Vol. 38 No. 2 (2018): Virtue Ethics

Exemplarist Moral Theory

Linda Zagzebski
University of Oklahoma

Published 2018-12-18


  • moral theory,
  • goodness,
  • admiration,
  • ethics,
  • moral education

How to Cite

Zagzebski, L. (2018). Exemplarist Moral Theory. Teoria. Rivista Di Filosofia, 38(2), 55–64. https://doi.org/10.4454/teoria.v38i2.44


This paper summarizes my new moral theory, which is based on direct reference to exemplars of goodness, identified through the emotion of admiration. Since a motivating emotion is at the root of the theory, it is intended to serve both the theoretical purpose of mapping the main moral terms by reference to features of exemplars, and the practical purpose of making us want to act morally and showing us how to do so through emulation of exemplars. The theory links the a priori side of ethics with empirical work in psychology and neuroscience, and it gives narratives a key function in the theory. Since it tracks a natural process of moral development in the emulation of exemplars, it also connects with moral education.