This paper develops a meta-theory of business based on virtuetheory which links the concept of virtues, the common good, and the dynamic economy into a unifying and comprehensive theory of business. Traditional theories and models of business have outlived their usefulness as they are unable to adequately explain social reality. Virtuetheory shows firms that pursue ethically-driven strategies can realise a greater profit potential than those firms who currently use profit-driven strategies. The (...) class='Hi'>theory expounds that the business of business is ethical business and that the crises that business and society face today are crises of leadership and ethics. The issues of leadership and corporate social responsibility are discussed in the context of the proposed theory. (shrink)
Abstract: In this essay I outline a radical kind of virtuetheory I call exemplarism, which is foundational in structure but which is grounded in exemplars of moral goodness, direct reference to which anchors all the moral concepts in the theory. I compare several different kinds of moral theory by the way they relate the concepts of the good, a right act, and a virtue. In the theory I propose, these concepts, along with the (...) concepts of a duty and of a good life, are defined by reference to exemplars, identified directly through the emotion of admiration, not through a description. It is an advantage of the theory that what makes a good person good is not given a priori but is determined by empirical investigation. The same point applies to what good persons do and what states of affairs they aim at. The theory gives an important place to empirical investigation and narratives about exemplars analogous to the scientific investigation of natural kinds in the theory of direct reference. (shrink)
Abstract: I examine virtuetheory, especially as expressed by Rosalind Hursthouse. In its canonical form, the theory claims that living a life of virtue constitutes flourishing, although it also has a possible fall-back claim that a life of virtue is a means to the end of flourishing. I argue that in both interpretations, virtuetheory is mistaken. It cannot give any convincing account of how the concepts of wanting, flourishing, and the virtues are (...) connected, nor can it deal adequately with the counter-examples of flourishing by the wicked, and torment for the virtuous. However, I allow that stripped of all its pretensions to universality, there are grounds for some people in some restricted sets circumstances, to follow the path of virtue solely because they will thereby flourish. (shrink)
The virtues have long played a central role in Christian moral teaching. Not surprisingly, over the centuries theologians have produced a number of interesting versions of virtue ethics. In spite of the fact that they hearken back to and are profoundly shaped by a shared set of canonical texts, theological commitments, and ritual observances, many of these versions of virtue ethics differ quite markedly from one another. The perfectionism of Wesley’s A Plain Account of Christian Perfection is as (...) different from the agapism of Edwards’ The Nature of True Virtue as it is like it. And neither of them could easily be confused with the natural law theory that Thomas Aquinas develops in the Summa Theologica. Given the length, breadth, and sophistication of this tradition, Christian moral theology offers a wealth of resources for contemporary virtue ethicists, whether or not those ethicists are working within a Christian theological framework. This chapter will highlight four strands within recent theologically-informed work on virtue ethics, each of which is directly relevant to current controversies in both moral theology and moral philosophy. (shrink)
Several neo-Kantians have questioned the standard deontological interpretation of Kant's ethical theory. They have also responded to charges of rationalism and rigorism by emphasizing the role of virtues and emotions in Kant's view. However, none have defended a fully virtue theoretic interpretation of Kant's theory. I claim that virtuetheory has much to offer Kantians, but that resistance to developing a Kantian virtuetheory rests on faulty assumptions about virtuetheory. In (...) this paper I clear away three apparent obstacles to developing a Kantian virtuetheory. The first regards his account of the virtues, which I argue is tangential to the issue of whether he can be interpreted as a virtue theorist. The second is Kant's codification of moral principles, which I argue is compatible with virtuetheory. The third is the apparent explanatory primacy of the Categorical Imperative, which I argue is not fully supported by the textual evidence. (shrink)
