G7 virtue theory and abortion

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  • 1. “ Virtue Theory and Abortion”: Rosalind Hursthouse
    • General defense of virtue theory/ethics
    • Application of virtue to the issue of abortion
  • 2. Framework of Moral Theories
    • Deontology: right action  moral rule  rationality
    • Act-utilitarian: right action  consequences  happiness
    • Virtue: right action  virtuous agent  flourishing(eudaimonia)
  • 3. MisplacedCriticisms:Hursthouse’s Response
    • Problem of eudaimonia
      • Definining eudaimonia is just as difficult as defining the elements in other approaches to morality.
    • Trivially Circular
      • Virtues ≠ right action
      • Virtues  Character traits  required for eudaimonia
    • Problem of answering “What should I do?”
      • Does provide an answer to this as well as to the question “What sort of person should I be”
  • 4. Response (continued)
    • Lacks rules or principles
      • Every virtue generates a positive instruction
      • Every vice generates a prohibition
      • We need not appeal to an ideally virtuous person, but can appeal directly to the virtues.
    • Reductionism (defining all actions in terms of virtuous agents)
      • Virtue depends on a number of moral concepts other than the agent.
      • Ex:Benevolence  good for others  evil or harm  worthwhile or advantageous.
  • 5. Problems Common to Deontological and Virtue Theories
    • Which character traits are virtuous?
      • Same question can be asked as to which duties do we have.
    • How do we reconcile conflicts between virtues?
      • Similar to the problem faced with Kantian absolute moral rules/duties.
  • 6. Major Criticisms of Virtue Theory
    • Conditions of Adequacy
      • Should a moral theory be able to make difficult decisions easy?
      • Should an adequate moral theory provide answers to questions about real moral issues with reference to truths about what is worthwhile, or what really matters in human life?
  • 7. Employment of the notions of virtue and vice
    • “ Acting rightly is difficult, and does call for much moral wisdom, and the relevant condition of adequacy, with virtue theory meets, is that it should have built into it an explanation of a truth expressed by Aristotle, namely, that moral knowledge—unlike mathematical knowledge—cannot be acquired merely by attending lectures and is not characteristically to be found in people too young to have had much experience in life.”(253)
  • 8. Employment of concepts such as “worthwhile”
    • “ If truths about what is worthwhile. . . do not have to be appealed to in order to answer questions about real moral issues, then I might sensibly seek guidance about what I ought to do from someone who had declared in advance that she knew nothing about such matters, or from someone who said that, although she had opinions about them, these were quite likely to be wrong but that this did not matter, because they would play no determining role in the advice she gave me”(254)
  • 9. Virtue Theory and Abortion
    • This issue does NOT revolve around asking what the virtuous person would do.
    • A Women’s right to an abortion (or to control her body) in no way relates to the MORALITY of abortion.
    • EX: Love/Friendship vs. Rights
  • 10. Features of a Virtue Theory Approach to Abortion
    • Right attitude depends upon having the right (“accurate” or “true”) information.
    • Fetus’s only relevance to the rightness or wrongness of abortion is as its status as a “familiar biological fact”.
    • Consideration must be given to the range of values and emotions associated with conception, childbearing and childrearing.
    • Virtue-parenthood as an intrinsically worthwhile way of life—as an example of human flourishing. (One among many)(261)
  • 11. Rightness or Wrongness of Abortion is Agent Specific
    • Pregnancy is not just one among many physical conditions—viewing as such does demonstrate a lack of virtue.
    • Although abortion is a morally serious act, it is not always non-virtuous:
      • Poor health
      • Worn out from childbearing
      • Forced to do physically demanding job
      • Commitments to other children
      • Being “ready” for parenthood may or may not be a legitimate reason for having an abortion.
  • 12. Rightness or Wrongness (continued)
    • Having an abortion can be the right decision and still demonstrate a lack of virtue:
      • “ The virtuous women. . .has such character traits as strength, independence, resoluteness, decisiveness, self-confidence, responsibility, serious-mindedness, and self-determination—and no one , I think, could deny that many women become pregnant in circumstances in which they cannot welcome or face the thought of having this child precisely because they lack one or some of these character traits”(262)