“Virtue ethics has a sensible approach to environmental issues.” Discuss
Unlike many other ethical theories, Virtue ethics does not focus on what kinds of things are good/bad, or what makes an action right/wrong, or even on motives and consequences. Instead its emphasis is agent-based, considering what kind of characteristics define a moral character.
Because of this, it is necessarily anthropocentric, but much contemporary ecology takes the view that such a human-centred approach to environmental issues has actually been responsible for many of the world’s current problems. It is claimed that human beings are too interested in their own selfish short-term gain to consider the long-term damage that they are doing to the environment. Most environmentalists prefer instead an eco-centric approach which looks at the planet as a whole. They would therefore definitely not agree that a human-centred virtue ethic has a sensible approach, and I would have to agree that many environmental problems such as pollution, toxic and other industrial waste, and the depletion of natural resources have come about as a direct result of human need and greed. However, there is nothing to stop modern virtue ethicists trying to combine an agent-centred approach with recognition of the importance of the ecosystem as a whole, much as Christians will try to balance dominion and stewardship.
Contemporary virtue ethics differs from the traditional theories of Aristotle and Aquinas in that it puts far more emphasis on the character of the moral agent and less on the end result of a person’s actions. This again can cause a problem when applied to environmental ethics, as Green morality is traditionally all about the results or consequences of actions, not about the moral character of the person who acts. The whole point of environmental ethics is to decide on the acts that will lead to an improved situation – looking at the consequences of, say, a plan to reduce our carbon footprint....