In his contribution, Mark Alfano lays out a new (to virtuetheory) naturalistic way of determining what the virtues are, what it would take for them to be realized, and what it would take for them to be at least possible. This method is derived in large part from David Lewis’s development of Frank Ramsey’s method of implicit definition. The basic idea is to define a set of terms not individually but in tandem. This is accomplished by assembling (...) all and only the common sense platitudes that involve them (e.g., typically, people want to be virtuous), conjoining those platitudes, and replacing the terms in question by existentially quantified variables. If the resulting sentence is satisfied, then whatever satisfies are the virtues. If it isn’t satisfied, there are a couple of options. First, one could just admit defeat by saying that people can’t be virtuous. More plausibly, one could weaken the conjunction by dropping a small number of the platitudes from it (and potentially adding some others). Alfano suggests that the most attractive way to do this is by dropping the platitudes that deal with cross-situational consistency and replacing them with platitudes that involve social construction: basically, people are virtuous (when they are) at least in part because other people signal their expectations of virtuous conduct, which induces virtuous conduct, which in turn induces further signals of expected virtuous conduct, and so on. (shrink)
I argue that recent virtue theories (including those of Hursthouse, Slote, and Swanton) face important initial difficulties in accommodating the supererogatory. In particular, I consider several potential characterizations of the supererogatory modeled upon these familiar virtue theories (and their accounts of rightness) and argue that they fail to provide an adequate account of supererogation. In the second half of the paper I sketch an alternative virtue-based characterization of supererogation, one that is grounded in the attitudes of virtuous (...) ideal observers, and that avoids the concerns raised in the first part of the paper. (shrink)
Some particularists have argued that even virtue properties can exhibit a form of holism or context variance, e.g. sometimes an act is worse for being kind, say. But, on a common conception of virtuous acts, one derived from Aristotle, claims of virtue holism will be shown to be false. I argue, perhaps surprisingly, that on this conception the virtuousness of an act is not a reason to do it, and hence this conception of virtuous acts presents no challenge (...) to particularist claims about the context variance of reasons. Still, I argue that the virtues nevertheless have important implications for our understanding of the particularism debate. Specifically, we can accept the particularist claim that reasons do not need to be principled in order to have the normative status that they do have, while still maintaining that sound moral thought and judgement has a principled structure understood in terms of the virtues. (shrink)
Mary Astell is best known today as one of the earliest English feminists. This book sheds new light on her writings by interpreting her first and foremost as a moral philosopher—as someone committed to providing guidance on how best to live. The central claim of this work is that all the different strands of Astell’s thought—her epistemology, her metaphysics, her philosophy of the passions, her feminist vision, and her conservative political views—are best understood in light of her ethical objectives. To (...) support that claim, this work examines Astell’s programme to bring about a moral transformation of character in her fellow women. This ethical programme draws on several key aspects of seventeenth-century philosophy, including Cartesian and Neoplatonist epistemologies, ontological and cosmological proofs for the existence of God, rationalist arguments for the soul’s immateriality, and theories about how to regulate the passions in accordance with reason. At the heart of Astell’s philosophical system lies a theory of virtue, including guidelines about how to cultivate generosity of character, a benevolent disposition towards others, and the virtue of moderation. This book explains the foundations of that moral theory, and then examines how it shapes and informs Astell’s response to male tyranny within marriage and to political tyranny in the state. It concludes with some reflections on the historiographical implications of writing Mary Astell back into the history of philosophy. (shrink)
Virtue argumentation theory has been charged of being incomplete, given its alleged inability to account for argument cogency in virtue-theoretical terms. Instead of defending VAT against that challenge, I suggest it is misplaced, since it is based on a premise VAT does not endorse, and raises an issue that most versions of VAT need not consider problematic. This in turn allows distinguishing several varieties of VAT, and clarifying what really matters for them.
