Virtue ethics is frequently billed as a remedy to the problems of deontological and consequentialist ethics that Bernard Williams identified in his critique of “the morality system.” But how far can virtue ethics be relied upon to avoid these problems? What does Williams’s critique of the morality system mean for virtue ethics? To answer this question, we offer a more principled characterisation of the defining features of the morality system in terms of its organising ambition—to shelter life against luck. This (...) reveals the system to be multiply realisable: the same function can be served by substantively different but functionally equivalent ideas. After identifying four requirements that ethical thought must meet to function as a morality system, we show that they can also be met by certain constellations of virtue-ethical ideas. We thereby demonstrate the possibility of virtue-ethical morality systems raising problems analogous to those besetting their deontological and consequentialist counterparts. This not only widens the scope of Williams’s critique and brings out the cautionary aspect of his legacy for virtue ethics. It also offers contemporary virtue ethicists a more principled understanding of the functional features that mark out morality systems and lie at the root of their problems, thereby helping them to avoid or overcome these problems. (shrink)
This paper concerns an ethics of our medieval tradition (in particular good, happiness, natural law and virtue) and tries to show how to recover it, facing the problems of pluralism, freedom and scientific approach in modern and contemporary age. The author points out: - The central role of the desire for good and happiness and for goods adequate or inadequate to the openness of desire (particularly of the human person). Today we speak of the meaning of life. - The role (...) of ethical virtues as the flowering of the first principles of natural law. - The principle of the entirety of the good (bonum ex integra causa) in order to judge the moral goodness of an action and as a criterion to compare different ethics in a pluralistic world. This is to distinguish between different levels of the human and moral good. - The principles of natural law as a result of the encounter between certain inclinations and practical rationality that recognizes them as normative. Nature and natural law are the conditions of freedom, not primarily a limit to it. - Now we must increase the role of freedom of choice – which is based on rationality – and the virtues as a way to freedom. It is essential to emphasize the value of personal risk and the fact that evil can serve the good. In general the author tries to face the challenges of deontology, utilitarianism and contemporary virtue ethics. -/- . (shrink)
We examine the following consequentialist view of virtue: a trait is a virtue if and only if it has good consequences in some relevant way. We highlight some motivations for this basic account, and offer twelve choice points for filling it out. Next, we explicate Julia Driver’s consequentialist view of virtue in reference to these choice points, and we canvass its merits and demerits. Subsequently, we consider three suggestions that aim to increase the plausibility of her position, and critically analyze (...) them. We conclude that one of those proposed revisions would improve her account. (shrink)
Emotions have long been of interest to philosophers and have deep historical roots going back to the Ancients. They have also become one of the most exciting areas of current research in philosophy, the cognitive sciences, and beyond. -/- This book explains the philosophy of the emotions, structuring the investigation around seven fundamental questions: What are emotions? Are emotions natural kinds? Do animals have emotions? Are emotions epistemically valuable? Are emotions the foundation for value and morality? Are emotions the basis (...) for responsibility? Do emotions make us better people? -/- In the course of exploring these questions, the book also discusses cutting-edge empirical research on emotion, feminist approaches to emotions and their value, and methodological questions on how to theorize about the emotions. The book also contains in-depth discussions of specific emotions like compassion, disgust, anxiety, and curiosity. It also highlights emerging trends in emotion research. (shrink)
In her influential essay ‘Virtues and Vices,’ Philippa Foot argues that virtues are essentially corrective, moderating between two vicious extremes. She also contends that Aquinas champions this view, too. In contrast, I argue that Foot misreads Aquinas; that Aquinas's actual theory of virtue is incompatible with the corrective theory Foot defends; and that those who endorse Aquinas's Augustinian theology should side with his perfective theory of virtue rather than Foot's corrective one.
