A Response to Martin Calkins's “How Casuistry and Virtue Ethics Might Break the Ideological Stalemate Troubling Agricultural Biotechnology”
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Business Ethics Quarterly 15 (2):319-327 (2005)
Martin Calkins proposes the “combined use of casuistry and virtue ethics as a way for both sides to move ahead on [the] pressing issue [of agricultural biotechnology].” However, his defense of this methodology relies on a set of mistaken, albeit familiar, claims regarding the normative resources of virtue ethics: (1) virtue ethics is egoistic; (2) virtue ethics cannot defend any particular account of the virtues as the objectively correct ones and is therefore inextricably relativistic; (3) virtue ethics cannot supply a procedure for providing practical or policy guidance in concrete situations; and (4) virtue ethics cannot adequately account for the possibility of conflicting or partial virtues. After a brief overview of the basic structure of virtue ethics, I take up each of these misconceptions in turn. I conclude with some comments on the implications of these considerations for Calkins’s proposed methodology for addressing theissue of agricultural biotechnology
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