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)
In this paper I sketch a virtuetheory of art, analogous to a virtuetheory of ethics along Aristotelian lines. What this involves is looking beyond a parochial conception of art understood as work of art, as product, to include intentions, motives, skills, traits, and feelings, all of which can be expressed in artistic activity. The clusters of traits that go to make up the particular virtues of art production and of art appreciation are indeed virtues (...) in part because, when they are expressed in artistic activity, that activity is chosen for its own sake, ‘under the concept of art’; and also they are virtues in part because, when they are so expressed, the activities are themselves partly constitutive of human well-being, along with other activities, including leading an ethical life, and what Aristotle called contemplation. With a virtuetheory of art before us, we can begin to see the point of art, to see why art matters to us as human beings. (shrink)
This paper examines the implications of certain social psychological experiments for moral theory—specifically, for virtuetheory. Gilbert Harman and John Doris have recently argued that the empirical evidence offered by ‘situationism’ demonstrates that there is no such thing as a character trait. I dispute this conclusion. My discussion focuses on the proper interpretation of the experimental data—the data themselves I grant for the sake of argument. I develop three criticisms of the anti-trait position. Of these, the central (...) criticism concerns three respects in which the experimental situations employed to test someone's character trait are inadequate to the task. First, they do not take account of the subject's own construal of the situation. Second, they include behaviour that is only marginally relevant to the trait in question. Third, they disregard the normative character of the responses in which virtuetheory is interested. Given these inadequacies in situationism's operationalized conception of a ‘character trait’, I argue that situationism does not really address the proposition that people have ‘character traits’, properly understood. A fortiori, the social psychological evidence does not refute that proposition. I also adduce some limited experimental evidence in favour of character traits and distil two lessons we can nevertheless learn from situationism. (shrink)
Here is a definition of knowledge: for you to know a proposition p is for you to have an outright belief in p that is correct precisely because it manifests the virtue of rationality. This definition resembles Ernest Sosa’s “virtuetheory”, except that on this definition, the only virtue that must be manifested in all instances of knowledge is rationality, and no reductive account of rationality is attempted—rationality is assumed to be an irreducibly normative notion. This (...) definition is compatible with “internalism” about rationality, and with a form of “pragmatic encroachment” on the conditions of rational outright belief. An interpretation is given of this definition, and especially of the sense of ’because’ that it involves. On this interpretation, this definition entails that both safety and adherence are necessary conditions on knowledge; it supports a kind of contextualism about terms like ‘knowledge’; and it provides resources to defend safety, adherence, and contextualism, against some recent objections. (shrink)
The recent literature on epistemic virtues advances two general projects. The first is virtue epistemology, an attempt to explicate key epistemic notions in terms of epistemic virtue. The second is epistemic virtuetheory, the conceptual and normative investigation of cognitive traits of character. While a great deal of work has been done in virtue epistemology, epistemic virtuetheory still languishes in a state of neglect. Furthermore, the existing work is non-naturalistic. The present paper (...) contributes to the development of a naturalistic epistemic virtuetheory by presenting a virtue-theoretic evaluation of need for cognition as informed by the relevant psychological studies. (shrink)
Recent work examining and expanding traditional accounts of a virtue has been used as the foundation for a virtue-based approach to epistemology. A similar approach to aesthetics yields some striking features, which coincide with contemporary philosophical concerns about the nature and definition of art. Those writing on virtue-based epistemology have offered epistemic theories based on intellectual virtues, defining knowledge from the nature of such virtues. This basic program can be applied to aesthetics so that art is defined (...) using a virtuetheory of aesthetics. I will propose and examine the nature and structure of one such theory. I argue here that an approach to aesthetics, which defines art according to aesthetic virtues, would have characteristics that fit well with the value and interests we have about art. (shrink)
Contemporary virtue ethicists have attempted to offer a virtue-based account of right action. However, such an account is faced by a daunting challenge, the ‘supererogation problem’ as it may be called. Since what a virtuous person would characteristically do is often beyond the scope of moral duty, virtue ethics seems to have difficulty in accommodating the distinction between obligation and supererogation. This essay aims to meet this challenge by recommending a Confucian virtuetheory of supererogation.
