In this paper, I argue that the negative injunctions against certain ways of conceiving of the ethico-political that we can draw explicitly from the methodological strictures of phenomenology are also consistent with some of the core more positive dimensions of contemporary virtueethics (especially at the more anti-theoretical end of the virtue ethical spectrum), and that central aspects of virtueethics are consistent with most of the explicit reflections on ethical matters proffered by canonical phenomenologists.
In section one, I briefly review the Harman/Doris argument and outline the most promising response. Then in section two I develop what I take the real challenge to virtueethics to be. The final section of the chapter suggests two strategies for beginning to address this challenge.
Following the revival of virtue theory, some moral theorists have argued that virtueethics can provide the basis for a radical politics. Such a politics essentially departs from the liberal model of the moral agent as an autonomous reason-giver. It instead privileges an understanding of the agent as conditioned by her community, and in the case of social oppression and marginalization, communal virtues may become a vehicle for social change. This essay compares political appropriations of virtue (...) theory by Christian theologian Stanley Hauerwas and secular feminist thinkers Lisa Tessman and Margaret Urban Walker. Hauerwas and feminist theorists both embrace a kind of embodied vulnerability as a political virtue, arguing that it enables more genuine social recognition. The virtue feminist critique is more robust than Hauerwas's, however, insofar as it understands mutual recognition to involve acknowledgment of social difference and the concomitant pursuit of justice. (shrink)
A critically revised Aristotelian-based virtueethics has something potentially useful to offer to those engaged in analyzing oppression and creating liberatory projects. A critical virtueethics can help clarify one of the ways in which oppression interferes with flourishing; specifically, it helps clarify an aspect of oppression that can be called "moral damage.".
Situationist research in social psychology focuses on the situational factors that influence behavior. Doris and Harman argue that this research has powerful implications for ethics, and virtueethics in particular. First, they claim that situationist research presents an empirical challenge to the moral psychology presumed within virtueethics. Second, they argue that situationist research supports a theoretical challenge to virtueethics as a foundation for ethical behavior and moral development. I offer a response (...) from moral psychology using an interpretation of Xunzi—a Confucian virtue ethicist from the Classical period. This Confucian account serves as a foil to the situationist critique in that it uncovers many problematic ontological and normative assumptions at work in this debate regarding the prediction and explanation of behavior, psychological posits, moral development, and moral education. Xunzi’s account of virtueethics not only responds to the situationist empirical challenge by uncovering problematic assumptions about moral psychology, but also demonstrates that it is not a separate empirical hypothesis. Further, Xunzi’s virtue ethic responds to the theoretical challenge by offering a new account of moral development and a ground for ethical norms that fully attends to situational features while upholding robust character traits. (shrink)
Virtueethics has been challenged on empirical grounds by philosophical interpreters of situationist social psychology. Challenges are necessarily challenges to something or other, so it’s only possible to understand the situationist challenge to virtueethics if we have an antecedent grasp on virtueethics itself. To this end, I first identify the non-negotiable “hard core” of virtueethics with the conjunction of nine claims, arguing that virtueethics does make substantive (...) empirical assumptions about human conduct. Next, I rearticulate the situationist challenge in light of these nine claims. I then turn to a discussion of specifications of several responses typically made by defenders of virtueethics against the situationist challenge, arguing that most of them either are unsound or give up one of the elements in the hard core. A few, however, survive this criticism, and so I conclude by suggesting ways in which the situationist challenge might be not so much resisted as co-opted. Situational influences can be used to help people simulate virtue, a phenomenon I call factitious virtue. (shrink)
Most forms of virtueethics are characterized by two attractive features. The first is that proponents of virtueethics acknowledge the need to describe how moral agents acquire or develop the traits and abilities necessary to become morally able agents. The second attractive feature of most forms of virtueethics is that they are forms of moral realism. The two features come together in the attempt to describe virtue as a personal ability to (...) distinguish morally good reasons for action. It follows from the general picture of virtueethics presented here that we cannot evaluate ethical judgment independently of the viewpoint of the ideal of a virtuous person. We will examine how this ideal unfolds in the realistic form of virtueethics advanced by John McDowell. McDowell offers a compelling description of virtue as a natural ability grounded in human nature, while at the same time insisting that we cannot understand the judgment resulting from virtue without drawing on that very perspective. However, McDowell’s focus on the passive taking in of reasons in ethical experience and his idea of the silencing of wrong reasons lead us to three related problems. The first is that he cannot account for certain features of the phenomenology of such experience; the second is that he cannot provide any relevant epistemological criteria for correct moral judgment; and the third is that he gives a morally objectionable characterization of the ideal of being a virtuous person. All of these problems arise because McDowell does not take into account the particular nature of ethical experience. If we try to resolve this problem by dropping McDowell’s idea of silencing, we then have to offer another substantial description of our ideal of a virtuous person that includes active and interpersonal ways of evaluating concrete judgments. Proponents of virtueethics still have to lift this task and develop a position that does not limit ethical experience to the passive intake of reasons. (shrink)
In this paper I discuss what contemporary virtueethics can say about abortion by considering both what has been said and what we may further argue from a virtue-focused perspective. I begin by comparing virtueethics to the two other dominant approaches in normative ethics and then consider what some important virtue ethicists have said about abortion, especially Rosalind Hursthouse. After recognizing the many contributions her analysis offers, I also note some of the (...) deficiencies in her approach, particularly in her attempt to bracket the problems of fetal status and women’s rights. Finally, in light of these criticisms I attempt to extend a virtueethics analysis to embrace a more robust recognition of the humanity of the fetus and the attendant demand of a near absolute prohibition on abortion. (shrink)
The use of the term "applied ethics" to denote a particular field of moral inquiry (distinct from but related to both normative ethics and meta-ethics) is a relatively new phenomenon. The individuation of applied ethics as a special division of moral investigation gathered momentum in the 1970s and 1980s, largely as a response to early twentieth- century moral philosophy's overwhelming concentration on moral semantics and its apparent inattention to practical moral problems that arose in the wake (...) of significant social and technological transformations. The field of applied ethics is now a well established, professional domain sustained by institutional research centers, professional academic appointments, and devoted journals. As the field of applied ethics grew and developed, its contributors predominantly advocated consequentialist and deontological approaches to the problems they address; but lately a significant number of moral philosophers have begun to bring the resources of virtueethics to bear upon the ever-evolving subject matters of applied ethics. (shrink)
We argue that a turn toward virtueethics as a way of understanding medical professionalism represents both a valuable corrective and a missed opportunity. We look at three ways in which a closer appeal to virtueethics could help address current problems or issues in professionalism education—first, balancing professionalism training with demands for professional virtues as a prerequisite; second, preventing demands for the demonstrable achievement of competencies from working against ideal professionalism education as lifelong learning; and (...) third, avoiding temptations to dismiss moral distress as a mere “hidden curriculum” problem. As a further demonstration of how best to approach a lifelong practice of medical virtue, we will examine altruism as a mean between the extremes of self-sacrifice and selfishness. (shrink)
Virtueethics is perhaps the most important development within late twentieth-century moral philosophy. Rosalind Hursthouse, who has made notable contributions to this development, here presents a full exposition and defense of her neo-Aristotelian version of virtueethics. She shows how virtueethics can provide guidance for action, illuminate moral dilemmas, and bring out the moral significance of the emotions.
