Abstract: This chapter examines the role of the virtuous agent in the acquisition of virtue. It rejects the view of the virtuous agent as a direct model for imitation and instead focuses on recent research on the importance of phronesis. Phronesis is understood as a type of moral ‘know how’ expertise that is supported by a variety of abilities, from emotional maturity, to self-reflection, to an empathic understanding of what moves others, to an ability to see beyond the surface and (...) understand the complexities of human behaviour. If we want to acquire virtue instead of focusing on the virtuous agent as such we should be trying to understand the abilities exemplified by his phronesis. As part of this project, I also consider philosophers who seek inspiration from the empirical sciences to shed light on how phronetic expertise is developed and what relevance this may have for moral education. (shrink)
What is virtue? How can we lead moral lives? Exploring how contemporary moral philosophy has led to a revival of interest in the concepts of 'virtue', 'character' and 'flourishing', this is an accessible and critical introduction to virtue ethics. The book includes chapter summaries and guides to further reading throughout to help readers explore, understand and develop a critical perspective towards this important school of contemporary ethical thought.
This book considers two different approaches to moral luck--the Aristotelian vulnerability to factors outside the agent's control and the Kantian ambition to make morality immune to luck--and concludes that both approaches have more in common than previously thought. At the same time, it also considers recent developments in the field of virtue ethics and neo-kantianism.
Abstract Most discussions of risk are developed in broadly consequentialist terms, focusing on the outcomes of risks as such. This paper will provide an alternative account of risk from a virtue ethical perspective, shifting the focus to the decision to take the risk. Making ethical decisions about risk is, we will argue, not fundamentally about the actual chain of events that the decision sets in process, but about the reasonableness of the decision to take the risk in the first place. (...) A virtue ethical account of risk is needed because the notion of the ‘reasonableness’ of the decision to take the risk is affected by the complexity of the moral status of particular instances of risk-taking and the risk-taker’s responsiveness to these contextual features. The very idea of ‘reasonable risk’ welcomes judgments about the nature of the risk itself, raises questions about complicity, culpability and responsibility, while at its heart, involves a judgement about the justification of risk which unavoidably focuses our attention on the character of the individuals involved in risk making decisions. Keywords: Risk; ethics; morality; responsibility; virtue; choice; reasons . (shrink)
Making decisions with an, often significant, element of risk seems to be an integral part of many of the projects of the diverse profession of engineering. Whether it be decisions about the design of products, manufacturing processes, public works, or developing technological solutions to environmental, social and global problems, risk taking seems inherent to the profession. Despite this, little attention has been paid to the topic and specifically to how our understanding of engineering as a distinctive profession might affect how (...) we should make decisions under risk. This paper seeks to remedy this, firstly by offering a nuanced account of risk and then by considering how specific claims about our understanding of engineering as a social profession, with corresponding social values and obligations, should inform how we make decisions about risk in this context. (shrink)
This article examines when deceptive withholding of information is ethically acceptable in research. The first half analyses the concept of deception. We argue that there are two types of accounts of deception: normative and non-normative, and argue that non-normative accounts are preferable. The second half of the article argues that the relevant ethical question which ethics committees should focus on is not whether the person from whom the information is withheld will be deceived, but rather on the reasonableness of withholding (...) the information from the person who is deceived. We further argue that the reasonableness of withholding information is dependent on the context. The last section examines how the context of research should shape our judgements about the circumstances in which withholding information from research participants is ethically acceptable. We argue that some important features of research make it more difficult to justify withholding information in the context of research than elsewhere. (shrink)
Virtue ethics has emerged as a distinct field within moral theory - whether as an alternative account of right action or as a conception of normativity which departs entirely from the obligatoriness of morality - and has proved itself invaluable to many aspects of contemporary applied ethics. Virtue ethics now flourishes in philosophy, sociology and theology and its applications extend to law, politics and bioethics. "The Handbook of Virtue Ethics" brings together leading international scholars to provide an overview of the (...) field. Each chapter summarizes and assesses the most important work on a particular topic and sets this work in the context of historical developments. Taking a global approach by embracing a variety of major cultural traditions along with the Western, the "Handbook" maps the emergence of virtue ethics and provides a framework for future developments. (shrink)
In 1993 the Law Lords upheld the original conviction of five men under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act for participating in sado-masochistic practices. Although the five men were fully consenting adults, the Law Lords held that consent did not constitute a defence to acts of violence within a sado-masochistic context. This paper examines the judgements in this case and argues that sado-masochistic practices are no different from the known exceptions cited by the court to the idea that consent (...) is no defence to violence (sport, parental chastisement and surgery). It also argues that if we can make sense of rape as a non-consensual, violent act, expressed through sex, then we can make sense of sado-masochism as a consensual sexual act, expressed through violence. (shrink)
This chapter offers a definition of luck from Aristotle's Physics, considers how this definition of luck from the Physics relates to Aristotle's treatment of luck in his works on ethics and the good life, as well as how it compares with the modern understanding of moral luck.
