In the present study, we examined how the perceived attainability and relatability of moral exemplars predicted moral elevation and pleasantness among both adult and college student participants. Data collected from two experiments were analyzed with Bayesian multilevel modeling to explore which factors significantly predicted outcome variables at the story level. The analysis results demonstrated that the main effect of perceived relatability and the interaction effect between attainability and relatability shall be included in the best prediction model, and thus, were deemed (...) to predict the outcome variables significantly. The main effect of relatability as well as its interaction with attainability positively predicted elevation and pleasantness. We discussed educational implications of the findings in terms of how relatability may be the first point of emphasis for moral educators to focus on and attainability can then bolster the effectiveness. These relatable and attainable moral exemplars can be sources for moral elevation and pleasantness, which promote motivation to emulate moral behavior presented by the exemplars. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to review and critique Wessel Reijers and Bert Gordijn’s paper Moving from value sensitive design to virtuous practice design. In doing so, it draws on recent literature on developing value sensitive design (VSD) to show how the authors’ virtuous practice design (VPD), at minimum, is not mutually exclusive to VSD. This paper argues that virtuous practice is not exclusive to the basic methodological underpinnings of VSD. This can therefore strengthen, rather than exclude the VSD (...) approach. Likewise, this paper presents not only a critique of what was offered as a “potentially fruitful alternative to VSD” but further clarifies and contributes to the VSD scholarship in extending its potential methodological practices and scope. It is concluded that VPD does not appear to offer any original contribution that more recent instantiations of VSD have not already proposed and implemented. (shrink)
These are early days in the philosophical study of character. We know very little about what most peoples’ character looks like. Important virtues are surprisingly neglected. There are almost no strategies advanced by philosophers today for improving character. We have a long way to go.
This book provides an entry-level introduction to philosophical ethics, theories of moral reasoning, and selected issues in applied ethics. Chapter 1 describes the importance of philosophical approaches to ethical issues, the general dialectical form of moral reasoning, and the broad landscape of moral philosophy. Chapter 2 presents egoism and relativism as challenges to the presumed objectivity and unconditionality of morality. Chapters 3, 4 and 5 discuss utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics, respectively. Each chapter begins with a general overview of the (...) characteristic theory of value and moral reasoning and proceeds to present a more refined account based on a prominent historical source (Mill, Kant, and Aristotle, respectively). It then discusses strengths and weaknesses of the theory from a contemporary perspective, including more recent developments, defenses, and critiques. Each chapter includes an appendix in which secondary, less prominent, or more complex issues are discussed. Chapters 6-9 address in detail a prominent area of applied ethics: 6. abortion, 7. assisted dying, 8. Biotechnology, 9. Animals and eating. Each of these chapters presents an introduction to the topic, including definitions, historical and contemporary developments and contexts, etc.; the various questions and issues involved; and an application of each theory from multiple points of view. Each chapter also includes a set of primary readings along with an extensive bibliography. Chapter 10 discusses four more areas of applied ethics: War, Torture, and Terrorism; Capital Punishment; Environmental Ethics; and Same-Sex Marriage. The treatment of these topics focuses mainly on the introductory material. While there is some discussion of the various ethical arguments, it is less comprehensive or detailed compared to other chapters. However, several primary resources are listed to supplement the discussion in the textbook. (shrink)
Michael Stocker’s “The Schizophrenia of Modern Ethical Theories” attacks versions of consequentialism and deontological ethics on the grounds that they are self-effacing. While it is often thought that Stocker’s argument gives us a reason to favour virtue ethics over those other theories, Simon Keller has argued that this is a mistake. He claims that virtue ethics is also self-effacing, and is therefore afflicted with the self-effacement- related problems that Stocker identifies in consequentialism and deontology. This paper defends virtue ethics against (...) this claim. Although there is a kind of self-effacement invol- ved in the exercise of virtue, this is quite different from the so-called schizophrenia that Stocker thinks is induced by modern ethical theory. Importantly, manifesting virtue does not require one to embrace mutually inconsistent moral commitments, as is at times encouraged by consequentialists and deontologists. This paper also considers a reading of the virtue-ethical criterion of right action that is encouraged by Bernard Williams’s distinction between a de re and a de dicto interpretation of the phrase “acting as the virtuous person would.” I argue that such a reading addresses concerns that a virtue-ethi- cal criterion of right action inevitably generates a problematic form of self-effacement. (shrink)
In this essay, I offer a survey of Julia Annas’ perspective on virtue ethics. I focus on her most recent work and highlight the role reflection plays in shaping her conception of the virtuous agent. I compare her approach with that of rival moral conceptions, both within and outside virtue ethics, and conclude with a doubt raised from a Humean point of view.