This collection of 13 specially commissioned essays expands a new intellectual terrain for sociology: virtueethics. Using a variety of religious perspectives, of Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism, Quakerism, with considerations of Islam and the New Age, this engaged and topical collection deals with properties of virtue in relation to the person, celibacy, hope, the apocalypse, mourning, and moral ambiguity. It also treats the concept of virtue in response to MacIntyre, Bauman, Weber, Durkheim, and Giddens. It seeks to (...) move sociology past disabling effects of postmodernity. (shrink)
This volume brings together much of the most influential work undertaken in the field of virtueethics over the last four decades. The ethics of virtue predominated in the ancient world, and recent moral philosophy has seen a revival of interest in virtueethics as a rival to Kantian and utilitarian approaches to morality. Divided into four sections, the collection includes articles critical of other traditions; early attempts to offer a positive vision of (...) class='Hi'>virtueethics; some later criticisms of the revival of virtueethics; and, finally, some recent, more theoretically ambitious essays in virtueethics. (shrink)
Machine generated contents note: Contributors; Method of citing Aristotle's works; Method of citing Kant's works; Introduction; 1. Virtueethics in relation to Kantian ethics: an opinionated overview and commentary Marcia Baron; 2. What does the Aristotelian Phronimos know? Rosalind Hursthouse; 3. Kant and agent-oriented ethics Allen Wood; 4. The difference that ends make Barbara Herman; 5. Two pictures of practical thinking Talbot Brewer; 6. Moving beyond Kant's moral agent in the Grounding Julian Wuerth; 7. A Kantian (...) conception of human flourishing Lara Denis; 8. Kantian perfectionism Paul Guyer; 9. Aristotle, the Stoics, and Kant on anger Nancy Sherman; 10. Kant's impartial virtues of love Christine Swanton; 11. The problem we all have with deontology Michael Slote; 12. Intuition, system, and the 'paradox' of deontology Timothy Chappell; Bibliography; Index. (shrink)
When hard determinists reject the claim that people deserve particular kinds of treatment because of how they have acted, they are left with a problem about remorse. Remorse is often represented as a way we impose retribution on ourselves when we understand that we have acted badly. (This view of remorse appears in the work of Freud, and I think it fits our everyday, pretheoretical understanding of one kind of remorse.) Retribution of any kind cannot be appropriate if we do (...) not deserve bad treatment because of how we have acted. But remorse seems to be essentially bound up with understanding that we have acted badly. If this is right, it is important for hard determinists to find a non-retributive account of remorse, so that they can accommodate remorse within their theories. My goal in this paper is to provide such an account. I describe a kind of remorse which I think is a common human experience, a kind which is based on suffering in sympathy with the person one has wronged. It is similar to suffering in sympathy with one's friends when they suffer. We suffer in sympathy with friends not because we think we deserve to, but because we care about them, and their suffering gives us pain. In the wake of a wrongful act, a "virtuous wrongdoer" comes to care about the person wronged, and suffers in sympathy with him. This kind of remorse can be accommodated by hard determinists. (shrink)
The work is a charitable study on what the internationally renowned presenter and author, Howard Sobel, views to be largely the truth about moral thought and talk. Discussions and observations from David Humes own writings oftentimes reinforce and elaborate the authors notions and there is an assertive attempt to weave logical thinking into the book. Applications to such mathematical concepts as game theory, decision-making, and conditionals are dispersed throughout so as to enlighten the theory behind the ideas.
Hard determinists hold that we never have alternative possibilities of action—that we only can do what we actually do. This means that if hard determinists accept the “ought implies can” principle, they mustaccept that it is never the case that we ought to do anything we do not do. In other words, they must reject the view that there can be “ought”- based moral reasons to do things we do not do. Hard determinists who wish to accommodate moral reasons to (...) do things we do not do can instead appeal to Humean moral reasons that are based on desires to be virtuous. Moral reasons grounded on desires to be virtuous do not depend on our being able to act on those reasons in the way that “ought”-based moral reasons do. (shrink)
For much of the twentieth century it was common to contrast the characteristic forms and preoccupations of modern ethical theory with those of the ancient world. However, the last few decades have seen a growing recognition that contemporary moral philosophy now has much in common with its ancient incarnation, in areas as diverse as virtueethics and ethical epistemology. Christopher Gill has assembled an international team to conduct a fascinating exploration of the relationship between the two fields, (...) exploring key issues in ancient ethics in a way that highlights their conceptual significance for the study of ethics more generally. Virtue, Norms, and Objectivity will be as interesting and relevant to modern moral philosophers, therefore, as it will be to specialists in ancient thought. (shrink)
Lisa Tessman's Burdened Virtues is a deeply original and provocative work that engages questions central to feminist theory and practice, from the perspective of Aristotelian ethics. Focused primarily on selves who endure and resist oppression, she addresses the ways in which devastating conditions confronted by these selves both limit and burden their moral goodness, and affect their possibilities of flourishing. She describes two different forms of "moral trouble" prevalent under oppression. The first is that the oppressed self may be (...) morally damaged, prevented from developing or exercising some of the virtues; the second is that the very conditions of oppression require the oppressed to develop a set of virtues that carry a moral cost to those who practice them--traits that Tessman refers to as "burdened virtues." These virtues have the unusual feature of being disjoined from their bearer's own well being. Tessman's work focuses on issues that have been missed by many feminist moral theories, and her use of the virtueethics framework brings feminist concerns more closely into contact with mainstream ethical theory. This book will appeal to feminist theorists in philosophy and women's studies, but also more broadly, ethicists and social theorists. (shrink)
In "Virtue and Right" Robert Johnson argues that virtueethics that accept standards such as Virtuous Agent (A's x-ing is right in circumstances c iff a fully virtuous agent would x in c) are incomplete, since they cannot account for duties of moral self-improvement. This paper offers four solutions to the problem of incompleteness: the first discards Virtuous Agent and counts actions as wrong iff a vicious person would perform them; the second retains Virtuous Agent but counts (...) self-improving actions as countererogatory: wrong but nonetheless good to do; the third replaces Virtuous Agent with a standard appealing to the Mengzian virtue of righteousness, understood as situational appropriateness; the fourth replaces Virtuous Agent with a standard that holds an action right if it promotes the agent's virtue. Each solution accommodates duties of moral self-improvement, so a virtueethics embracing any of them would not be incomplete. (shrink)
Eudaimonia, Dao, and virtue -- Humanity : Xing and Ergon -- Virtue, mean, and disposition -- Habituation and ritualization -- Practical wisdom and appropriateness -- The highest good and the external goods -- The practical and the contemplative.
Professionals, it is said, have no use for simple lists of virtues and vices. The complexities and constraints of professional roles create peculiar moral demands on the people who occupy them, and traits that are vices in ordinary life are praised as virtues in the context of professional roles. Should this disturb us, or is it naive to presume that things should be otherwise? Taking medical and legal practice as key examples, Justin Oakley and Dean Cocking develop a rigorous articulation (...) and defence of virtueethics, contrasting it with other types of character-based ethical theories and showing that it offers a promising new approach to the ethics of professional roles. They provide insights into the central notions of professional detachment, professional integrity, and moral character in professional life, and demonstrate how a virtue-based approach can help us better understand what ethical professional-client relationships would be like. (shrink)
Virtueethics is standardly taught and discussed as a distinctive approach to the major questions of ethics, a third major position alongside Utilitarian and Kantian ethics. I argue that this taxonomy is a confusion. Both Utilitarianism and Kantianism contain treatments of virtue, so virtueethics cannot possibly be a separate approach contrasted with those approaches. There are, to be sure, quite a few contemporary philosophical writers about virtue who are neither Utilitarians nor (...) Kantians; many of these find inspiration in ancient Greek theories of virtue. But even here there is little unity. Although certain concerns do unite this disparate group (a concern for the role of motives and passions in good choice, a concern for character, and a concern for the whole course of an agent''s life), there are equally profound disagreements, especially concerning the role that reason should play in ethics. One group of modern virtue-theorists, I argue, are primarily anti-Utilitarians, concerned with the plurality of value and the susceptibility of passions to social cultivation. These theorists want to enlarge the place of reason in ethics. They hold that reason can deliberate about ends as well as means, and that reason can modify the passions themselves. Another group of virtue theorists are primarily anti-Kantians. They believe that reason plays too dominant a role in most philosophical accounts of ethics, and that a larger place should be given to sentiments and passions -- which they typically construe in a less reason-based way than does the first group. The paper investigates these differences, concluding that it is not helpful to speak of virtueethics, and that we would be better off characterizing the substantive views of each thinker -- and then figuring out what we ourselves want to say. (shrink)
Situationists argue that virtueethics is empirically untenable, since traditional virtue ethicists postulate broad, efficacious character traits, and social psychology suggests that such traits do not exist. I argue that prominent philosophical replies to this challenge do not succeed. But cross-cultural research gives reason to postulate character traits, and this undermines the situationist critique. There is, however, another empirical challenge to virtueethics that is harder to escape. Character traits are culturally informed, as are our (...) ideals of what traits are virtuous, and our ideals of what qualifies as well-being. If virtues and well-being are culturally constructed ideals, then the standard strategy for grounding the normativity of virtueethics in human nature is undermined. (shrink)
This paper represents two polemics. One is against suggestions (made by Harman and others) that recent psychological research counts against any claim that there is such a thing as genuine virtue (Cf. Harman, in: Byrne, Stalnaker, Wedgwood (eds.) Fact and value, pp 117–127, 2001 ). The other is against the view that virtueethics should be seen as competing against such theories as Kantian ethics or consequentialism, particularly in the specification of decision procedures.
