1st St Cross Special Ethics Seminar (HT11)

Date: Thursday 20 January, 17:30
Venue: St Cross Room, St Cross College

Speaker: Dr Adrian Walsh (School of Social Science, University of New England, Australia)
Title: Good Intentions and Political Life: Against Virtue Parsimony

Abstract: It is a commonplace that the good life and the good society are intimately interconnected. In order to maximize our chances of living well, we require a well-ordered polity; and this is one of the fundamental challenges of politics. Typically we regard a good society as, amongst other things, a society that has well designed institutions. One crucial aspect of the ‘design challenge’ concerns itself with the relationship between individual virtue and such political institutions. Is it is in general a good idea to prefer those institutions that demand from participating individuals a virtue-rich input? Alternatively, in the interests of human flourishing, should we prefer those institutions that are thrifty with respect to the ‘virtue inputs’ demanded of those who inhabit them– even, to demand no virtue inputs at all? Although the latter claim of virtue parsimony might seem counter-intuitive at first sight, it has many defenders who suggest we should economize on virtue. We see this especially in debates over the expansion of the market into areas hitherto unknown to it. One source of appeal is the success of what appear to be virtue parsimonious social institutions such as the market. Another such source of appeal is the failure in the 20th century of what we might call virtue-rich social movements. Although I share with the tradition of virtue parsimony a concern about virtue-rich forms of social organization, this does not mean that virtue parsimony is the only plausible alternative to the virtue-rich nor does it mean that the success of markets need be understood in terms of the ideal of virtue parsimony. My aim then is to defend, what is perhaps, the rather unsurprising suggestion that moral virtue still has a place in the project of developing the good society.

Further details: This talk will be followed by a drinks reception and a dinner, and is open to all. However, those wishing to attend either the talk or dinner must email rachel.gaminiratne@philosophy.ox.ac.uk

ResourcesPowerpoint (PDF)  |  Audio File (MP3)

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