Joe Humphreys in The Irish Times:
A defining feature of the evolution of western ethics has been the displacement of the language of virtue for that of utility and rights. While virtue theory – the construction of a moral framework around the ideal of “the good life” and related character traits – dates back to Ancient Greece, it has been commonly associated with religion. And this helps to explains why it has fallen out of fashion since the Enlightenment.
But are there signs of that movement being reversed?
There is a danger here of exaggeration – a scientist spots two birds and calls it a pair; a journalist spots two birds and calls it a trend – but if you’ll indulge me for a moment, you can see the case for virtue theory asserting itself in response to our greatest challenges.
On issues like economic injustice, the migration crisis and climate change, many thinkers are coming to the view that the dominant methods of ethical reasoning are failing. Calculating right and wrong by measuring inputs and outputs has brought us piecemeal “solutions” like carbon trading, refugee quotas and tax harmonisation and, while these may be welcome in their own right, there is general consensus that they fall far short of what’s required.