Virtues are dispositions to see, think, desire, deliberate, or act well, with different philosophers emphasizing different permutations of these activities. Virtue has been an object of philosophical concern for thousands of years whereas situationism—the psychological theory according to which a great deal of human perception, thought, motivation, deliberation, and behavior are explained not by character or personality dispositions but by seemingly trivial and normatively irrelevant situational influences—was a development of the 20th century. Some philosophers, especially John Doris and (...) Gilbert Harman but also Mark Alfano and Peter Vranas, have argued that there is a tension between these two independently attractive positions. Normative ethics seems incomplete or even indefensible if it refers only to the rightness or wrongness of actions and the goodness or badness of states; we care not only about these punctate phenomena but also about laudable, longitudinal dispositions like honesty, courage, compassion, open-mindedness, and curiosity. However, according to these philosophers, decades-worth of psychological research provides robust support for situationism. Given the plausible assumption that a credible moral ideal is one that most people can aspire to and perhaps even attain, virtuetheory and situationism appear to be on a collision course. The dispute between virtue ethicists and situationists unfolded over the last decade of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century. It continues today: Some disputants have attempted to find a middle way, and the empirical adequacy of virtue epistemology has also been called into question. (shrink)
Virtue is among the most venerable concepts in philosophy, and has recently seen a major revival. However, new challenges to conceptions of virtue have also arisen. In _Current Controversies in Virtue Theory_, five pairs of cutting-edge philosophers square off over central topics in virtuetheory: the nature of virtue, the connection between virtue and flourishing, the connection between moral and epistemic virtues, the way in which virtues are acquired, and the possibility of attaining (...)virtue. Mark Alfano guides his readers through these essays, with a synthetic introduction, succinct abstracts of each debate, suggested further readings and study questions for each controversy, and a list of further controversies to be explored. (shrink)
“Virtue jurisprudence” is a normative and explanatory theory of law that utilises the resources of virtue ethics to answer the central questions of legal theory. The main focus of this essay is the development of a virtue–centred theory of judging. The exposition of the theory begins with exploration of defects in judicial character, such as corruption and incompetence. Next, an account of judicial virtue is introduced. This includes judicial wisdom, a form of (...) phronesis, or sound practical judgement. A virtue–centred account of justice is defended against the argument that theories of fairness are prior to theories of justice. The centrality of virtue as a character trait can be drawn out by analysing the virtue of justice into constituent elements. These include judicial impartiality (even–handed sympathy for those affected by adjudication) and judicial integrity (respect for the law and concern for its coherence). The essay argues that a virtue–centred theory accounts for the role that virtuous practical judgement plays in the application of rules to particular fact situations. Moreover, it contends that a virtue–centred theory of judging can best account for the phenomenon of lawful judicial disagreement. Finally, a virtue–centred approach best accounts for the practice of equity, departure from the rules based on the judge’s appreciation of the particular characteristics of individual fact situations. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]. (shrink)
By focusing on human virtues rather than the general morality of rational beings, Kant’s virtuetheory presents systematic arguments from the perspectives of reason and experiential emotion, norms and disposition, spirituality and humanity, etc., which is of great significance to an overall understanding of Kantian ethics, thus clarifying misunderstandings from the past decades.