This essay develops a Kantian approach to the permissibility of biomedical physical, cognitive, and moral enhancement. Kant holds that human beings have an imperfect duty to promote their physical, cognitive, and moral perfection. While an agent’s individual circumstances may limit the means she may permissibly use to enhance herself, whether biomedically or otherwise, I argue (1) that biomedical means of enhancing oneself are, generally speaking, both permissible and meritorious from a Kantian perspective. Despite often being equally permissible, I also argue (...) (2) that enhancing oneself by more traditional means is, generally speaking, more meritorious (and involves the display of more virtue) than enhancing oneself by biomedical means. Nevertheless, since Kant does not fault agents for acting less meritoriously (or for displaying less virtue) than they otherwise could, I also argue (3) that those who opt for permissible biomedical enhancement over more traditional forms are not blameworthy for doing so. I also consider and reject several objections to these claims, including that biomedical enhancements (1) are too passive to count as actions by the agent who enhances herself, (2) involve a failure of the agent to treat her humanity as an end in itself or to show proper respect for her dignity, (3) might be undertaken on the basis of motives that undermine their permissibility, (4) are likely to exacerbate existing social and economic inequalities in ways that do the same, and (5) in their moral form are incompatible with Kant’s conception of duty and human freedom. (shrink)
Virtue ethics is often understood as a rival to existing consequentialist, deontological, and contractualist views. But some have disputed the position that virtue ethics is a genuine normative ethical rival. This chapter aims to crystallize the nature of this dispute by providing criteria that determine the degree to which a normative ethical theory is complete, and then investigating virtue ethics through the lens of these criteria. In doing so, it’s argued that no existing account of virtue ethics is a complete (...) normative ethical view that rivals existing consequentialist, deontological, and contractualist views. Moreover, it is argued that one of the most significant challenges facing virtue ethics consists in offering an account of the right-making features of actions, while remaining a distinctively virtue ethical view. (shrink)
In two important articles, Thomas Hurka applies his recursive account of value to virtue. Hurka’s contention is that being virtuous is merely a matter of having the proper pro-attitude toward what is objectively good. Hurka argues that the recursive framework honors much of our traditional conception of virtue, and even if it does not capture everything involved in virtue, it “describes at least part of what virtue involves.” I argue that the recursive account of virtue is not a partial description (...) of traditional virtue, however, but a reconception of virtue. Accepting the recursive account would require abandoning the most distinctive elements of traditional virtue ethics. (shrink)
The paper argues that care ethics should be subsumed under virtue ethics by construing care as an important virtue. Doing so allows us to achieve two desirable goals. First, we preserve what is important about care ethics. Second, we avoid two important objections to care ethics, namely, that it neglects justice, and that it contains no mechanism by which care can be regulated so as not to be become morally corrupt.
Conceived of as a contender to other theories in substantive ethics, virtue ethics is often associated with, in essence, the following account or criterion of right action: VR: An action A is right for S in circumstances C if and only if a fully virtuous agent would characteristically do A in C. There are serious objections to VR, which take the form of counter-examples. They present us with different scenarios in which less than fully virtuous persons would be acting rightly (...) in doing what no fully virtuous agent would characteristically do in the circumstances. In this paper, various proposals for how to revise VR in order to avoid these counter-examples are considered. I will argue that in so far as the revised accounts really do manage to steer clear of the counter-examples to VR, something which it turns out is not quite true for all of them, they instead fall prey to other damaging objections. I end by discussing the future of virtue ethics, given what has come to light in the previous sections of the paper. In particular, I sketch the outlines of a virtue ethical account of rightness that is structurally different from VR. This account also faces important problems. Still, I suggest that further scrutiny is required before we are in a position to make a definitive decision about its fate. (shrink)