In a special issue of “Ethics and Information Technology” (September 2012), various philosophers have discussed the notion of online friendship. The preferred framework of analysis was Aristotle’s theory of friendship: it was argued that online friendships face many obstacles that hinder them from ever reaching the highest form of Aristotelian friendship. In this article I aim to offer a different perspective by critically analyzing the arguments these philosophers use against online friendship. I begin by isolating the most common arguments these (...) philosophers use against online friendship and proceed to debunk them one by one by pointing out inconsistencies and fallacies in their arguments and, where needed, offering empirical findings from media and communication studies that offer a more nuanced view on online friendships. I conclude my analysis by questioning the correctness of the application of the Aristotelian theory of friendship by the critics of online friendship: in my view, the critics are applying the Aristotelian theory to online friendships in a rather narrow and limited way. Finally, I conclude my thesis by proposing that in the rapidly changing online landscape, a one-size-fits-all application of the Aristotelian theory on friendship is not sufficient to accurately judge the multitude of relationships that can exist online and that the various positive and valuable elements of online friendships should also be acknowledged and analyzed. (shrink)
Various themes have been discussed under the heading of ‘situationism’ in psychology over the past forty years. Much of this discussion has been extremely controversial, leading to deep divisions among psychologists and, more recently, among philosophers as well. In this paper I will pick up on one of those themes having to do with the influence of certain unconscious mental dispositions. I will assume that these dispositions are widely possessed, and also that they disqualify the people who have them from (...) counting as virtuous at that moment. The majority of the paper will then consider various strategies for trying to still develop the virtues in the face of this particular obstacle. (shrink)
Virtue ethics faces two challenges based in ‘dual-process’ models of cognition. The classic situationist worry is that we just do not have reliable motivations at all. One promising response invokes an alternative model of cognition which can accommodate evidence cited in support of dual-process models without positing distinct systems for automatic and deliberative processing. The approach appeals to the potential of automatization to habituate virtuous motivations. This response is threatened by implicit bias which raises the worry that we cannot avoid (...) habituating reliably vicious motivations. I argue that the alternative model of cognition also offers the virtue ethicist a promising response to this second challenge. In particular, the virtue ethicist can respond to the implicitly biased by counselling the habituation of egalitarian virtue, rather than merely the control of anti-egalitarian vice. Research shows both the importance of automatized individual egalitarian commitments and the potential of habituation to automatize deliberatively endorsed egalitarian goals. However, individuals’ ability to sustain and implement their commitments depends crucially on hospitable environments. Communities which themselves embody egalitarian values and which encourage and support their members’ egalitarian commitments are therefore essential. As Aristotle said, individual virtue requires a virtuous community. (shrink)
This book contains new work on character from the perspectives of philosophy, theology, and psychology. From a virtual reality simulation of the Milgram shock experiments, to understanding the virtue of modesty in Muslim societies, to defending soldiers’ moral responsibility for committing war crimes, these chapters break new ground and significantly advance our understanding of character. The main topics covered fall under the heading of our beliefs about character, the existence and nature of character traits, character and ethical theory, virtue epistemology, (...) the nature of particular virtues, character development, and challenges to character and virtue from neuroscience and situationism. The book significantly shapes discussions of character in scholarship. (shrink)
Philippa Foot’s virtue ethics remains an intriguing but divisive position in normative ethics. For some, the promise of grounding human virtue in natural facts is a useful method of establishing normative content. For others, the natural facts on which the virtues are established appear naively uninformed when it comes to the empirical details of our species. In response to this criticism, a new cohort of neo-Aristotelians like John Hacker-Wright attempt to defend Foot by reminding critics that the facts at stake (...) are not claimed to be explanatory descriptions of the kind provided by empirical science. Instead, they are derived from a logical form that is presupposed when we categorize something as a living organism. Neo-Aristotelian naturalism is therefore said to be immune to the empirical defeaters put forward as criticism of the theory. I argue that neo-Aristotelians like Hacker-Wright can only rescue Foot’s naturalism from being uninformed by exposing it to an indeterminacy objection: if claim.. (shrink)
An on-going question for virtue ethics is whether it stands as a truly distinctive approach to ethics. In particular, there has been much discussion of whether virtue ethics can provide a viable understanding of right action, one that is a genuine rival to familiar consequentialist and deontological accounts. In this chapter I examine two prominent approaches to virtue ethics, (i) qualified agent and (ii) agent-based virtue ethics, and consider whether either can provide an adequate account of right action. I begin (...) with a presentation of their accounts of right action, including consideration of what is meant by the term “right action”. With this groundwork in place, I turn to a series of important objections that have been raised against these accounts, and consider some of the more prominent and promising responses that these objections have inspired. (shrink)
