1st Edition

Perspectives in Role Ethics Virtues, Reasons, and Obligation

Edited By Tim Dare, Christine Swanton Copyright 2020
    232 Pages
    by Routledge

    230 Pages
    by Routledge

    Although our moral lives would be unrecognisable without them, roles have received little attention from analytic moral philosophers. Roles are central to our lives and to our engagement with one another, and should be analysed in connection with our core notions of ethics such as virtue, reason, and obligation.

    This volume aims to redress the neglect of role ethics by confronting the tensions between conceptions of impartial morality and role obligations in the history of analytic philosophy and the Confucian tradition. Different perspectives on the ethical significance of roles can be found by looking to debates within professional and applied ethics, by challenging existing accounts of how roles generate reasons, by questioning the hegemony of ethical reasons, and by exploring the relation between expertise and virtue. The essays tackle several core questions related to these debates:

    • What are roles and what is their normative import?

    • To what extent are roles and the ethics of roles central to ethics as opposed to virtue in general, and obligation in general?

    • Are role obligations characteristically incompatible with ordinary morality in professions such as business, law, and medicine?

    • How does practical reason function in relation to roles?

    Perspectives in Role Ethics is an examination of a largely neglected topic in ethics. It will appeal to a broad range of scholars in normative ethics, virtue ethics, non-Western ethics, and applied ethics interested in the importance of roles in our moral life.


    Tim Dare and Christine Swanton

    Part I: Roles and Morality

    1. Characters and Roles

    Glen Pettigrove

    2. Roles all the Way Down

    Tim Dare

    3. Expertise and Virtue in Role Ethics

    Christine Swanton

    4. The Role of Roles in Normative Economy of a Life

    Gregory Cooper

    Part II: Role Ethics and Confucianism

    5. Roles and Virtues: Early Confucians on Social Order and the Different Aspects of Ethics

    Aaron Stalnaker

    6. That’s What Friends Are For: A Confucian Perspective on the Moral Significance of Friendship

    Cheryl Cottine

    Part III: Professional Roles

    7. Crossing the Bridge

    W. Bradley Wendel

    8. Role Virtues, Doctor-Patience Relationships, and Virtuous Policy

    Justin Oakley

    Part IV: Roles and Reasons

    9. Deliberative Restriction and Professional Roles

    Garrett Cullity

    10. Roles and Reasons

    Sophie Grace Chappell


    Tim Dare is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. He is the author of The Counsel of Rogues? A Defence of the Standard Conception of the Lawyer’s Role (2009). He has also written on the philosophy of law and applied and professional ethics.

    Christine Swanton is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. She is the author of The Virtue Ethics of Hume and Nietzsche (2015), Virtue Ethics: A Pluralist View (2005), and Freedom: A Coherence Theory (1992).