft. For her sage advice and encouragement here as elsewhere, I am forever grateful to Rosalind Hurst-house. Finally, the publication of this work was supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, which the author has donated to the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute.
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- Rosalind Hursthouse
- ethical virtue