In addition to the traditional reliance on rules and codes in regulating the conduct of military personnel, most of today’s militaries put their money on character building in trying to make their soldiers virtuous. Especially in recent years it has time and again been argued that virtue ethics, with its emphasis on character building, provides a better basis for military ethics than deontological ethics or utilitarian ethics. Although virtue ethics comes in many varieties these days, in many texts on military (...) ethics dealing with the subject of military virtues the Aristotelian view on virtues is still pivotal. Developing virtues is by some authors seen as the best way to prevent misconduct by military personnel, it being considered superior to rules or codes of conduct imposed from above. The main argument these authors offer is that these solutions are impotent when no one is around, and lack the flexibility often thought necessary in today’s world. Finally, rules and codes try to condition behavior, leaving less room for personal integrity. At first sight, then, there is a great deal to say in favor of virtue ethics as being the best way of enhancing the chances of soldiers behaving morally. However, this preference for steering conduct by means of promoting certain desirable dispositions is not without any problems that, as it stands, are hardly ever addressed. To begin with, there are a few practical concerns. For instance, even if we assume that military virtues can assist military personnel to do their work in a morally sound manner, it is still not clear to what extent virtues can, in fact, be taught to them. It is an assumption of virtue ethics that they can, but is this really the case? And if so, how should they be taught? – virtues are supposedly developed by practicing them, yet how much room is there for practicing virtues in for instance the ethics education as followed in military academies and school battalions? Secondly, it appears that the traditional military virtues, such as honor, loyalty, courage, and obedience, are, especially in their common interpretation, mainly beneficial to colleagues and the organization, not so much to the local population of the countries military personnel are deployed to. Changes in the military’s wider environment have led to a shift from traditional of self-defense tasks to new, more complex tasks, and especially in today’s missions one could expect that the proper virtues are not necessarily solely the more martial ones. (shrink)
Colleges and universities need to first develop an empirically informed understanding of their students when it comes to their honesty and cheating, so as to be in a better position to develop policies which can try to help them not become more disposed to cheat during their college years. In section one of this paper, I review some of the leading research on cheating behavior, and in section two I do the same for cheating motivation. Section three then draws some (...) implications from this research, both about what faculty can typically expect the characters of their students to be like when it comes to cheating, and what colleges might try to do to help foster character improvement in this area of their students’ lives. (shrink)
The situationist challenge to global character traits claims that on the basis of findings in social psychology, we should only accept at most the existence of local or context-sensitive traits. In this article I explore a neglected area of J. S. Mill's work to outline an account of context-sensitive traits. This account of traits, coupled with a sophisticated consequentialist ethical framework, suggests an interesting view on which persons govern the circumstances of their actions in order to best promote overall well-being.
According to qualified-agent virtue ethics, an action is right if and only if it is what a virtuous agent would characteristically do in the circumstances. I discuss two closely related objections to this view, both of which concern the actions of the non-virtuous. The first is that this criterion sometimes gives the wrong result, for in some cases a non-virtuous agent should not do what a virtuous person would characteristically do. A second objection is it altogether fails to apply whenever (...) the agent, through previous wrongdoing, finds herself in circumstances that a virtuous person cannot be in. I focus on Rosalind Hursthouse's account of right action, and argue that it can provide a satisfactory response to both these objections. I do so by drawing attention to the distinction between action guidance and action assessment, and arguing that while the above criterion is adequate as a means of action assessment, we should turn to the virtue- and vice-rules (v-rules) for action guidance. (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 virtue ethics. I argue that this assessment is a (...) mistake. Virtue ethics 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 virtue ethics 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 virtue ethics to its major rivals. (shrink)
In this paper, I develop an objection to agent-based accounts of right action. Agent-based accounts of right action attempt to derive moral judgment of actions from judgment of the inner quality of virtuous agents and virtuous agency. A moral theory ought to be something that moral agents can permissibly use in moral deliberation. I argue for a principle that captures this intuition and show that, for a broad range of other-directed virtues and motives, agent-based accounts of right action fail to (...) satisfy this principle. (shrink)
In ‘Against agent-based virtue ethics' (2004) Michael Brady rejects agent-based virtue ethics on the grounds that it fails to capture the commonsense distinction between an agent's doing the right thing, and her doing it for the right reason. In his view, the failure to account for this distinction has paradoxical results, making it unable to explain why an agent has a duty to perform a given action. I argue that Brady's objection relies on the assumption that an agent-based account is (...) committed to defining obligations in terms of actual motives. If we reject this view, and instead provide a version of agent-basing that determines obligations in terms of the motives of the hypothetical virtuous agent, the paradox disappears. (shrink)
Are there good grounds for thinking that the moral values of action are to be derived from those of character? This virtue ethical claim is sometimes thought of as a kind of normative ethical theory; sometimes as form of opposition to any such theory. However, the best case to be made for it supports neither of these claims. Rather, it leads us to a distinctive view in moral epistemology: the view that my warrant for a particular moral judgement derives from (...) my warrant for believing that I am a good moral judge. This view seems to confront a regress-problem. For the belief that I am a good moral judge is itself a particular moral judgement. So it seems that, on this view, I need to derive my warrant for believing that I am a good moral judge from my warrant for believing that I am a good judge of moral judges; and so on. I show how this worry can be met, and trace the implications of the resulting view for warranted moral judgement. (shrink)
Business ethicists have increasingly used Aristotelian “virtue ethics” 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 virtue ethics. This paper arguesthat Aristotelian virtue ethics 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 virtue ethics perspective. Part Two develops a number of criticisms of this perspective. (shrink)