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 virtue ethics 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 chapter I want to take up the specific question of the relationship between moral education and empirical findings in psychology. I will argue that moral education programmes are theoretically possible and would benefit in their practical application from empirical research already in existence in psychology. I will argue that situationism does not pose a threat for moral education, properly conceived, and that, in fact, educators can and should make use of situational factors. It strikes me that much of (...) the debate in this field is hampered by incomplete or partly inaccurate understandings of the main concepts, in addition to conflicting versions of what it is that we should be aiming for in the first place. (shrink)
Few contemporary philosophers have made as wide-ranging and insightful a contribution to philosophical debate as John Cottingham. This collection brings together friends, colleagues and former students of Cottingham, to discuss major themes of his work on moral philosophy. Presented in three parts the collection focuses on the debate on partiality, impartiality and character; the role of emotions and reason in the good life; the meaning of a worthwhile life and the place of theistic considerations in it. The original contributions to (...) this volume celebrate Cottingham’s work by embracing and furthering his arguments and, at times, in the best spirit of philosophical engagement, challenging and confronting them. The volume concludes with Cottingham’s specially commissioned responses to the contributions. (shrink)
This paper aims to give an introductory account of mothering in light of virtue ethics. Firtly I set out an argument for the use of the term 'mothering' rather than 'parental' virtues. Then I consider what is involved in the mother/child relationship and criticise the idea that the aim of mothering is the flourishing of the child. I argue instead that the proper aim of mothering is to create conditions condusive to the child's flourishing. Finally, I discuss the virtue of (...) patience as applied to the field of mothering. (shrink)
Most medical research and a substantial amount of non-medical research, especially that involving human participants, is governed by some kind of research ethics committee (REC) following the recommendations of the Declaration of Helsinki for the protection of human participants. The role of RECs is usually seen as twofold: firstly, to make some kind of calculation of the risks and benefits of the proposed research, and secondly, to ensure that participants give informed consent. The extent to which the role of the (...) REC includes the former is not uncontroversial. Indeed, the most prevalent debate on the role of RECs sees liberals and strong paternalists arguing over the importance of informed consent given by competent agents versus the significance of making benevolent decisions on behalf of others. On the one hand, liberals argue for the rights of competent adults to decide for themselves the kinds and extents of risks to which they wish to expose themselves. On the other hand, proponents of strong paternalism raise concerns about the likelihood of participants being able to truly understand the complex data involved in research. They support a role for RECs in which they exercise duties of benevolence towards patients and participants by limiting the extent to which they can be exposed to significant, permanent and irreversible harms. In this paper, we will argue that when it comes to decisions about risk it is neither possible nor desirable for RECs to adopt either role. (shrink)
Should a 9-year-old, severely mentally disabled child undergo extensive operations to limit her growth, prevent development of sexual characteristics, and alter appearance, all in the interests of protecting her from other alleged harms and allowing her to be cared for by her family? I think we should resist engaging with this question, and I think the ethics committee was wrong to accept the burden of making the decision regardless of the outcome they arrived at.
This collection brings together original essays demonstrating the cutting edge of philosophical research in medical ethics. With contributions from a range of established and up-and-coming authors, it examines topics at the forefront of medical technology, such as ethical issues raised by developments in how we research stem cells and genetic engineering, as well as new questions raised by methodological changes in how we approach medical ethics.