A virtue-based theory of right action aims to explain deontic moral principles in terms of virtue and vice. For example, it may maintain the following account of moral obligation: It is morally obligatory for an agent A to ϕ in circumstances C if and only if a fully virtuous and relevantly informed person V would characteristically ϕ in C. However, this account faces the so-called supererogation problem. A supererogatory action is an action that is morally praiseworthy but (...) not morally obligatory. Suppose John risks his own life to save a stranger, which is supererogatory rather than obligatory. However, a fully virtuous... (shrink)
This work examines the concept of trust in the light of virtuetheory, and takes our responsibility to be trustworthy as central. Rather than thinking of trust as risk-taking, Potter views it as equally a matter of responsibility-taking. Her work illustrates that relations of trust are never independent from considerations of power, and that asking ourselves what we can do to be trustworthy allows us to move beyond adversarial trust relationships and toward a more democratic, just, and peaceful (...) society. (shrink)
This essay outlines an approach to virtuetheory that makes the foundation of the theory direct reference to virtuous exemplars, modeled on the famous theory of direct reference, devised in the seventies by Hilary Putnam and Saul Kripke. The basic idea is that exemplars are persons like that, just as water is liquid like that, and humans are members of the same species as that, and so on. In this theory exemplars are picked out directly (...) through the emotion of admiration rather than through the satisfaction of a description. We discover the virtues empirically by investigating the qualities of exemplars in a way that parallels the discovery that water is H2O. It is also possible that although the virtues are discovered empirically, the connection between being admirable and having certain traits is necessary, just as Kripke claims that “water is H2O” is necessary, but known a posteriori. (shrink)
Sunstein is right that poorly informed heuristics can influence moral judgment. His case could be strengthened by tightening neurobiologically plausible working definitions regarding what a heuristic is, considering a background moral theory that has more strength in wide reflective equilibrium than “weak consequentialism,” and systematically examining what naturalized virtuetheory has to say about the role of heuristics in moral reasoning.
Persons concerned with medical education sometimes argued that medical students need no formal education in ethics. They contended that if admissions were restricted to persons of good character and those students were exposed to good role models, the ethics of medicine would take care of itself. However, no one seems to give much philosophic attention to the ideas of model or role model. In this essay, I undertake such an analysis and add an analysis of role. I show the weakness (...) in relying on role models exclusively and draw implications from these for appeals to virtuetheory. Furthermore, I indicate some of the problems about how virtuetheory is invoked as the ethical theory that would most closely be associated to the role model rhetoric and consider some of the problems with virtuetheory. Although Socrates was interested in the character of the (young) persons with whom he spoke, Socratic education is much more than what role modeling and virtuetheory endorse. It -- that is, philosophy -- is invaluable for ethics education. (shrink)
While there are alternative accounts, many virtue theories are character based, that is, they assert that the primary loci if moral evaluation are a person's character traits. According to these theories, any individual human being is good insogar as she possesses certain character traits, the virtues, and does not possess their antipodes, the vices. Gilbert Harman has attacked this view by citing evidence in empirical psychology that human behaviour is explained by situational factors to the exclusion of stable dispositions (...) of character. In this paper I argue that Harman's attack fails, firstly because his target is too wide, meaning that the traits tested for are not of the type most relevant to virtuetheory, and secondly because he cannot dispense with character traits for explaining behaviour. (shrink)
It is well-observed that undergraduate students frequently profess ethical relativism, but they also frequently defend ethical egoism. The author suggests four reasons why ethical egoism is so common among undergraduates: since college students’ identity is in flux, a normative framework in which the self may be appealed to as a foundation for value offers a sense of security; most college students have relatively few obligations beyond themselves; media and advertising tend to promote and reward egoism; egoism is easy and affords (...) students the appearance of being non-judgmental and tolerant. Nevertheless, the author notes, even the most diehard egoist holds the belief that their ego works to realize some potential, which means they are in at least a minimal sense committed to something beyond themselves. Virtuetheory is especially useful in exploiting this commitment to show student egoists the plausibility of non-egoistic normative viewpoints. Discussing the examples of true friendship, courage, generosity, honest self-presentation, eudaemonia, and temperance, the author explains how virtuetheory can articulate values which the student egoist is committed to but which cannot be satisfactorily accounted for by egoistic frameworks. The author concludes by addressing the importance of group discussion for lending concreteness to the lessons of virtuetheory. (shrink)
