What Can Virtue Ethics Offer Pacifists?

The Acorn 18 (1):29-50 (2018)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Though warfare has been a popular subject of inquiry in Aristotelian virtue ethics since antiquity, pacifism has almost never been afforded sympathetic study. This paper helps to fill that lacuna by asking whether and how secular virtue ethics can provide a theory of pacifism, whether and how it might defeat some common/foreseeable objections, and what additional work needs to be done in order for virtue ethicists to provide a philosophically robust account of pacifism. I begin by translating a pacifist argument from suffering into an argument from the virtue of compassion. Compassionate agents, sensitive as they are to others’ plights, will be highly averse to lethal warfare. In the second section, I argue that cases for pacifism like this one, which are rooted in individual virtues, cannot constitute a complete argument for pacifism because of the commonly held view that the virtues are reciprocal/unified, and that such an argument will therefore require supplementation in order to be action-guiding. The third section elaborates on what I call the impracticality objection. Any convincing account of pacifism will have to respond to this objection, and I argue that virtue ethical pacifism is especially vulnerable to it. In the fourth section, I highlight two avenues available to the virtue ethicist who defends pacifism from the impracticality objection. Neither of these avenues is viable without further research, however, so while I insist that virtue ethical pacifism is not defeated by the impracticality objection, I maintain also that this form of pacifism requires further scholarly work.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 92,923

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Virtue Ethics.Roger Crisp & Michael Slote (eds.) - 1997 - Oxford University Press.
The Cambridge companion to virtue ethics.Daniel C. Russell (ed.) - 2013 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Virtue Ethics and Environs.James Griffin - 1998 - Social Philosophy and Policy 15 (1):56.
Environmental Virtue Ethics.Philip Cafaro & Ronald Sandler (eds.) - 2004 - Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Environmental Virtue Ethics.Philip Cafaro & Ronald Sandler (eds.) - 2005 - Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Critical Virtue Ethics: Understanding Oppression as Morally Damaging.Lisa Tessman - 2001 - In Peggy DesAutels & Joanne Waugh (eds.), Feminists Doing Ethics. Rowman & Littlefield.
Reflections on the Connection of Virtue Ethics to Therapeutic Jurisprudence.Adrian Evans & Michael King - 2012 - University of New South Wales Law Journal 35 (3):717-746.
A Confucian Virtue Theory of Supererogation.Lei Zhong - 2016 - Philosophy East and West 66 (1):328-341.
Virtue ethics and virtue epistemology.Roger Crisp - 2010 - Metaphilosophy 41 (1-2):22-40.


Added to PP

26 (#628,186)

6 months
6 (#582,229)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Steven Steyl
University of Notre Dame Australia

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references