They admit that, for them, cultural relativism is a challenge, but point out that it is just as much a problem for the other two approaches.
The putative cultural variation in character traits regarded as virtues is no greater—indeed markedly less—than the cultural variation in rules of conduct, and different cultures have different ideas about what constitutes happiness or welfare. That cultural relativity should be a problem common to all three approaches is hardly surprising.
A bolder strategy involves claiming that virtue ethics has less difficulty with cultural relativity than the other two approaches.
Much cultural disagreement arises, it may be claimed, from local understandings of the virtues, but the virtues themselves are not relative to culture Nussbaum Charity prompts me to kill the person who would be better off dead, but justice forbids it. Honesty points to telling the hurtful truth, kindness and compassion to remaining silent or even lying. What shall I do? Of course, the same sorts of dilemmas are generated by conflicts between deontological rules.
Deontology and virtue ethics share the conflict problem and are happy to take it on board rather than follow some of the utilitarians in their consequentialist resolutions of such dilemmas and in fact their strategies for responding to it are parallel. Both aim to resolve a number of dilemmas by arguing that the conflict is merely apparent; a discriminating understanding of the virtues or rules in question, possessed only by those with practical wisdom, will perceive that, in this particular case, the virtues do not make opposing demands or that one rule outranks another, or has a certain exception clause built into it.
Whether this is all there is to it depends on whether there are any irresolvable dilemmas. If there are, proponents of either normative approach may point out reasonably that it could only be a mistake to offer a resolution of what is, ex hypothesi , irresolvable. Another problem arguably shared by all three approaches is e , that of being self-effacing. Michael Stocker originally introduced it as a problem for deontology and consequentialism. He pointed out that the agent who, rightly, visits a friend in hospital will rather lessen the impact of his visit on her if he tells her either that he is doing it because it is his duty or because he thought it would maximize the general happiness.
In its particular versions, for deontology there is the question of how to justify its claims that certain moral rules are the correct ones, and for utilitarianism of how to justify its claim that all that really matters morally are consequences for happiness or well-being. For virtue ethics, the problem concerns the question of which character traits are the virtues.
Some believe that their normative ethics can be placed on a secure basis, resistant to any form of scepticism, such as what anyone rationally desires, or would accept or agree on, regardless of their ethical outlook; others that it cannot. Virtue ethicists have eschewed any attempt to ground virtue ethics in an external foundation while continuing to maintain that their claims can be validated.
A misunderstanding of eudaimonia as an unmoralized concept leads some critics to suppose that the neo-Aristotelians are attempting to ground their claims in a scientific account of human nature and what counts, for a human being, as flourishing. Others assume that, if this is not what they are doing, they cannot be validating their claims that, for example, justice, charity, courage, and generosity are virtues.
Eudaimonia in virtue ethics, is indeed a moralized concept, but it is not only that. Claims about what constitutes flourishing for human beings no more float free of scientific facts about what human beings are like than ethological claims about what constitutes flourishing for elephants.
In both cases, the truth of the claims depends in part on what kind of animal they are and what capacities, desires and interests the humans or elephants have. The best available science today including evolutionary theory and psychology supports rather than undermines the ancient Greek assumption that we are social animals, like elephants and wolves and unlike polar bears. No rationalizing explanation in terms of anything like a social contract is needed to explain why we choose to live together, subjugating our egoistic desires in order to secure the advantages of co-operation.
Like other social animals, our natural impulses are not solely directed towards our own pleasures and preservation, but include altruistic and cooperative ones. This basic fact about us should make more comprehensible the claim that the virtues are at least partially constitutive of human flourishing and also undercut the objection that virtue ethics is, in some sense, egoistic.
One is a simple confusion. A related version ascribes bizarre reasons to the virtuous agent, unjustifiably assuming that she acts as she does because she believes that acting thus on this occasion will help her to achieve eudaimonia. On the view that the exercise of the virtues is necessary but not sufficient for eudaimonia , such cases are described as those in which the virtuous agent sees that, as things have unfortunately turned out, eudaimonia is not possible for them Foot , Either way, such heroic acts can hardly be regarded as egoistic.
This is a mistake on two counts.
