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Environmental Ethics

Volume 43, Issue 2, Summer 2021

Benjamin HoleOrcid-ID
Pages 99-117

Radical Virtue and Climate Action

Radical virtue serves two distinct purposes: consolation in unfavorable circumstances, and prescription to achieve better ones. This paper maps out the theoretical nuances important for practical guidance. For a Stoic, radical virtue is a way to live well through environmental tragedy. For a consequentialist, it is an instrument to motivate us to combat climate change. For an Aristotelian, it is both. I argue that an Aristotelian approach fares the best, balancing the aim of external success with the aim of living well through practical wisdom. This involves criticizing assumptions about living well that underlie behaviors that contribute to climate change. Some might object virtue theory suffers from application problems, and an Aristotelian approach suffers even more because it does not tell the virtuous person how to negotiate her aims. In response, Aristotelian revision starts with moral perception that adds valuable content by navigating through the messiness.

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