A Response to Martin Calkins's “How Casuistry and Virtue Ethics Might Break the Ideological Stalemate Troubling Agricultural Biotechnology”

Business Ethics Quarterly 15 (2):319-327 (2005)
Abstract
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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