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Topics: Amartya Sen, Virtue ethics, Capability approach Pages: 46 (13481 words) Published: May 26, 2014
Global Ethics &
Bussiness: A
Philosophical
Approach

Dalulka Forest-Smith

Chapter Three

Ethics of
Virtue

The Principle of Virtue

IN THIS CHAPTER ....
The Principle of Virtue
Virtue Philosophers
Excellence: Alasdair MacIntyre
Achievement: Amartya Sen
Entitlement: Martha Nussbaum
Summary & Questions
Consider this

The Principle of Virtue
The Good: Human Excellence
The Basis of Moral Action: Virtuous Actions
The Moral Subject: The individual

2

AT A GLANCE

the unity of a virtue in someone’s life is intelligible
only as a characteristic of a unitary life, a life that
can be conceived and evaluated as a whole
- MacIntyre on Virtue

I

Poverty can be sensibly identified in terms of capability deprivation; the approach concentrates on deprivations that are intrinsically important, unlike low income, which is only instrumentally
significant - Sen on Capability

I ... have used the approach to provide the philosophical underpinning for an account of core human entitlements that should be respected and implemented by the governments of all nations, as a bare minimum of what respect for human dignity requires - Nussbaum on the Capability Approach

3

The Principle of Virtue focuses on the conditions necessary for that a human life express human excellence (virtue). We first met the notion of Virtue in Aristotle’s formulation, in which human excellence is conceived as living rationally. When reviewing contemporary philosophers of Virtue, we will see how Excellence receives slightly different meanings: For Martha Nussbaum expressing human excellence consists in living with dignity while for Alasdair MacIntyre it means living with unity (integrity, intelligibility, etc). Despite these differences contemporary formulations of the Ethics of Virtue retain many elements of the earlier Greek version. The focus is on internal attributes (expressed in ideas and actions) of a person (as a moral entity), that is, on internal dispositions or moral character, as an action or behavior expresses a person’s values. Furthermore, the moral action is not determined by an ought to (an obligation) or by want to (acquisition). In sum, much like Ancient Greece’s virtues - such as courage, honesty, generosity - modern virtues are conceived internal traits expressed in decisions, actions, and practices. Aristotle’s Heritage

The Utilitarian Moral Framework draw from Ancient Greek notions (in particular Plato’s discussion) of pleasure and pain, to basis its conception of morality. Following early modern philosophers, such as John Locke and Thomas Hobbes, Jeremy Bentham deployed a notion of Human Nature, as the ground for his considerations of pleasure and pain. Ethics of Virtue also draws directly from Ancient Greek sources, in particular from Aristotle. In this individual-centered moral framework, Virtue as an attribute of Human Action, acquires meanings slightly different to the ones prevailing in Ancient Greece. The link of virtue and happiness remains. However, while in Aristotle’s formulation the link between Virtue and Justice is to be found in the individual actor, later philosophers of Virtue will relate Justice to the social context. That is, whether or not an individual is able to express human excellence in his or her action depends what the social context allows him or her to do, be, or become. These social conditions cover all aspects of collective life, family, public policies, economic development projects, etc. This chapter reviews three contemporary renderings of Ethics of Virtue. Each introduces a slightly distinct aspect of this moral framework, which is related to the question of the role of ethics in the present global context. First, it reviews Alasdair MacIntyre’s formulation of Virtue as Excellence, an aspect of practices, which indicates how individual actions are linked to particular social conditions and values. The second section review Amartya Sen’s reformulation of Virtue as...
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