Firstly, justice and benevolence do, in general, benefit their possessors, since without them eudaimonia is not possible. There have been other responses as well summarized helpfully in Prinz and Miller But giving up the idea that practical wisdom is the heart of all the virtues, as Adams has to do, is a substantial sacrifice, as Russell and Kamtekar argue. Over the past thirty-five years most of those contributing to the revival of virtue ethics have worked within a neo-Aristotelian, eudaimonist framework.
However, as noted in section 2, other forms of virtue ethics have begun to emerge.
Theorists have begun to turn to philosophers like Hutcheson, Hume, Nietzsche, Martineau, and Heidegger for resources they might use to develop alternatives see Russell ; Swanton and ; Taylor ; and Harcourt These explorations promise to open up new avenues for the development of virtue ethics.
Although virtue ethics has grown remarkably in the last thirty-five years, it is still very much in the minority, particularly in the area of applied ethics. However, the last decade has seen an increase in the amount of attention applied virtue ethics has received Walker and Ivanhoe ; Hartman ; Austin ; Van Hooft ; and Annas This area can certainly be expected to grow in the future, and it looks as though applying virtue ethics in the field of environmental ethics may prove particularly fruitful Sandler ; Hursthouse , ; Zwolinski and Schmidtz ; Cafaro That suggests that at least those virtue ethicists who take their inspiration from Aristotle should have resources to offer for the development of virtue politics.
But, while Plato and Aristotle can be great inspirations as far as virtue ethics is concerned, neither, on the face of it, are attractive sources of insight where politics is concerned.
However, recent work suggests that Aristotelian ideas can, after all, generate a satisfyingly liberal political philosophy Nussbaum ; LeBar a. Moreover, as noted above, virtue ethics does not have to be neo-Aristotelian. It may be that the virtue ethics of Hutcheson and Hume can be naturally extended into a modern political philosophy Hursthouse —91; Slote Following Plato and Aristotle, modern virtue ethics has always emphasised the importance of moral education, not as the inculcation of rules but as the training of character. There is now a growing movement towards virtues education, amongst both academics Carr ; Athanassoulis ; Curren and teachers in the classroom.
One exciting thing about research in this area is its engagement with other academic disciplines, including psychology, educational theory, and theology see Cline ; and Snow Finally, one of the more productive developments of virtue ethics has come through the study of particular virtues and vices.
There are now a number of careful studies of the cardinal virtues and capital vices Pieper ; Taylor ; Curzer ; Timpe and Boyd Others have explored less widely discussed virtues or vices, such as civility, decency, truthfulness, ambition, and meekness Calhoun ; Kekes ; Williams ; and Pettigrove and Others have been concerned that such an open-handed approach to the virtues will make it difficult for virtue ethicists to come up with an adequate account of right action or deal with the conflict problem discussed above.
The apparent proliferation of virtues can be significantly reduced if we group virtues together with some being cardinal and others subordinate extensions of those cardinal virtues. Possible conflicts between the remaining virtues can then be managed if they are tied together in some way as part of a unified whole Russell This highlights two important avenues for future research, one of which explores individual virtues and the other of which analyses how they might be related to one another.
Aristotle character, moral character, moral: empirical approaches consequentialism ethics: deontological moral dilemmas. Parts of the introductory material above repeat what was said in the Introduction and first chapter of On Virtue Ethics Hursthouse Preliminaries 1. Forms of Virtue Ethics 2.
Objections to virtue ethics 4. Forms of Virtue Ethics While all forms of virtue ethics agree that virtue is central and practical wisdom required, they differ in how they combine these and other concepts to illuminate what we should do in particular contexts and how we should live our lives as a whole. Objections to virtue ethics A number of objections have been raised against virtue ethics, some of which bear more directly on one form of virtue ethics than on others.
Future Directions Over the past thirty-five years most of those contributing to the revival of virtue ethics have worked within a neo-Aristotelian, eudaimonist framework. Anscombe, G.
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framework for discussing and assessing such normative theories. framework for normative theories of business ethics (section 2). Doing so will. A Framework for Discussing Normative Theories of Business Ethics grounded and fails as a normative theory (Child & Marcoux, ;Cragg, ;Hasnas.
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Pauer-Studer ed. Gardiner, Stephen ed. Gowans, Christopher W. Hales ed. Harman, G. Beauchamp and R. Frey eds. Johnson, Robert N. Kupperman, Joel J. Plato: Intuition vs. Hursthouse, G. Lawrence and W. Quinn eds. Merritt, M. Nussbaum, Martha C.