I first summarize the central issues in the debate about the empirical adequacy of virtueethics, and then examine the role that social psychologists claim positive and negative mood have in influencing compassionate helping behavior. I argue that this psychological research is compatible with the claim that many people might instantiate certain character traits after all which allow them to help others in a wide variety of circumstances. Unfortunately for the virtue ethicist, however, it turns out that (...) these helping traits fall well short of exhibiting certain central features of compassion. (shrink)
There have traditionally been two schools of thought regarding moral ideals and their relationship with moral duty. First, many have held that moral agents at all times have a duty or obligation to realize or attain moral ideals, or at least they have a duty to strive to realize or attain them. A second school of thought has maintained that attaining or pursuing moral ideals is supererogatory or beyond the call of duty. Recently a third school of thought has been (...) articulated by Robert Audi in his essay “Wrongs Within Rights.” In this paper I express agreement with Audi, and it will be my suggestion that the resources of virtueethics can profitably be employed to illustrate how his view avoids problems which plague the two traditional schools of thought. (shrink)
Recently, Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum have developed the capabilities approach to provide a model for understanding the effectiveness of programs to help the developing nations. The approach holds that human beings are fundamentally free and have a sense of human dignity. Therefore, institutions need to help people enhance this dignity by providing them with the opportunity to develop their capabilities freely. I argue that this approach may help support business ethics based on virtue. Since teleology has become (...) problematic, virtueethics has had difficulty giving itself an ultimate justification. By combining virtueethics with the capabilities approach, it becomes possible to ground virtueethics on the basis of the existence of human dignity. This frees virtueethics of the need for a strict teleology, replacing it with the notion that people must work to develop the capabilities of others although those capabilities are not pointed toward a definite goal. I further suggest that by grounding virtueethics in capabilities, the actions of a virtuous manager become clearer. Rather than simply charging a manager with serving the public, the manager is charged with serving the stakeholders in a way that develops their capabilities. For example, a manager should not just give their employees what is just but must give them the environment and the encouragement to grow and to find fulfillment in their job. (shrink)
Environmental ethics is apparently caught in a dilemma. We believe in human species partiality as a way of making sense of many of our practices. However as part of our commitment to impartialism in ethics, we arguably should extend the principle of impartiality to other species, in a version of biocentric egalitarianism of the kind advocated by Paul Taylor. According to this view, not only do all entities that possess a good have inherent worth, but they have equal (...) inherent worth, and in particular no species is superior to any other. In this paper, I elaborate a Heideggerian environmental virtueethics that slips between the horns of the dilemma. Central to this ethics is the relation of “dwelling” and the many virtues of dwelling, according to which the world is seen as “holy” in a variety of ways. This ethics is importantly local in respect of time and place, but also has universalistic aspects. To understand such an ethics, it is necessary to grasp Heidegger’s notion of truth as “aleithia” or opening, which enables us to escape the metaphysical dilemmas besetting ethics in the analytic tradition, including standard virtueethics. Elaborating this notion occupies a large part of the paper. (shrink)
Several philosophers have recently claimed to have discovered a new and rather significant problem with virtueethics. According to them, virtueethics generates certain expectations about the behavior of human beings which are subject to empirical testing. But when the relevant experimental work is done in social psychology, the results fall remarkably short of meeting those expectations. So, these philosophers think, despite its recent success, virtueethics has far less to offer to contemporary ethical (...) theory than might have been initially thought. I argue that there are plausible ways in which virtue ethicists can resist arguments based on empirical work in social psychology. In the first three sections of the paper, I reconstruct the line of reasoning being used against virtueethics by looking at the recent work of Gilbert Harman and John Doris. The remainder of the paper is then devoted both to responding to their challenge as well as to briefly sketching a positive account of character trait possession. (shrink)
This article examines the applicability of character and virtueethics to international marketing. The historical background of this field, dimensions of virtueethics and its relationship to other ethical theories are explained. Five core virtues – integrity, fairness, trust, respect and empathy – are suggested as especially relevant for marketing in a multicultural and multinational context. Implications are drawn for marketing scholars, practitioners and educators.
Almost all theories of knowledge and justified belief employ moral concepts and forms of argument borrowed from moral theories, but none of them pay attention to the current renaissance in virtueethics. This remarkable book is the first attempt to establish a theory of knowledge based on the model of virtue theory in ethics. The book develops the concept of an intellectual virtue, and then shows how the concept can be used to give an account (...) of the major concepts in epistemology, including the concept of knowledge. This highly original work of philosophy for professionals will also provide students with an excellent introduction to epistemology, virtue theory, and the relationship between ethics and epistemology. (shrink)
: In this paper I examine and assess an important developing trend in environmental ethics, environmental virtueethics. I begin by providing a thorough survey of influential and representative contributions to environmental virtueethics. Along with explaining these contributions to environmental virtueethics I discuss their various strengths and weaknesses. In the second section I explain what I believe an environmental virtue ethic needs to do to complement other perspectives in environmental (...) class='Hi'>ethics. Then, using the best aspects of previously published work along with some additional argument and analysis, I provide a concise portrait of an environmental virtue ethic that combines the advantages of Aristotelian virtue theory with the insights of contemporary environmental ethics. The environmental virtue ethic that emerges from this analysis and discussion is primarily a philosophical praxis. It provides a model of living well in which an understanding of and a concern for the environment human is constitutive of human flourishing. As a praxis this environmental virtue ethic articulates an account of human flourishing with a view to suggesting how a person can improve her own life by working to preserve wild nature. (shrink)
Thomas Hurka, Simon Keller, and Julia Annas have recently argued that virtueethics is self-effacing. I contend that these arguments are rooted in a mistaken understanding of the role that ideal agency and agent flourishing (should) play in virtueethics. I then show how a virtue ethical theory can avoid the charge of self-effacement and why it is important that it do so.
My question in this paper concerns what eudaimonist virtueethics (EVE) might have to say about what makes right actions right. This is obviously an important question if we want to know what (if anything) distinguishes EVE from various forms of consequentialism and deontology in ethical theorizing. The answer most commonly given is that according to EVE, an action is right if and only if it is what a virtuous person would do in the circumstances. However, understood as (...) a claim about what makes particular actions right, this is not especially plausible. What makes a virtuous person’s actions right must reasonably be a matter of the feature, or features, which she, via her practical wisdom, appreciates as ethically relevant in the circumstances, and not the fact that someone such as herself would perform those actions. I argue that EVE instead should be understood as a more radical alternative in ethical philosophy, an alternative that relies on the background assumption that no general account or criterion for what makes right actions right is available to us: right action is simply too complex to be captured in a ‘finite and manageable set of…moral principles’ (McKeever and Ridge, Principled ethics, Oxford University Press, 2006 , p. 139). This does not rule out the possibility that there might be some generalizations about how we should act which hold true without exception. Perhaps there are some things which we must never do, as well as some features of the world which always carry normative weight (even though their exact weight may vary from one context to another). Still, these things are arguably few and far between, and what we must do to ensure that we reliably recognize what is right in particular situations is to acquire practical wisdom. Nothing short of that could do the job. (shrink)
Technological advancements in information systems over the past few decades have enabled firms to work with the major suppliers and customers in their supply chain in order to improve the performance of the entire channel. Tremendous benefits for all parties can be realized by sharing information and coordinating operations to reduce inventory requirements, improve quality, and increase customer satisfaction; but the companies must collaborate effectively to bring these gains to fruition. We consider two alternative methods of managing these interfirm supply (...) chain relationships in this article. The first, which we have named “dictatorial collaboration,” occurs when a dominant supply chain entity assumes control of the channel and forces the other firms to follow its edicts. We compare and contrast this method with “sustainable collaboration,” in which the parties share resources and engage in joint problem solving to improve the performance of the system as a whole. We use a virtueethics lens to describe these methods of relationship management to suggest that sustainable collaboration is preferable to dictatorial collaboration both operationally and ethically in the long run. (shrink)
This article examines the various pedagogic models suggested by widely used texts and finds them to be predominately rule-based or rule directed. These approaches to the subject matter of business ethics are quite valuable ones, but we find them to leave no room for the study of the virtues. We intend to articulate our reasons for supporting a central if not exclusive role for virtueethics.
