Environmentalism and Public Virtue

Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 23 (1-2):9-28 (2009)
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Much of the literature addressing environmental virtue tends to focus on what might be called “personal virtue”—individual actions, characteristics, or dispositions that benefit the individual actor. There has, in contrast, been relatively little interest in either “virtue politics”—collective actions, characteristics, or dispositions—or in what might be called “public virtues,” actions, characteristics, or dispositions that benefit the community rather than the individual. This focus, however, is problematic, especially in a society that valorizes individuality. This paper examines public virtue and its role in environmental virtue ethics. First, I outline different types of virtue in order to frame the discussion of public virtues and, in particular, a subclass of virtues I will refer to as political virtue. Second, I focus on practical problems and address the inadequacy of personal virtue for effecting social change and, therefore, for addressing most environmental crises. Finally, I argue that public and political virtues are necessary, if under emphasized, conditions for the flourishing of the individual, and that they are important complements to more traditional environmental virtues



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Brian Treanor
Loyola Marymount University

Citations of this work

Environmental Ethics: The State of the Question.Marion Hourdequin - 2021 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 59 (3):270-308.
Radical Hope: Truth, Virtue, and Hope for What Is Left in Extinction Rebellion.Diana Stuart - 2020 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 33 (3-6):487-504.
Recent Work in Applied Virtue Ethics.Guy Axtell & Philip Olson - 2012 - American Philosophical Quarterly 49 (3):183-204.
Environmental Virtues and Environmental Justice.Paul Haught - 2011 - Environmental Ethics 33 (4):357-375.

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