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Moral Saints

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  1. Moral Saints Susan Wolf

  2. Two kinds of Moral Saints • The Rational Saint • Is committed to doing their moral duty • Is the perfect Kantian • The Loving Saint • Devotes their entire lives to maximizing everyone’s well-being • Is the perfect Utilitarian

  3. The desirability of moral saints: • Though we would certainly praise each of these persons for their moral commitments, we would not necessarily want them as friends, nor would we want out loved ones to be moral saints.

  4. The undesirability of moral saints • The undesirability of moral saints is chiefly in that they cannot develop in themselves a variety of non-moral virtues and social interests (e.g. working on the backhand, enjoying a Marx Brothers film, discussing music) because they are all-consumed with morality.

  5. Singularity of Focus • It may be that ANY singular focus at the expense of all other aspects of life, and that might include morality. • Consider someone who devotes all of their time and energy to, say, pole-vaulting. We might admire how good they are at pole vaulting, but few of us would chose their life for us or our loved ones.


  6. Supererogation • Whatever other lessons that the undesirability of moral saints may hold, one of them is that our theories of morality must make a better account of the supererogatory. • Supererogatory acts are acts that go “above and beyond” the call of moral duty.

  7. Amorality • Additionally, the undesirability of moral saints indicates that our moral theories must also make a better account of what is amoral. • The amoral is that in life that morality has nothing to say about one way or another.

  8. Virtuous Saints • One possibility for addressing Wolf’s concerns is a more thorough examination of virtue ethics. • It seems that a virtuous saint would be well-rounded enough to be not only acceptable, but exemplary for human behavior.