Environmentalism and Public Virtue

Much of the literature addressing environmental virtue tends to focus on what might be called “personal virtue”—individual actions, characteristics, or dispositions that benefit the individual actor. There has, in contrast, been relatively little interest in either “virtue politics”—collective actions, characteristics, or dispositions—or in what might be called “public virtues,” actions, characteristics, or dispositions that benefit the community rather than the individual. This focus, however, is problematic, especially in a society that valorizes individuality. This paper examines public virtue and its role in environmental virtue ethics. First, I outline different types of virtue in order to frame the discussion of public virtues and, in particular, a subclass of virtues I will refer to as political virtue. Second, I focus on practical problems and address the inadequacy of personal virtue for effecting social change and, therefore, for addressing most environmental crises. Finally, I argue that public and political virtues are necessary, if under emphasized, conditions for the flourishing of the individual, and that they are important complements to more traditional environmental virtues
Keywords Environmental virtue  Civic virtue  Politics  Community  The tragedy of the commons  Flourishing
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DOI 10.1007/s10806-009-9184-3
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Aristotle (2012). Nicomachean Ethics. Courier Dover Publications.

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