Both utilitarian and deontological moral theories locate the source of our moral beliefs in the wrong sorts of considerations. One way this failure manifests itself, we argue, is in the ways these theories analyze the proper human relationship toward the non-human environment. Another, more notorious, manifestation of this failure is found in Derek Parfit's Repugnant Conclusion. Our goal is to explore the connection between these two failures, and to suggest that they are failures of act-centered moral theories in general. As (...) such, they cannot be fixed by simply developing a better version of such a theory. Virtue-based theories, we suggest, provide a more promising alternative. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that the virtueethics tradition can enhance the moral discourse on the ethics of prenatal genetic enhancements in distinctive and valuable ways. Virtueethics prescribes we adopt a much more provisional stance on the issue of the moral permissibility of prenatal genetic enhancements. A stance that places great care on differentiating between the different stakes involved with developing different phenotypes in our children and the different possible means (environmental vs. genetic (...) manipulation) available to parents for pursuing legitimate concerns of parental love and virtue. Key components of the virtueethics account of morality, such as the Aristotelian account of happiness, love and the doctrine of the mean, provide an adequate basis for rejecting the claim that it is morally impermissible for parents to pursue (safe and effective) prenatal enhancements. Furthermore, there is good reason to believe that a virtueethics account of morality could actually support the stronger claim that utilising such interventions can (in certain contexts) be morally required. (shrink)
Work-family conflict has been examined quite often in human resources management and industrial/organizational psychology literature. Numerous statistics show that the magnitude of this employment issue will continue to grow. As employees attempt to balance work demands and family responsibilities, organizations will have to decide to what extent they will go to minimize this conflict. Research has identified numerous negative consequences of work-family stressors for organizations, for employees and for employees' families. There are however many options to reduce this strain, each (...) with advantages and disadvantages. An ethical analysis, from a virtueethics perspective, is applied to this timely issue to present an alternative view in addressing this critical business decision. In addition, a strong connection between the virtueethics analysis and a well-known management theory is given to provide a foundation for managerial implications for resolving work-family conflict. (shrink)
Drawing upon contemporary virtueethics theory, The Model of The Principled Advocate and The Pathological Partisan is introduced. Profiles are developed of diametrically opposed archetypes of public relations and advertising practitioners. The Principled Advocate represents the advocacy virtues of humility, truth, transparency, respect, care, authenticity, equity, and social responsibility. The Pathological Partisan represents the opposing vices of arrogance, deceit, secrecy, manipulation, disregard, artifice, injustice, and raw self-interest. One becomes either a Principled Advocate or a Pathological Partisan by habitually (...) enacting or embodying the virtues or vices in the context of professional practices. (shrink)
This article argues that strong versions of the situationist critique of virtueethics are empirically and conceptually unfounded, as well as that, even if one accepts that the predictive power of character may be limited, this is not a fatal problem for early Confucian virtueethics. Early Confucianism has explicit strategies for strengthening and expanding character traits over time, as well as for managing a variety of situational forces. The article concludes by suggesting that Confucian (...) class='Hi'>virtueethics represents a more empirically responsible model of ethics than those currently dominant in Western philosophy. (shrink)
Should the responsibilities of business managers be understood independently of the social circumstances and “market forces”that surround them, or (in accord with empiricism and the social sciences) are agents and their choices shaped by their circumstances,free only insofar as they act in accordance with antecedently established dispositions, their “character”? Virtueethics, of which I consider myself a proponent, shares with empiricism this emphasis on character as well as an affinity with the social sciences. But recent criticisms of both (...) empiricist and virtue ethical accounts of character deny even this apparent compromise between agency and environment. Here is an account of character that emphasizes dynamic interaction both in the formation and in the interplay between personal agency and responsibility on the one hand and social pressures and the environment on the other. (shrink)
This paper provides an account of virtues as praiseworthy traits of character with a far-reaching capacity to influence conduct. Virtues supply their possessors both with good reasons that indicate, for diverse contexts, what sort of thing be done and with motivation to them. This motivational power of virtue is crucial for the question of what kind of person, or businessperson, one wants to be. The paper shows how the contrast between virtueethics and rule ethics is (...) often drawn too sharply and indicates how virtue theories can incorporate both theoretical and practical uses of rules. More generally, it shows how a virtue orientation affects attitudes in management practices and how an understanding of certain virtues can help in making better decisions, both ethically and in relation to success in business. (shrink)
This paper focuses much-needed attention on the ethical nature of customer relationship management (CRM) strategies in organisations. The research uses an in-depth case study to reflect on the design, implementation and use of ‘best practice’ associated with CRM. We argue that conventional CRM philosophy is based on a fairly narrow construct that fails to consider ethical issues appropriately. We highlight why ethical considerations are important when organisations use CRM and how a more holistic approach incorporating some of Alasdair MacIntyre's ideas (...) on virtueethics could be relevant. (shrink)
I argue for an environmental virtueethics which specifies human excellence and flourishing in relation to nature. I consider Henry David Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, and Rachel Carson as environmental virtue ethicists, and show that these writers share certain ethical positions that any environmental virtueethics worthy of the name must embrace. These positions include putting economic life in its proper,subordinate place within human life as a whole; cultivating scientific knowledge, while appreciating its limits; extending moral (...) considerability to the nonhuman world; and supporting wilderness protection. I argue that Thoreau, Leopold, and Carson themselves exemplify the potential for cultivating excellence in engagement with wild nature: their lives are among our most powerful arguments for its preservation. (shrink)
I examine “The Land Ethic” by Aldo Leopold from a virtueethics perspective. Following Leopold, I posit the “good” as the “integrity, stability, and beauty” of biotic communities and then develop “land virtues” that foster this good. I recommend and defend three land virtues: respect (or ecological sensitivity), prudence, and practical judgment.
From virtueethics and interactionist perspectives, we hypothesized that personal justice norms (distributive and procedural justice norms) were shaped directly and multiplicatively by ethical dispositions (equity sensitivity and need for structure) and ethical climates (egoistic, benevolent, and principle climates). We collected multisource data from 123 companies in Hong Kong, with personal factors assessed by participants’ self-reports and contextual factors by aggregations of their peers. In general, LISREL analyses with latent product variables supported the direct and multiplicative relationships. Our (...) findings could lay the groundwork for justice research from a morality perspective in future. (shrink)
In support of the thesis that virtueethics allows for a more comprehensive and consistent interpretation of the "Analects" than other possible models, the author uses a structural outline of a virtue ethic (derived from Alasdair MacIntyre's account of the Aristotelian tradition) to organize a discussion of the text. The resulting interpretation focuses attention on the religious aspects of Confucianism and accounts for aspects of the text that are otherwise difficult to explain. In addition, the author argues (...) that the structural similarities between the Aristotelian and Confucian conceptions of self-cultivation indicate a dimension of commensurability between the two traditions, despite very real variations in specific content. Finally, the author suggests how crosscultural commensurability, in general, can be understood on a theoretical level. (shrink)
This article explores differences in the ways in which utilitarian, deontological and virtue/aretic ethics treat of act, outcome, and agent. I argue that virtueethics offers important and distinctive insights into business practice, insights overlooked by utilitarian and deontological ethics.
In this essay, I first extend the insights of virtueethics into environmental ethics and examine the possible dangers of this approach. Second, I analyze some qualities of character that an environmentally virtuous person must possess. Third, I evaluate “humility” as an environmental virtue, specifically, the position of Thomas E. Hill, Jr. I conclude that Hill’s conception of “proper” humility can be more adequatelyexplicated by associating it with another virtue, environmental “openness.”.
The encyclical proclaims the centrality of human development, which includes acting with gratuitousness and solidarity in pursuing the common good. This paper considers first whether such relationships of gratuitousness and solidarity can be analysed through the prism of traditional theories of social psychology, which are highly influential in current management research, and concludes that certain aspects of those theories may offer useful tools for analysis at the practical level. This is contrasted with the analysis of such relationships through Aristotelian (...) class='Hi'>virtueethics (in particular as interpreted by MacIntyre 1985 , 1998 , 1999 ), which is emerging as a strong force in the field of business ethics, and which has strong conceptual similarities with the ideas put forward by Benedict XVI. Aristotelian virtueethics offers a better fit with the aims of the encyclical at the theoretical level but it presents a number of challenges at the practical level, which the paper suggests may be addressed through the integration in its analysis of human action of models derived from social psychology. (shrink)
Business ethicists have increasingly used Aristotelian “virtueethics” to analyze the actions of business people and to explore the question of what the standard of ethical behavior is. These analyses have raised many important issues and opened up new avenuesfor research. But the time has come to examine in some detail possible limitations or weaknesses in virtueethics. This paper arguesthat Aristotelian virtueethics is subject to many objections because the psychology implicit within the (...) ethic is not well-suited for analyzing some problematic forms of behavior. Part One offers a brief overview of the firm and of the good life from a virtueethics perspective. Part Two develops a number of criticisms of this perspective. (shrink)
In this essay, I first extend the insights of virtueethics into environmental ethics and examine the possible dangers of this approach. Second, I analyze some qualities of character that an environmentally virtuous person must possess. Third, I evaluate “humility” as an environmental virtue, specifically, the position of Thomas E. Hill, Jr. I conclude that Hill’s conception of “proper” humility can be more adequatelyexplicated by associating it with another virtue, environmental “openness.”.