A critical issue facing the criminal justice system today is how best to promote ethical behavior by public prosecutors. The legal profession has left much of a prosecutor’s day-to-day activity unregulated, in favor of a general, catch-all admonition to “seek justice.” In this article the author argues that professional norms are truly functional only if those working with a given ethical framework recognize the system’s implicit dependence on character. A code of professional conduct in which this dependence is not recognized (...) is both contentless and corrupting. Building on the ethics of Aristotle and modern philosophers Alasdair MacIntyre and Bernard Williams, the author argues that virtuetheory can help bridge the gaps in prosecutorial ethics where other forms of moral reasoning fail. The author analyzes three especially difficult ethical problems frequently confronted by prosecutors in the field. He demonstrates not only that the Model Rules of Professional Conduct and the ABA Criminal Justice Standards fail to answer any of these complex questions, but also that future attempts to more closely regulate how prosecutors should act in any of these nuanced situations are unlikely to succeed. The author argues that honesty, fairness, courage, and prudence are the primary virtues that citizens have a right to expect of their public prosecutors. He then demonstrates how these four key virtues might provide important guidance to conscientious prosecutors striving to do what is right. The author concludes by offering several insights into how the field of virtue ethics might inform both the structure and organization of government law offices, and the manner in which individual prosecutors working within these offices might perceive and fulfill their professional roles. (shrink)
Critics of virtue ethics have argued that its focus on character rather than action, as well as its rejection of universal rules of right action renders virtue ethics unable to shed much light on the question of what ought and ought not to be done in specific situations. According to them, this explains why so few attempts have been made to apply virtuetheory to specific moral questions. In this paper I aim to go some way (...) towards developing a version of virtuetheory that satisfies four constraints that applied ethics places upon moral theory, namely that it should: (1) present standards of right action; (2) show a sensitivity to the complexity of moral life in multicultural and pluralistic societies; (3) accept the principle of universalisability as a necessary property of an ethical theory, and (4) provide a non-egoistic justification and explanation of universal rules and principles. S. Afr. J. Philos. Vol.21(2) 2002: 133-143. (shrink)
Drawing upon Aristotle’s claim that when one wants to learn right conduct or virtue, one should emulate those who practice it, this paper describes reasons for how the clear and conscious development of nursing role models can be used to model virtuetheory in applied ethics courses. After providing a brief summary of Aristotle’s virtue ethics, the paper turns to a description of the basic models that describe the role of a nurse: surrogate mother, patient’s advocate, (...) traditional caregiver, and trained clinician. With these models in hand, the paper illustrates how virtues and duties can change when the role of the nurse changes and how different models of the nurse’s role connect virtue to practical action in different ways. Finally, the paper concludes with an extension of the above discussion to other areas of professional ethics and a step-by-step procedure for determining occupational duties. (shrink)
Human Excellence introduces the basic ideas of virtuetheory, the branch of ethics that analyzes character. The author accomplishes this by systematically and carefully exploring the role of character in ethics through a series of dialogues. He begins by contrasting virtue ethics with other ethical views such as egoism, utilitarianism, and rights theories. Then he explores issues including the nature of courage, the problem of healthy versus unhealthy self-love, character and parenting techniques, the nature of friendship, and (...) the relationship of virtue to the current debate on the "ethics of care." The advantage of the author's approach is its practicality, making the material not only understandable, but applicable to exploring the self and systems in place in the world. (shrink)
