Roles and the ethical life.


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Role ethics, broadly speaking, is a normative ethical theory that has a prominent emphasis on roles. Although it was prominent in ancient cultures, such as in China and Greece, role ethics waned during the Enlightenment era. Not until very recently has role ethics been articulated in its own terms. Among current discussions on roles, the most systematic role ethics are Confucian role ethics (as interpreted by Roger Ames and some others), Epictetus’ role ethics (as interpreted by Brian Johnson), Sarah Harper’s rolecentered morality and Jeremy Evans’ role ethics. They are my primary interlocutors as I develop and defend an alternative approach to understanding, examining and guiding our ethical life. By arguing that our ethical life is pervasively structured by roles, and drawing on the lights that my primary interlocutors have shed, I propose a role-structured ethics or role ethics that addresses some central issues regarding the nature of roles, the self, role identification, role fulfillment, role conflicts, and changing roles. Importantly, I emphasize the place of traditions in constructing a complete normative role ethics. So throughout the dissertation, I outline and defend the basic structure of any plausible specific role ethics, which is neutral among various traditions. I call such a structure “Role Ethics.” In particular, I investigate the nature of roles and its relation to the self, role fulfillment and its relation to the concept of duties, virtues and skills, as well as the nature of role conflicts and how to approach them. Along these lines of exploration, I also argue that they have important implications on the dignity of persons, moral education, and the notion of practical wisdom. Last but not the least, due to the universality of roles in various traditions, I propose that Role Ethics can serve as a platform to bring various traditions into meaningful dialogue.



Role Ethics. Ethics.