Abstract: After exploring MacIntyre’s (1985) practice—institution distinction, the article demonstrates its applicability to business-as-practice and to corporations as institutions. It then considers the implications of MacIntyre’s schema to ethical schizophrenia, to the claim that the market is a source of the virtues and to the opposite claim that capitalism corrodes character. A fully worked out modern virtueethics, based on MacIntyre’s work, is then established and the claim is made and substantiated that such an understanding of MacIntrye’s work (...) revitalises it and makes it directly applicable to business and to corporations. (shrink)
Drawing on conceptual works by Murphy (1999) and Solomon (1999), we develop a virtueethics scale. Other ethics scales, which are grounded in deontological and teleological principles, may be used to classify people according to their beliefs about (1) the criteria they use to make ethical decisions, or (2) the ethicality of those decisions. We suggest augmenting these scales with our virtueethics scale, which may be used to classify people according to their beliefs about (...) the virtuous qualities of businesspeople. (shrink)
The notion of rationality underlying contemporary business and business ethics, or the “rational actor” model of moral decision-making in business, links a roughly utilitarian notion of the good to a contractarian notion of human agency. The “C-Umodel” provides inadequate means for explaining how business people do or ought to behave or think about their behavior, because the notion of rationality upon which it relies is far too narrow a picture of business people’s character. An alternative to these assumptions and (...) to the Contractarian-Utilitarian model, is offered in an ethics of virtue. Despite the traditional apparent conflict between these divergent models, the C-U model, if founded in a notion of rationality consistent with Aristotelian ethics, is recognized as a useful instrument in business ethics and business decision-making. Hence, a reconciliation is effected between the C-U model and virtueethics. (shrink)
It is increasingly clear that virtueethics has an important role to play in environmental ethics. However, virtueethics—which has always been characterized by a degree of ambiguity—is faced with substantial challenges in the contemporary “postmodern” cultural milieu. Among these challenges is the lure of relativism. Most virtueethics depend upon some view of the good life; however, today there is no unambiguous, easily agreed-upon account of the good life. Rather, we are presented (...) with a bewildering variety of conflicting accounts of the good life. Narrative—in particular Paul Ricoeur’s account of narrative identity—has much to contribute to virtueethics, including resources that can help us respond to the challenges presented by the postmodern context. Narrative constitutes an “ethical laboratory” by providing us with an “as if” experience through which we can try out various ethical alternatives. Two sorts of environmental narratives, working in concert, further help to limit relativist objections: (1) narratives of environmental survival (which identify dispositions, such as simplicity, necessary for our long-term survival) and (2) narratives of environmental flourishing (which make a virtue of necessity by pointing out those dispositions necessary for our survival often contribute to our flourishing beyond mere survival). (shrink)
Abstract: This article begins by showing how recent controversies over the widespread promotion of artificially gene-altered foods are rooted in opposing ethical and ideological worldviews. It then explains how these contrasting worldviews have led to a practical, ethical, and ideological standoff and, finally, suggests the combined use of casuistry and virtueethics as a way for both sides to move ahead on this pressing issue.
Intellectual virtues are an integral part of adequate environmental virtueethics; these virtues are distinct from moral virtues. Including intellectual virtues in environmental virtueethics produces a more fine-grained account of the forces involved in environmental exploration, appreciation, and decision making than has been given to date. Intellectual virtues are character traits that regulate cognitive activity in support of the acquisition and application of knowledge. They are virtues because they further the human quest for knowledge and (...) true belief; possessing these traits improves us epistemically. Five intellectual virtues illustrate the nature and relevance of intellectual virtues to environmental ethics: thoroughness, temporal/structural sensitivity, flexibility, intellectual trust, and humility. While these virtues share many features of the moral virtues, there are differences between them that have practical implications and give sound reasons for considering these two types as distinct kinds. Intellectual virtues bear a structural relation to knowledge that moral virtues do not, and it is this epistemological stamp that sets them apart. Additionally, the two types of virtue can be possessed independently of one another. Ideally, intellectual virtues will combine with moral virtues such as respect, compassion, and humility to facilitate environmentally respectful behavior. The moral and intellectual virtues are thus importantly distinct and mutually reinforcing. Both should be present in a truly excellent human being, and both have a role to play in fully developed environmental virtueethics. (shrink)
Martin Calkins proposes the “combined use of casuistry and virtueethics 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 virtueethics: (1) virtueethics is egoistic; (2) virtueethics cannot defend any particular account of the virtues as the objectively correct ones and is therefore (...) inextricably relativistic; (3) virtueethics cannot supply a procedure for providing practical or policy guidance in concrete situations; and (4) virtueethics cannot adequately account for the possibility of conflicting or partial virtues. After a brief overview of the basic structure of virtueethics, 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. (shrink)
If virtueethics are to provide a legitimate alternative for reasoning about environmental issues, they must meet the same conditions of adequacy as any other environmental ethic. One such condition that most environmental ethicists insist upon is that an adequate environmental ethic provides a theoretical platform for consistent and justified critique of environmentally unsustainable practices and policies. The external goods approach seeks to establish that any genuinely virtuous agent will be disposed to promote ecosystem sustainability on the grounds (...) that ecosystem sustainability is a necessary external good for cultivating the virtues and/or human flourishing. At most the external goods approach is able to provide an environmental ethic that in most contexts will require that any genuinely virtuous agent will have the goal of promoting a weak environmental sustainability. A better approach may be the substantive approach, which incorporates environmental concern and practice into the substance of the virtues, rather than as a boundary condition for any prospective virtue. (shrink)
The aim of this series is to bring together important recent writings in major areas of philosophical inquiry, selected from a variety of sources, mostly periodicals, which may not be conveniently available to the university student or the general reader. The editors of each volume contribute an introductory essay on the items chosen and on the questions with which they deal. A selective bibliography is appended as a guide to further reading. -/- This volume brings together much of the strongest (...) and most influential work undertaken in the field of virtueethics over the last four decades. The ethics of virtue predominated in the ancient world, and recent moral philosophy has seen a revival of interest in virtueethics as a rival to Kantian and utilitarian approaches to morality. Divided into four sections, it includes articles critical of other traditions; early attempts to offer a positive vision of virtueethics; some later criticisms of the revival of virtueethics; and, finally, some recent, more theoretically ambitious essays in virtueethics. This collection should appeal not only to students and others seeking a wider knowledge of contemporary developments in moral philosophy, but to professional philosophers as well. (shrink)
This essay explicates and evaluates the roles that fetal metaphysics and moral status play in Rosalind Hursthouse’s abortion ethics. It is motivated by Hursthouse’s puzzling claim in her widely anthologized paper VirtueEthics and Abortion that fetal moral status and (by implication) its underlying metaphysics are in a way, fundamentally irrelevant to her position. The essay clarifies the roles that fetal ontology and moral status do in fact play in her abortion ethics. To this end, it (...) presents and then develops her fetal metaphysics of the potential and actual human being, which she merely adumbrates in her more extensive treatment of abortion ethics in her book Beginning Lives. The essay then evaluates her fetal ontology in light of relevant research on fetal neural and psychological development. It concludes that her implied view that the late-stage fetus is an actual human being is defensible. The essay then turns to the analysis of late-stage abortions in her paper and argues that it is importantly incomplete. (shrink)
Moral luck poses a problem for out conception of responsibility because it highlights a tension between morality and lack of control. Michael Slote’s common-sense virtueethics claims to avoid this problem. However there are a number of objections to this claim. Firstly, it is not clear that Slote fully appreciates the problem posed by moral luck. Secondly, Slote’s move from the moral to the ethical is problematic. Thirdly it is not clear why we should want to abandon judgements (...) of moral blame in favour of judgements of ethical deplorability. Finally this paper defends an alternative solution to the problem of moral luck, which focuses on judgements of probability, but which has been rejected by Slote. (shrink)
In this paper I examine and reply to a deflationary challenge brought against virtueethics. The challenge comes from critics who are impressed by recent psychological evidence suggesting that much of what we take to be virtuous conduct is in fact elicited by narrowly specific social settings, as opposed to being the manifestation of robust individual character. In answer to the challenge, I suggest a conception of virtue that openly acknowledges the likelihood of its deep, ongoing dependence (...) upon particular social relationships and settings. I argue that holding this conception will indeed cause problems for some important strands of thought in virtueethics, most notably in the tradition of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. But an approach to virtueethics modeled on David Hume's treatment of virtue and character in A Treatise of Human Nature promises to escape these problems. (shrink)
