Moral Addicts

Anthony Cunningham, St. John's University

DOI: 10.1017/S0012217300010507


Any good ethical theory aspires to provide as comprehensive a guide to moral value and motivation as possible. Within modern moral philosophy, conceptions of moral value have been dominated largely by considerations of justice and concerns for the common good, and moral shortcomings have been accounted for primarily by appeal to ignorance, weakness, indifference or outright hostility to moral values. Yet the ways in which we fall short are far more complicated. By discussing one interesting example here, I hope to provide some support for the claim that our conceptions of moral value and motivation need enrichment. In making my case, I utilize a character who is more like a caricature than a figure from ordinary life. This touch of hyperbole is deliberate. Reflect for a moment on the function of a good cartoon caricature. By exaggerating physical features, it draws our attention to characteristics that go unnoticed in their normal context. Whereas cartoon caricatures aim at amusement, my goal is to distil some of our perceptions of moral excellence.