An agent's character is often revealed in the contents of her practical reasoning, in the considerations to which she is sensitive and how she is moved by them, in the acts she considers, the ends she adopts, and in how she plans for the present and the future. According to an influential view, we can distinguish the assessment of practical thought as good or bad reasoning from its assessment as an expression of character. For instance, we might think that good (...) reasoning is a matter of practical rationality, or that it is a matter of means-end efficiency, and that, while efficiency and rationality are virtues, they are independent of the virtues of character. Against this view, I argue that an agent has phronesis---the virtue of practical reason---just in case she has the virtues of character in her dispositions of practical thought. ;In Chapter One, I consider the view that phronesis consists in practical rationality. I argue that, even on the most charitable reading, this view is false. Once we set aside interpretations of "practical rationality" on which it would be trivial or absurd to claim that it constitutes phronesis, we are left with an interpretation on which practical irrationality is analogous to moral culpability. Practical irrationality involves a culpable failure of practical reasoning, and since not every instance of bad practical reasoning is culpable, practical rationality is necessary but not sufficient for phronesis. ;In Chapter Two, I argue against the instrumentalist view that phronesis consists in means-end efficiency, and I present a general argument for the "virtuetheory," according to which the dispositions of practical reasoning involved in the virtues of character are essential to phronesis. The argument is that alternative views need to motivate their restrictions on the range of virtues that matter to phronesis, as something other than arbitrary, and that the relevant attempts at motivation fall. ;Chapter Three rebuts a number of objections to the view developed so far. I end with some tentative remarks about the status of moral reasons, and about the need for a substantive metaphysics of virtue. (shrink)
This paper aims to outline, evaluate, and ultimately reject a virtue epistemic theory of testimony before proposing a virtue ethical theory. Trust and trustworthiness, it is proposed, are ethical virtues; and from these ethical virtues, epistemic consequences follow.
What is the function of Cartesian virtue within the motivational and cognitive economy of the soul? In this paper I show that Cartesian virtue is a higher-order motivational disposition. Central to the interpretation I defend is Descartes’s view that the will can govern an individual’s attention. An exercise of this capacity, I argue, is a higher-order operation. Because Cartesian virtue is a resolution to focus attention on what reason deems worthy of consideration, it should therefore be understood (...) as a higher-order disposition. To lay the groundwork for this interpretation, I examine Descartes’s theory of motivation. An examination of the sources of Cartesian motivation yields two important points for my reading: that the will is not completely unconstrained in its operations and that there are three sources of motivation: intellectual clarity, the will, and the passions. I show that virtue strengthens the will’s natural disposition toward intellectual clarity, thereby enabling the will to withstand the occasionally harmful sway of the passions. By strengthening the will’s disposition toward clarity, virtue at the same time safeguards the will’s freedom, enables an individual to will what seems best, and, as a result, ensures the individual’s happiness. It carries this out, I contend, insofar as it is a higher-order motivational disposition, a disposition exercised by the person of generosity. (shrink)
Abstract The paper is meant to be a contribution to the study of Indian and comparative ethics. It treats the Vajj?laggam, an anthology of Pr?krit stanzas (subh?sita literature) dealing with a variety of topics. Focusing on the ?ethical? sections of the VL, it tries to describe and analyse its underlying ethical system. In Part I the different ethical themes of the VL (Valour and Destiny, Virtues and Vices, Masters and Servants, Friendship and Affection, Poverty and Charity) are described in detail. (...) In Part II it is shown that the VL. offers a clear example of a virtue ethic with a strong emphasis on self?regarding virtues (gunas), based on a pluralistic and instrumental theory of the good. The paper also treats the crucial ethical problem of the relationship between personal well?being and virtuousness as described in the VL. (shrink)
The paper is meant to be a contribution to the study of Indian and comparative ethics. It treats the Vajj laggam, an anthology of Pr krit stanzas (subh sita literature) dealing with a variety of topics. Focusing on the 'ethical' sections of the VL, it tries to describe and analyse its underlying ethical system. In Part I the different ethical themes of the VL (Valour and Destiny, Virtues and Vices, Masters and Servants, Friendship and Affection, Poverty and Charity) are described (...) in detail. In Part II it is shown that the VL. offers a clear example of a virtue ethic with a strong emphasis on self-regarding virtues (gunas), based on a pluralistic and instrumental theory of the good. The paper also treats the crucial ethical problem of the relationship between personal well-being and virtuousness as described in the VL. (shrink)