Conceived of as a contender to other theories in substantive ethics, virtueethics is often associated with, in essence, the following account or criterion of right action: VR: An action A is right for S in circumstances C if and only if a fully virtuous agent would characteristically do A in C. There are serious objections to VR, which take the form of counter-examples. They present us with different scenarios in which less than fully virtuous persons would (...) be acting rightly in doing what no fully virtuous agent would characteristically do in the circumstances. In this paper, various proposals for how to revise VR in order to avoid these counter-examples are considered. I will argue that in so far as the revised accounts really do manage to steer clear of the counter-examples to VR, something which it turns out is not quite true for all of them, they instead fall prey to other damaging objections. I end by discussing the future of virtueethics, given what has come to light in the previous sections of the paper. In particular, I sketch the outlines of a virtue ethical account of rightness that is structurally different from VR. This account also faces important problems. Still, I suggest that further scrutiny is required before we are in a position to make a definitive decision about its fate. (shrink)
In A New Form of Agent-Based VirtueEthics , Daniel Doviak develops a novel agent-based theory of right action that treats the rightness (or deontic status) of an action as a matter of the action’s net intrinsic virtue value (net-IVV)—that is, its balance of virtue over vice. This view is designed to accommodate three basic tenets of commonsense morality: (i) the maxim that “ought” implies “can,” (ii) the idea that a person can do the right thing (...) for the wrong reason, and (iii) the idea that a virtuous person can have “mixed motives.” In this paper, I argue that Doviak’s account makes an important contribution to agent-based virtueethics, but it needs to be supplemented with a consequentialist account of the efficacy of well-motivated actions—that is, it should be transformed into a mixed (motives-consequences) account, while retaining its net-IVV calculus. This is because I believe that there are right-making properties external to an agent’s psychology which it is important to take into account, especially when an agent’s actions negatively affect other people. To incorporate this intuition, I add to Doviak’s net-IVV calculus a scale for outcomes . The result is a mixed view which accommodates tenets (ii) and (iii) above, but allows for (i) to fail in certain cases. I argue that, rather than being a defect, this allowance is an asset because our intuitions about ought-implies-can break down in cases where an agent is grossly misguided, and our theory should track these intuitions. (shrink)
Abstract: The aim of this essay is to test the claim that epistemologists—virtue epistemologists in particular—have much to learn from virtueethics. The essay begins with an outline of virtueethics itself. This section concludes that a pure form of virtueethics is likely to be unattractive, so the virtue epistemologist should examine the "impure" views of real philosophers. Aristotle is usually held up as the paradigm virtue ethicist. His doctrine of (...) the mean is described, and it is explained how that doctrine can provide a framework for an account of epistemic virtue. The conclusion of the essay is that a virtue epistemology based on analogies with virtueethics, though well worth developing and considering, will face several challenges in fulfilling the significant promises that have been made on its behalf. (shrink)
Abstract Truth-telling is a key issue within the nurse–patient relationship. Nurses make decisions on a daily basis regarding what information to tell patients. This paper analyses truth-telling within an end of life scenario. Virtueethics provides a useful philosophical approach for exploring decisions on information disclosure in more detail. Virtueethics allows appropriate examination of the moral character of the nurse involved, their intention, ability to use wisdom and judgement when making decisions and the virtue (...) of truth-telling. It is appropriate to discuss nursing as a 'practice' in relation to virtueethics. This is achieved through consideration of the implications of arguments made by Alasdair MacIntyre who believes that qualities such as honesty, courage and justice are virtues because they enable us to achieve the internal goods of practices. (shrink)
In this paper I evaluate some recent virtue-ethical accounts of right action [Hursthouse 1999; Slote 2001; Swanton 2001]. I argue that all are vulnerable to what I call the insularity objection : evaluating action requires attention to worldly consequences external to the agent, whereas virtueethics is primarily concerned with evaluating an agent's inner states. More specifically, I argue that insofar as these accounts are successful in meeting the insularity objection they invite the circularity objection : they (...) end up relying upon putatively virtue-ethical considerations that themselves depend on unexplained judgments of rightness. Such accounts thus face a dilemma that is characteristic of virtue-ethical accounts of right action. They avoid the insularity objection only at the cost of inviting the circularity objection: they become intuitively plausible roughly to the extent that they lose their distinctively virtue-ethical character. (shrink)
An ethical theory is self-effacing if it tells us that sometimes, we should not be motivated by the considerations that justify our acts. In his influential paper 'The Schizophrenia of Modern Ethical Theories' , Michael Stocker argues that consequentialist and deontological ethical theories must be self-effacing, if they are to be at all plausible. Stocker's argument is often taken to provide a reason to give up consequentialism and deontology in favour of virtueethics. I argue that this assessment (...) is a mistake. Virtueethics is self-effacing in just the same way as are the theories that Stocker attacks. Or, at the very least: if there is a way for virtueethics to avoid self-effacement then there are ways for its rivals to avoid self-effacement too. Therefore, considerations of self-effacement provide no reason to prefer virtueethics to its major rivals. (shrink)
This paper discusses the viability of a virtue-based approach to bioethics. Virtueethics is clearly appropriate to addressing issues of professional character and conduct. But another major remit of bioethics is to evaluate the ethics of biomedical procedures in order to recommend regulatory policy. How appropriate is the virtueethics approach to fulfilling this remit? The first part of this paper characterizes the methodology problem in bioethics in terms of diversity, and shows that (...) class='Hi'>virtueethics does not simply restate this problem in its own terms. However, fatal objections to the way the virtueethics approach is typically taken in bioethics literature are presented in the second section of the paper. In the third part, a virtue-based approach to bioethics that avoids the shortcomings of the typical one is introduced and shown to be prima facie plausible. The upshot is an inviting new direction for research into bioethics' methodology. (shrink)
: The paper argues that care ethics should be subsumed under virtueethics by construing care as an important virtue. Doing so allows us to achieve two desirable goals. First, we preserve what is important about care ethics (for example, its insistence on particularity, partiality, emotional engagement, and the importance of care to our moral lives). Second, we avoid two important objections to care ethics, namely, that it neglects justice, and that it contains no (...) mechanism by which care can be regulated so as not to be become morally corrupt. (shrink)
There is an obvious affinity between virtueethics and particularism. Both stress the complexify of the moral life, the inadequacy of rule-following as a guide to moral deliberation, and the importance of judgement in discerning the morally relevant features of particular situations. Yet it remains an open question how deep the affinity goes. I argue that the radical form of particularism defended by Jonathan Dancy has surprisingly strong implications for virtueethics. Adopting such a view would (...) require the virtue theorist either to adopt an unattractive model of moral motivation or to embrace a fairly strong version of the unity of the virtues. (shrink)
Nursing ethics centres on how nurses ought to respond to the moral situations that arise in their professional contexts. Nursing ethicists invoke normative approaches from moral philosophy. Specifically, it is increasingly common for nursing ethicists to apply virtueethics to moral problems encountered by nurses. The point of this article is to argue for scepticism about this approach. First, the research question is motivated by showing that requirements on nurses such as to be kind, do not suffice (...) to establish virtueethics in nursing because normative rivals (such as utilitarians) can say as much; and the teleology distinctive of virtueethics does not transpose to a professional context, such as nursing. Next, scepticism is argued for by responding to various attempts to secure a role for virtueethics in nursing. The upshot is that virtueethics is best left where it belongs – in personal moral life, not professional ethics – and nursing ethics is best done by taking other approaches. (shrink)