This article looks at some of the salient analyses of moderation in the ancient Greek and the Islamic traditions and uses them to develop a contemporary view of the matter. Greek ethics played a huge role in shaping the ethical views of the Muslim philosophers and theologians, and thus the article starts with an overview of the revival of contemporary western virtue ethics--in many ways an extension of Platonic-Aristotelian ethics--and then looks at the place of moderation or temperance in Platonic-Aristotelian (...) ethics. This sets the stage for an exposition of the position taken by Ibn Miskawayh and al-Ghazali, which is then used as a backdrop for suggesting a revival of the Quran's virtue ethics. After outlining a basis for its virtue ethics, the Quranic view of wasatiyya or moderation is discussed briefly. (shrink)
_ Virtue Ethics_ collects, for the first time, the main classical sources and the central contemporary expressions of virtue ethics approach to normative ethical theory. Edited and introduced by Stephen Darwall, these readings are essential for anyone interested in normative theory. Introduced by Stephen Darwall, this collection brings together classic and contemporary readings which define and advance the literature on virtue ethics. Includes six essays which respond to the classic sources. Includes a contemporary discussion on character and virtue by Gary (...) Watson. Includes classic essays by Aristotle, Francis Hutcheson and David Hume, and recent reactions to this work by philosophers including Philippa Foot, John McDowell, Alasdair MacIntyre, Annette Baier, Rosalind Hursthouse, and Michael Slote. (shrink)
I take issue with an argument to the effect that because contractualism proves--both practically and theoretically--the philosophically superior moral theory, we have the result that nonhuman animals can have no, nor ought be extended any, moral standing. The combined argument belongs to Peter Carruthers, and appears in his The Animals Issue. My response involves demonstration that on careful analysis contractualism fares even less well than the two theories against which Carruthers compares it--rights and utilitarian. Furthermore, I offer a sketch of (...) a theory which does not fall for reliance on a singularly problematic premise--a premise which plays pivotally in traditional contractualist, rights and utilitarian accounts. The upshot is that this "alternative rights theory" fares best in reflective equilibrium analysis as against not only those theories Carruthers decries, but contractualism as well. We are, it appears, drawn back to the nagging question of whether and how things nonhuman may matter morally. For, Carruthers conclusion is disallowed. That the alternative rights theory offers novel yet satisfactory means by which to account for moral motivation and knowledge, as well as differences in moral respect due morally relevant beings, is explored. That the theory avoids the troublesome pitfalls of intuitionism and supervenience further secures its frontrunning position--which, again, begins to indicate that and how more than solely humans are of moral relevance. (shrink)
This work draws out the moral significance of the care-ethic tradition by examining its implications for political theory. I defend the care tradition against the charge that it is a slave-morality because it is conceptually incapable of addressing political conflicts. I argue that a carefully drafted feminist version of care-ethics is capable of bridging this gap because it is conceptually able to highlight concerns of both justice and care simultaneously. A perspective combining the insights of care and justice perspectives can (...) be a distinct political as well as moral voice. ;The main obstacle to this project is a tendency within the care-ethic tradition to dichotomize justice and care perspectives and construe them as independent, incommensurable, or incompatible. The dichotomy of justice/care perspectives parallels other conceptual pairs, giving it many dimensions and theoretical manifestations. The justice/care dichotomy implies that care-givers do not require understandings of justice in order to achieve the ideals of care, and that justice can be reached at the expense of the ideals of care. Any version of the care-ethic premised upon stronger versions of this dichotomy, or that has not corrected for their influence is inadequate by standards both external and internal to the care-ethic tradition. ;With an eye toward the dangers and promise of such a project, I defend a politically sensitive ethic of care that navigates moral waters better than its predecessors. Feminist principles of justice fortify the politically weak points of the care tradition, especially the tendency to encourage the political marginalization of many care-givers. Theoretical attention to care rectifies the tendency of justice traditions---including much feminist thought---to discount caring labor, wish it away, or indiscriminately shift the social burdens of care to someone else. I show that any adequate treatment of moral life must embrace a model whereby justice and care are understood as mutually presupposing ideals. (shrink)
