If anyone out there is schooled in contemporary philosophical ethics, I would appreciate some comments on the following issue.
I have recently been moved away from my deontological ethical stance toward a virtue ethics type approach. And more recently, I have been moved away from virtue ethics, toward consequentialism. That might seem like a weird philosophical path, but the trajectory is pretty straightforward. In virtue ethics (at least, neo-Aristotelean virtue ethics), the concept of the good life plays an important role. And, moreover, it is natural to think that the role it plays is teleological--it is that toward which we strive. What virtues we ought to cultivate (and to what extent) and what acts we ought to perform (and when) are all decided by the objective of those actions, living well. [There is, incidentally, an interesting parallel in here with act vs. rule utilitarianism. With the good life playing the role of well-being in traditional utilitarian theories.]
I know that is pretty sketchy (and I have very little sense in how it fits with the current debate over virtue ethics), but if something along those lines is right, then it suggests the following point: A defense of what constitutes the good life is conceptually prior to ethical questions. And this is my question: Has there been any discussion of this point in the literature? It strikes me as a completely fascinating, quasi-Nietzchean view. Any suggestions for reading?
Update: Fortunately, my colleague Ed Sherline got me straightened out on a couple parts of this one. Briefly, it isn't necessary to treat the good life as conceptually prior to all moral concepts, but only prior to moral rightness (or morally correct action). One is still free to appeal to moral goodness in specifying and defending a conception of the good life. [I know, I know. Now that I see the point, I realize this a familiar topic. I just hadn't recognized from the direction I came.]
He also suggested (and I suppose that he is right about this) that the general sort of view I want to defend really is something like classical virtue theory. I had mistakenly thought that such theories were not consequentialist (teleological), but apparently they are. No surprise here, either, I suppose.