Virtueethics is now well established as a substantive, independent normative theory. It was not always so. The revival of virtueethics was initially spurred by influential criticisms of other normative theories, especially those made by Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, John McDowell, Alasdair MacIntyre, and Bernard Williams. 1 Because of this heritage, virtueethics is often associated with anti-theory movements in ethics and more recently, moral particularism. There are, however, quite a few different (...) approaches to ethics that can reasonably claim to be versions of virtueethics. The predominant strand of virtueethics is broadly Aristotelian, although some accounts bear little resemblance to Aristotle's. In its most general form, virtueethics is compatible with a wide range of meta-ethical and normative commitments. This diversity makes it difficult to compare virtueethics as such with other normative theories. It can also be a challenge to see just what the various versions of virtueethics have in common with each other. Three major types of virtueethics are represented in the books by Rosalind Hursthouse, Michael Slote, and Christine Swanton, recommended in the following section. Each of these book sets forward a considerably self-standing form of virtueethics. The authors differ on central issues such as the relationship between virtue and flourishing and the link between virtuous agents and right or virtuous actions. Unlike Swanton and Slote, Hursthouse defends a version of ethical naturalism that has affinities with theories recently defended by Philippa Foot and Alasdair MacIntyre. 2 Slote's theory is agent-based, meaning that his account derives judgments about the moral status of actions from moral features of agents. Hursthouse and Swanton defend theories according to which the moral status of an action depends on its broader relationship to human flourishing (Hursthouse) or whether it hits the target of a virtue (Swanton). Although these three books presently form the core of contemporary virtueethics, there are other approaches that might reasonably be described as versions of virtueethics, such as those presented by Julia Driver, Linda Zagzebski, and Robert Adams. 3 There are also, of course, a large number of articles in which authors defend or criticize tenets that are central to most versions of virtueethics. Some recent articles on especially important topics are listed in the following section. Current 'hot topics' in virtueethics include whether its account of right action is adequate and whether virtueethics is at odds with empirical psychology. Articles on these debates and others are listed in the following section. Author Recommends: Books These three books are foundational works in contemporary virtueethics, and represent quite different approaches to virtueethics. For each book, I have also listed an article by the same author in which he or she articulates some similar themes. Those pressed for time or space on a syllabus might start by examining those articles. 1. Hursthouse, Rosalind. On VirtueEthics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. Hursthouse defends a eudaimonistic version of virtueethics with Aristotelian affinities. *See also Hursthouse, Rosalind. 'Normative VirtueEthics.' How Should One Live? Ed. Roger Crisp. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996. 19–36. 2. Slote, Michael. Morals from Motives. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. Slote defends a version of virtueethics based on evaluations of motives, drawing on historical figures like Martineau, Hutcheson, and Hume. Note that this book represents a fairly significant departure from his first book in virtueethics, From Morality to Virtue (New York: Oxford, 1992). *See also Slote, Michael. 'Agent-Based VirtueEthics.' VirtueEthics . Ed. Roger Crisp and Michael Slote. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. 3. Swanton, Christine. VirtueEthics: A Pluralistic View. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. Swanton defends a pluralistic, non-eudaimonistic version of virtueethics that draws on influences ranging from Aristotle to Nietzsche to contemporary psychoanalytic theory. *See also Swanton, Christine. 'A Virtue Ethical Account of Right Action.' Ethics 112 (2001): 32–52. Articles The following is a selection of articles that address some of the central and controversial topics within virtueethics. 1. Annas, Julia. 'Being Virtuous and Doing the Right Thing.' Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 78.2 (2004): 61–75. This article addresses the problem of action guidance and the role that an account of right action should play in virtueethics. 2. Conly, Sarah. 'Flourishing and the Failure of the Ethics of Virtue.' Midwest Studies in Philosophy Vol. XIII, Ethical Theory: Character and Virtue . Eds. P. French et al. South Bend: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988. 83–96. This article articulates the central problems faced by versions of virtueethics that rely on a conception of human flourishing. 3. Das, Ramon. 'VirtueEthics and Right Action.' Australasian Journal of Philosophy 81 (2003): 324–39. This article raises objections about insularity and circularity to accounts of right action presented by Hursthouse, Slote, and Swanton. 4. Doris, John M. 'Persons, Situations, and VirtueEthics.' Nous 32 (1998): 504–30. This article argues that situationist psychology undermines the concept of a character trait on which virtue ethicists rely. An expanded version of this criticism can be found in Doris, Lack of Character, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. 5. Hursthouse, Rosalind. 'Virtue Theory and Abortion.' Philosophy and Public Affairs 20.3 (1991): 223–46. This article argues that virtueethics is capable of providing action guidance in the difficult problem of abortion. 6. Johnson, Robert N. 'Virtue and Right.' Ethics 113 (2003): 810–34. This article raises several objections against the accounts of right action in virtueethics, one of which is that they cannot make sense of the rightness of self-improving actions. The criticism is directly primarily at Hursthouse's theory, but Swanton and Slote are discussed as well. 7. Kamtekar, Rachana. 'Situationism and VirtueEthics on the Content of Our Character.' Ethics 114 (2004): 458–91. This article argues that situationist critiques of virtueethics rely on a mistaken understanding of virtuous character. 8. Kawall, Jason. 'Virtue Theory and Ideal Observers.' Philosophical Studies 109 (2002): 197– 222. This article argues for an ideal observer-style account of right action in virtueethics. 9. Nussbaum, Martha. 'Non-Relative Virtues: An Aristotelian Approach.' Midwest Studies in Philosophy, Vol. XIII, Ethical Theory: Character and Virtue . Ed. P. French et al. South Bend: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988. 32–53. This article presents a view of the virtues on which the virtues are excellences in spheres of activity. Although the spheres are common to all humans, the manifestation of excellence in a given sphere is subject to cultural variation. 10. Sreenivasan, Gopal. 'Errors about Errors: Virtue Theory and Trait Attribution.' Mind 111 (2002): 47–68. This article addresses the situationist critique of character traits by arguing that virtueethics does not depend on the concept of a character trait as Doris and others understand it. 11. Stangl, Rebecca. 'A Dilemma for Particularist VirtueEthics.' Philosophical Quarterly 58 (2008): 665–78. This article addresses the relationship between virtueethics and radical moral particularism, arguing that the latter may have undesirable consequences for virtue ethicists unless they accept the unity of the virtues. 12. Stohr, Karen. 'Contemporary VirtueEthics.' Philosophy Compass 1.1 (January 2006): 22–7. This article provides an overview and analysis of contemporary virtueethics. It includes discussion of main problems and challenges for the future. 13. Stohr, Karen. 'Moral Cacophony: When Continence is a Virtue.' Journal of Ethics 7 (2003): 339–63. This article raises problems for the commonly accepted distinction between virtue and continence, arguing that the mixed emotions normally associated with continence are sometimes characteristic of virtue instead. 14. van Zyl, Liezl. 'Agent-Based VirtueEthics and the Problem of Action Guidance.' Journal of Moral Philosophy 6 (2009): 50–69. This article defends agent-based virtueethics against objections that it cannot distinguish agent-appraisal from act-appraisal and that it cannot provide adequate action guidance. Anthologies 1. Crisp, Roger, ed. How Should One Live? Essays on the Virtues. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996. This is one of the first virtueethics anthologies published, and so reflects a correspondingly earlier picture of the field. The essays, however, are important and interesting in their own right, and cover a broad array of topics. 2. Crisp, Roger and Michael Slote, eds. VirtueEthics . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. This anthology was published over a decade ago and does not capture recent developments in the field. It is, however, an admirably thorough collection of the most influential essays from the early days of virtueethics, both promoting and criticizing it. 3. Darwall, Stephen, ed. VirtueEthics. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003. This anthology is distinctive in that it includes material from Aristotle, Hutcheson, and Hume, along with some central contemporary sources. 4. Walker, Rebecca L. and Philip J. Ivanhoe, eds. Working Virtue. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. This recent anthology focuses on applied virtueethics and has an excellent selection of essays by influential thinkers on topics including the environment, business, medicine, war, and poverty. Online Sources 'VirtueEthics', Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-virtue/ Entry written by Rosalind Hursthouse and updated in 2007. 'Bibliography on VirtueEthics', maintained by Jörg Schroth. http://www.ethikseite.de/bib/cvirtue.pdf Extensive list of work published in virtueethics. Updated regularly, listed in both alphabetical and chronological order, and contains abstracts of papers. 'Janusblog', maintained by Guy Axtell. http://janusblog.squarespace.com/ Blog devoted to current work in virtueethics and virtue epistemology, although with an emphasis on the latter. It contains spirited discussion among the many contributors, as well as a library of papers. Sample Syllabus This syllabus is for a graduate seminar or intense upper-level undergraduate course. Books for purchase for this course might include the Crisp and Slote anthology, the Walker and Ivanhoe anthology, and Hursthouse's On VirtueEthics. Week 1: The Roots of Contemporary VirtueEthics Anscombe, Elizabeth. 'Modern Moral Philosophy' (Crisp and Slote) Foot, Philippa. 'Virtues and Vices' (Crisp and Slote) MacIntyre, Alasdair. 'The Nature of the Virtues' (Crisp and Slote) Week 2: The Roots of Contemporary VirtueEthics Stocker, Michael. 'The Schizophrenia of Modern Ethical Theories' (Crisp and Slote) Williams, Bernard. 'Morality, the Peculiar Institution' (Crisp and Slote) McDowell, John. 'Virtue and Reason' (Crisp and Slote) Week 3: Aristotelian VirtueEthics Hursthouse, Rosalind. On VirtueEthics, Part I Hursthouse, Rosalind. 'Practical Wisdom: A Mundane Account.' Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 106.3 (2006): 283–307. Stangl, Rebecca. 'A Dilemma for Particularist VirtueEthics' Week 4: Aristotelian VirtueEthics Hursthouse, Rosalind. On VirtueEthics, Part II Stark, Susan. 