This dissertation integrates the work of feminist care theorists such as Carol Gilligan with the phenomenological work on embodiment of Maurice Merleau-Ponty as well as the social philosophy of Jane Addams to create an approach to morality that I call, "Embodied Care." I define embodied care as an approach to morality that shifts ethical considerations to context, relationships, and affective knowledge in a manner that can only be fully understood if its embodied dimension is recognized. Care is exhibited through habits (...) that are an expression of embodied knowledge and contribute to a caring imagination. Care is committed to the flourishing and growth of individuals yet acknowledges our interconnectedness and interdependence. This dissertation aims to contribute two ideas to existing care discourse: Care cannot be fully understood without attending to its embodied dimension and that care can be a viable component of a social ethic but only if its corporeal aspect is addressed. ;The introduction contains my definition of care that will be explicated throughout the dissertation. The opening chapter reviews the current literature on care ethics and organizes various positions held to help clarify the assertion I will make throughout the dissertation: care is more foundational than an ethical theory because it is rooted in the body. Largely drawing upon the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, chapter two establishes how the body is "built for caring" by exploring caring knowledge and caring habits. Chapter three bridges individual and social considerations through the notion of a caring imagination which employs corporeal resources to transcend distance and time to understand and empathize with others. In chapter four the work of Jane Addams is used to understand how attending to embodiment can contribute to social habits of care that build a caring society. The final chapter explores how embodied care transforms the moral landscape on a personal and a social level. ;Rather than providing the definitive answers desired by traditional ethical systems, embodied care points to the kinds of questions and issues that should be attended to. Embodied care is not about "getting it right," but about "making it better" for those involved. (shrink)
Using a Wittgensteinian approach to understanding, this thesis extends and challenges recent feminist discussions of the ethic of care as a gender-sensitive corrective to traditional moral theory. It elaborates a more complex understanding of the diversity and ambiguity of the ethical possibilities of caring than has been presented in earlier analyses. A brief introduction to the contemporary debate is followed by accounts of six different examples of caring practices, viz: caring attention, taking care of oneself, mothering, friendship, nursing and citizenship. (...) The aim of this survey is to show that caring constitutes an intricate labyrinth of ethical possibilities, the understanding of which involves approaching it from numerous directions. Through concern for the similarities and differences between these examples, their insights and their oversights, the thesis displays the limitations of theories which presume a unified, non-contexted ethic of care. At the same time the detailed descriptions of caring practices affirm the ethical significance of a range of activities that are frequently overlooked in conventional accounts of ethics. (shrink)
The authors take a hard and critical look at the gospel of market economy and its long-term consequences. They examine its major assumptions, its major policy imperatives and their consequen tial impacts on ecology, society, human beings and organizations. The paper urges a redefinition of this dominant paradigm of today, and advocates the need for it to be subjected to the wider considerations of a caring and ecologically sound belief system. The appendices offer descriptive accounts of actual cases which show (...) the real and repeated crisis-producing potential of this paradigm. (shrink)
Connected Lives examines the account of human nature that is implicit in an ethics of care, a picture of human lives that emphasizes interdependency, embodiment, and social connectedness. The book makes important connections to the picture of human life found in theorists of love such as St. Augustine and Emmanuel Levinas, and shows that when care theory is articulated clearly, it provides resources for thinking through some of the difficult moral issues we face in the contemporary world, issues such as (...) assisted reproduction and the new genetic technologies. (shrink)
The article aims to delve into the ethical dimension of Ubuntu philosophy, which is an African philosophy that reverberates in other cultures and in various forms, thus exemplifying its universality and universalizability. In this dimension, it tries to re-examine the notion of ethics in relation to morals/morality, including “is” and “ought”, with reference to the human person. Moreover, Ubuntu philosophy is articulated and communicated in the maxim that is an essential component inthe lived experiences of the Bantu-speaking African community: “A (...) person is a person through other persons.” With this, the article integrates some related European and Asian philosophies, considering the fact that Ubuntu philosophy endures as it is tenaciously upheld and edified alongside its implications. (shrink)
This article examines Russell Hardin's interpretation of Hume's argument that great social order depends on coordination convention. The main argument shows that despite an apparent move in that direction Hume's main argument is that justice and the other convention-based virtues rest on a cooperative convention which solves a prisoner's dilemma problem and that states are required when a society exceeds some small size because only states can solve the large number prisoner's dilemma problems that constitute the 'problem of social order'. (...) In this Hume's argument is indebted to the original form of this argument found in Hobbes's Leviathan. (shrink)
