Working Virtue: Virtue Ethics and Contemporary Moral Problems

Working Virtue: Virtue Ethics and Contemporary Moral Problems

Working Virtue: Virtue Ethics and Contemporary Moral Problems

Working Virtue: Virtue Ethics and Contemporary Moral Problems


iWorking Virtue/i is the first substantial collective study of virtue theory and contemporary moral problems. Leading figures in ethical theory and applied ethics discuss topics in bioethics, professional ethics, ethics of the family, law, interpersonal ethics, and the emotions. Virtue ethics is centrally concerned with character traits or virtues and vices such as courage (cowardice), kindness (heartlessness), and generosity (stinginess). These character traits must be looked to in any attempt to understand which particular actions are right or wrong and how we ought to live our lives. As a theoretical approach, virtue ethics has made an impressive comeback in relatively recent history, both posing an alternative to, and, in some ways, complementing well-known theoretical stances such as utilitarianism and deontology. Yet there is still very little material available that presents virtue-ethical approaches to practical contemporary moral problems, such as what we owe distant strangers, our parents, or even non-human animals. This book fills the gap by dealing with these and other pressing moral problems in a clear and theoretically nuanced manner. The contributors offer a variety of perspectives, including pluralistic, eudaimonistic, care-theoretical, Chinese, comparative, and stoic. This variety allows the reader to appreciate not only the wide range of topics for which a virtue-ethical approach may be fitting, but also the distinctive ways in which such an approach may be manifested.


Rebecca L. Walker and Philip J.Ivanhoe

In contemporary society, talk about virtue and vice may sound hopelessly oldfashioned. To some, an exhortation to 'be virtuous' is on par with 'just saying no' to sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Yet when the discussion turns serious and focuses on the virtues themselves, these initial impressions fade quickly. Everyone who cares about being a good person can see that this involves being courageous and generous. Adults with children of their own hope that those children will grow into young adults with a strong sense of kindness and justice. They harbor such hopes not only because that is a good way for their children to be but also because being that way is good for them.

Any action that is cruel, stingy, cowardly, or unjust is of a type that, other things being equal, would be wrong to do. No one seriously doubts this. Moreover, when asked what kinds of actions fit these descriptions no one with a basic sense of morality has any trouble giving examples. It may be a bit surprising then that at the theoretical level a common critique of virtue ethics has been its lack of ability to guide moral action (Louden 1997). This type of objection has already prompted substantial and powerful rebuttals (Solomon 1988; Hursthouse 1997, 1998). Yet there is still a relative paucity of writings that offer clear examples of virtue ethics actually at work in various practical fields. To our knowledge there is no available collection of virtue ethical views that engages and explores a substantial range of issues in contemporary practical ethics. The present volume fills this need. Our hope is that it will provide insight and unique perspectives on the topics covered by focusing on the role of the virtues or a virtue ethical approach to these topics, present sustained practical examples of virtue analyses at work engaging practical moral problems, and promote a wider understanding of the virtues and virtue ethics by offering a variety of theoretical perspectives under the umbrella of virtue-based analyses.

There are, however, excellent works focused on more specific topics in applied ethics. See for
example Oakley and Cocking (2001) on virtue ethics and professional roles and Sandler and Cafaro
(2005) on environmental virtue ethics.

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