'Virtue and Emotion.' Nous 33.5 (2001): 440–55. Stohr, Karen. 'Moral Cacophony: When Continence is a Virtue' Week 5: Aristotelian VirtueEthics Hursthouse, Rosalind. On VirtueEthics, Part III Conly, Sarah. 'Flourishing and the Failure of an Ethics of Virtue' Nussbaum, Martha. 'Non-Relative Virtues: An Aristotelian Approach' MacIntyre, Alasdair. Dependent Rational Animals, chapter 10 Week 6: Agent-Based VirtueEthics Slote, Michael 'Agent-Based VirtueEthics' (Crisp and Slote) Slote, Michael, Morals from Motives, chapters 1 and 3 Week 7: Pluralistic VirtueEthics Swanton, Christine. VirtueEthics: A Pluralistic View , chapters 3, 4, and 11. Week 8: The Situationist Critique of VirtueEthics Doris, John. 'Persons, Situations, and VirtueEthics' Kamtekar, Rachana. 'Situationism and VirtueEthics on the Content of Our Character' Sreenivasan, Gopal. 'Errors about Errors: Virtue Theory and Trait Attribution' Merritt, Maria. 'Aristotelian Virtue and the Interpersonal Aspect of Ethical Character.' Journal of Moral Philosophy 6 (2009): 23–49. Week 11: Right Action – Problems Johnson, Robert. 'Virtue and Right' Das, Ramon. 'VirtueEthics and Right Action' Week 12: Right Action – VirtueEthics Solutions Annas, Julia. 'Being Virtuous and Doing the Right Thing' van Zyl, Liezl. 'Agent-Based VirtueEthics and the Problem of Action Guidance' Kawall, Jason. 'Virtue Theory and Ideal Observers' Week 13: VirtueEthics and Professional Roles Pelligrino, Edmund. 'Professing Medicine, Virtue Based Ethics, and the Retrieval of Professionalism' (Walker and Ivanhoe) Swanton, Christine. 'VirtueEthics, Role Ethics, and Business Ethics' (Walker and Ivanhoe) Sherman, Nancy. 'Virtue and a Warrier's Anger' (Walker and Ivanhoe) Week 14: VirtueEthics and the Non-Human World Hursthouse, Rosalind. 'Environmental VirtueEthics' (Walker and Ivanhoe) Walker, Rebecca. 'The Good Life for Non-Human Animals: What Virtue Requires of Humans' (Walker and Ivanhoe) Focus Questions 1. What is the relationship between virtue and flourishing? Are the virtues necessary for flourishing? Sufficient? 2. Can virtueethics provide an adequate account of right action? 3. On what concept of a character trait does virtueethics rely, and does situationist psychology undermine it? 4. Is the project of ethical naturalism a plausible one? To what extent does the success of Aristotelian virtueethics depend on it? 5. How does virtueethics affect the way that applied ethics is done? (shrink)
Modern virtueethics is commonly presented as an alternative to Kantian and utilitarian views—to ethics focused on action and obligations—and it invokes Aristotle as a predecessor. This paper argues that the Nichomachean Ethics does not represent virtueethics thus conceived, because the discussion of the virtues of character there serves a quasi-Platonic psychology: it is an account of how to tame the unruly (non-rational) elements of the human soul so that they can be ruled (...) by reason and the laws it imposes. This is explicitly stated in Book X, where it is also affirmed that the question of which laws reason should impose is addressed in The Politics. The Ethics and Politics can therefore be seen as a unity—as Aristotle's version of Plato's Republic—and it is the failure to recognize this that explains Aristotle's misappropriation by the modern virtue ethicists. (shrink)
Virtue ethicists argue that modern ethical theories aim to give direct guidance about particular situations at the cost of offering artificial or narrow accounts of ethics. In contrast, virtue ethical theories guide action indirectly by helping one understand the virtues?but the theory will not provide answers as to what to do in particular instances. Recently, this had led many to think that virtue ethical theories are self-effacing the way some claim consequentialist and deontological theories are. In (...) this paper I defend virtueethics against the charge of self-effacement. I distinguish between modestly self-effacing theories, immodestly self-effacing theories and theories that recommend indirect guidance. Though all self-effacing theories are indirect, not all indirect theories are self-effacing. I argue that virtueethics is not self-effacing, but rather indirectly action-guiding. The response I articulate draws on the distinctive virtue ethical mode of action-guidance: namely, that thinking hard about virtue and what kind of person one aims to be offers the kind of guidance we want (or should want) as we face practical moral problems. (shrink)
This article explores the respective roles that medical and technological cognitive enhancements, on the one hand, and the moral and epistemic virtues traditionally understood, on the other, can play in enabling us to lead the good life. It will be shown that neither the virtues nor cognitive enhancements (of the kind we have access to today or in the foreseeable future) on their own are likely to enable most people to lead the good life. While the moral and epistemic virtues (...) quite plausibly are both necessary and sufficient for the good life in theory, virtueethics is often criticised for being elitist and unachievable in practice for the vast majority. Some cognitive enhancements, on the other hand, might be necessary for the good life but are far from sufficient for such an existence. Here it will be proposed that a combination of virtue and some cognitive enhancements is preferable. (shrink)
My contention is that virtueethics offers an important critique of traditional philosophical conceptions of moral status as well as an alternative view of important moral issues held to depend on moral status. I argue that the scope of entities that deserve consideration depends on our conception of the demands of virtues like justice; which entities deserve consideration emerges from a moral view of a world shaped by that conception. The deepest disputes about moral status depend on conflicting (...) conceptions of justice. I advocate a conception of the virtue of justice that can account for the cases that pose problems for the legalistic views of moral status and discuss what ideal moral debate looks like on this view. (shrink)
In this book, Bryan W. Van Norden examines early Confucianism as a form of virtueethics and Mohism, an anti-Confucian movement, as a version of consequentialism. The philosophical methodology is analytic, in that the emphasis is on clear exegesis of the texts and a critical examination of the philosophical arguments proposed by each side. Van Norden shows that Confucianism, while similar to Aristotelianism in being a form of virtueethics, offers different conceptions of “the good life,” (...) the virtues, human nature, and ethical cultivation. (shrink)
According to Slote's ``agent-based'' virtueethics, the rightness orwrongness of an act is determined by the motive it expresses. Thistheory has a problem with cases where an agent can do her duty onlyby expressing some vicious motive and thereby acting wrongly. In sucha situation, an agent can only act wrongly; hence, the theory seemsincompatible with the maxim that `ought' implies `can'. I argue thatSlote's attempt to circumvent this problem by appealing to compatibilism is inadequate. In a wide range (...) of psychologically realistic cases, an agent's effective choice will be between failingto do her duty and doing it from inferior motives. Then anythingshe can do will be wrong, according to the agent-based theory,contrary to the maxim Slote wishes to preserve. (shrink)
Abstract: The information ethics (IE) of Floridi and Sanders is evaluated here in the light of an alternative in virtueethics that is antifoundationalist, particularist, and relativist in contrast to Floridi's foundationalist, impartialist, and universalist commitments. Drawing from disparate traditional sources like Aristotle, Nietzsche, and Emerson, as well as contemporary advocates of virtueethics like Nussbaum, Foot, and Williams, the essay shows that the central contentions of IE, including especially the principle of ontological equality, must (...) either express commitments grounded in the particular perspectives we already inhabit, or be without rational or ethical force for us. (shrink)
The proponent of the epistemological gap maintains that value claims are justified in a different way than are nonvalue claims. I show that a neo-Aristotelian naturalized virtueethics does not fall prey to this gap. There are ethical claims concerning human beings that are epistemically justified in a way logically identical to the way in which are justified certain nonethical claims about human and nonhuman organisms. This demonstration (1) lends credibility to naturalized virtueethics, (2) calls (...) into question the very notion of an epistemological gap, and (3) confronts antinaturalists with a dilemma. (shrink)
My aim in this article is to argue that Philippa Foot fails to provide a convincing basis for moral evaluation in her book Natural Goodness. Foot’s proposal fails because her conception of natural goodness and defect in human beings either sanctions prescriptive claims that are clearly objectionable or else it inadvertently begs the question of what constitutes a good human life by tacitly appealing to an independent ethical standpoint to sanitize the theory’s normative implications. Foot’s appeal to natural facts about (...) human goodness is in this way singled out as an Achilles’ heel that undermines her attempt to establish an independent framework for virtueethics. This problem might seem to be one that is uniquely applicable to the bold naturalism of Foot’s methodology; however, I claim that the problem is indicative of a more general problem for all contemporary articulations of virtueethics.Je soutiens dans cet article que, dans son livre, Natural Goodness, Philippa Foot ne parvient pas à fournir de fondement convainquant à l’evaluation morale. Son argumentation échoue parce que sa conception des qualités et des défauts naturels, soit sanctionne des jugements prescriptifs qui sont manifestement susceptibles d’étre rejetés, soit commet par mégarde une pétition de principe en définissant ce qu’est la bonne vie morale au moyen d’une référence implicite à un point de vue éthique indépendant servant à assainir les implications normatives de la théorie en question. L’utilisation que Foot fait des données de la nature sur l’excellence humaine est ainsi identifi’e comme le talon d’Achille de sa théorie qui ruine sa tentative d’établir un cadre indépendant pour l’éthique de la vertu. Ce problème pourrait paraître concerner uniquement la méthodologie de Foot et son naturalisme radical. J’affirme cependant qu’il est le signe d’un problème plus general pour toutes les formulationscontemporaines de l’éthique de la vertu. (shrink)