According to Slote's ``agent-based'' virtue ethics, the rightness orwrongness of an act is determined by the motive it expresses. Thistheory has a problem with cases where an agent can do her duty onlyby expressing some vicious motive and thereby acting wrongly. In sucha situation, an agent can only act wrongly; hence, the theory seemsincompatible with the maxim that `ought' implies `can'. I argue thatSlote's attempt to circumvent this problem by appealing to compatibilism is inadequate. In a wide range of psychologically (...) realistic cases, an agent's effective choice will be between failingto do her duty and doing it from inferior motives. Then anythingshe can do will be wrong, according to the agent-based theory,contrary to the maxim Slote wishes to preserve. (shrink)
Hope as a virtue is an acquired disposition, shaped by reflection; as a civic virtue it must serve the good of the community. Ernst Bloch and Lord Buddha offer help in constructing such a virtue. Using a taxonomy developed by Darren Webb I distinguish open hope from goal-oriented hope, and use each thinker to develop the former. Bloch and Buddha are very different (and notoriously obscure; I do not attempt an exegesis). But they share a metaphysics of change, foundational for (...) making any sense of hope.Buddhism would seem to repudiate hope; it is a source of suffering (i.e., pain in living with reality). Seen more deeply, however, Buddhism offers material for a carefully limited virtue of hope: the habits of noticing good and acknowledging transience. This disposition, acquired through Buddhist practice among other ways, shields one against despair. The habit also frees up energy that would otherwise be wasted. Ernst Bloch gives us insight into how to use that energy, teaching us to value the yearning implicit throughout culture. Open hope becomes a civic virtue when it concerns civic matters; it can be threatened by hyperbolic discourse in political life. (shrink)
In this book Michael Slote discusses the history of ethics from a sentimentalist perspective. It can be read in two ways: first, as a tribute to great thinkers whose contributions have helped shape contemporary ethics, and second, as a defense of a sentimentalist virtue theory. This review centers on the two chapters most relevant to sentimentalist virtue theory: chapter 1, in which Slote defines and defends elevationism, and chapter 5, in which he offers a defense of sentimentalism. The first essay (...) distinguishes between three theories about the relationship between virtue and well-being. Dualist theories, like Kantianism, contend that virtue and well-being are distinct concepts. Reductionist theories .. (shrink)
Julia Annas offers a new account of virtue and happiness as central ethical ideas. She argues that exercising a virtue involves practical reasoning of the kind we find in someone exercising an everyday practical skill, such as farming, building, or playing the piano. This helps us to see virtue as part of an agent's happiness or flourishing.
In the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle examines the nature of happiness, which he defines as a specially good kind of life. He considers the nature of practical reasoning, friendship, and the role and importance of the moral virtues in the best life. This new edition features a revised translation and valuable new introduction and notes.
This essay focuses on Edmund Pincoffs’ arguments in defense of virtue ehtics and against ethical theory. His advocacy of virtue ethics hinges on the claims that: 1) the virtues are central to ancient ethics, modern ethics representing an unjustifiable change in orientation; 2) modern ethics is overly legalistic, construing morality merely as a set of universalistic action-guiding rules; 3) modern ethics is objectionably reductivistic, reducing morality to conscientiousness. Pincoffs’ opposition to ethical theory is based on the claims that: 4) ethical (...) theories are objectionably reductivistic (in numerous ways); 5) they exhibit an individualist bias which results in an indefensible abstractness; 6) they mistakenly assume that moral experts exist; 7) they lack justificatory power; 8) they are a modern invention toward which we should be skeptical. In my crítical remarks concerning Pincoffs’ positions. I argue (with numberous qualifícations) against each of the above claims. (shrink)
Since its inception as a professional field in the 1960s or so, African ethics has been neglected not only by virtue ethicists, but also by international scholars in moral philosophy generally. This is unfortunate, since sub-Saharan normative perspectives are characteristically virtue-centred, and, furthermore, are both different from traditional Western forms and just as worth taking seriously as they are. In my contribution, I spell out the two major respects in which virtue is a salient theme in African ethics, and critically (...) appraise them in relation to some dominant Western conceptions. (shrink)