Virtue Theory

Tom Tomlinson

in Methods in Medical Ethics

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780195161243
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199950317 | DOI:
Virtue Theory

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This chapter discusses two roles for virtues in our bioethical thinking—as powers for knowing the right thing to do; and as dispositions which reflect the moral excellence of persons. The first role for virtue cannot be defended. “Prudence,” the virtue of moral discernment, comes in for special criticism. The question about the second role is whether it concerns just character, but not choices. But the boundary between the assessment of persons and the assessment of their acts is not always clear. If I think I’ve been treated respectfully, I’m thinking not just about what the other person did, but about his motives in doing so. This sort of virtue perspective can open up new and fruitful avenues for moral reflection and criticism. This is illustrated with discussions of the doctrine of double effect, and the physician’s duty to provide care even at significant risk to herself.

Keywords: bioethics; medical ethics; moral reasoning; moral judgment; virtues; character; prudence; double effect

Chapter.  8676 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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