Virtue theorists in ethics often embrace the following characterizationof right action: An action is right iff a virtuous agent would performthat action in like circumstances. Zagzebski offers a parallel virtue-basedaccount of epistemically justified belief. Such proposals are severely flawedbecause virtuous agents in adverse circumstances, or through lack ofknowledge can perform poorly. I propose an alternative virtue-based accountaccording to which an action is right (a belief is justified) for an agentin a given situation iff an unimpaired, fully-informed virtuous (...) observerwould deem the action to be right (the belief to be justified). (shrink)
Virtues are dispositions that make their bearers admirable. Dispositions can be studied scientifically by systematically varying whether their alleged bearers are in (or take themselves to be in) the dispositions' eliciting conditions. In recent decades, empirically-minded philosophers looked to social and personality psychology to study the extent to which ordinary humans embody dispositions traditionally considered admirable in the Aristotelian tradition. This led some to conclude that virtues are not attainable ideals, and that we should focus our ethical reflection and efforts (...) more on jerry-rigging our environments than on improving our characters. Most virtue ethicists resisted this reorientation. However, much of the scientific evidence on which the controversy was based has failed to replicate, raising the question of how much faith we should place in methodologically suspect studies. In this paper, I assess the state of the debate and recommend best practices for a renewed interdisciplinary investigation of virtues and vices in which philosophical expertise related to conceptualization and theorizing is essentially intertwined with scientific expertise related to operationalization, measurement, and statistics. (shrink)
The distinguished philosopher Robert M. Adams presents a major work on virtue, which is once again a central topic in ethical thought. A Theory of Virtue is a systematic, comprehensive framework for thinking about the moral evaluation of character, proposing that virtue is chiefly a matter of being for what is good, and that virtues must be intrinsically excellent and not just beneficial or useful.
Anne Margaret Baxley offers a systematic interpretation of Kant's theory of virtue, whose most distinctive features have not been properly understood. She explores the rich moral psychology in Kant's later and less widely read works on ethics, and argues that the key to understanding his account of virtue is the concept of autocracy, a form of moral self-government in which reason rules over sensibility. Although certain aspects of Kant's theory bear comparison to more familiar Aristotelian claims (...) about virtue, Baxley contends that its most important aspects combine to produce something different - a distinctively modern, egalitarian conception of virtue which is an important and overlooked alternative to the more traditional Greek views which have dominated contemporary virtue ethics. (shrink)
Building on the research of Daryl Tress and others in terms of Aristotle's views of children and the function-argument in the Nicomachean Ethics as analzyed by Ackrill and Nagel (inter alia), I first look at how Aristotle viewed children within ethics. I then suggest an alternate approach where children could be virtuous agents and have their own form of eudaimonia, which includes but is not wholly defined by the fact that they grow into adult humans.
Many environmental problems are longitudinal collective action problems. They arise from the cumulative unintended effects of a vast amount of seemingly insignificant decisions and actions by individuals who are unknown to each other and distant from each other. Such problems are likely to be effectively addressed only by an enormous number of individuals each making a nearly insignificant contribution to resolving them. However, when a person’s making such a contribution appears to require sacrifice or costs, the problem of inconsequentialism arises: (...) given that a person’s contribution, although needed (albeit not necessary), is nearly inconsequential to addressing the problem and may require some cost from the standpoint of the person’s own life, why should the person make the effort, particularly when it is uncertain (or even unlikely) whether others will do so? In this article I argue that justifications for making the effort to respond to longitudinal collective action environmental problems are, on the whole, particularly well supported by virtue-oriented normative theories, on which character traits are evaluated as virtues and vices consequentially or teleologically and actions are evaluated in terms of virtues and vices. If ethical theories are to be assessed on their theoretical and practical adequacy, and if providing a compelling response to the problem of inconsequentialism is an instance of such adequacy, then this is a reason for preferring virtue-oriented ethical theory over non-virtue-oriented ethical theories, such as Kantian, act utilitarian, and global utilitarian theories. (shrink)