Philosophy in the Contemporary World

Volume 8, Issue 2, Fall/Winter 2001

Environmental Virtue Ethics

William J. Ehmann
Pages 51-57

Environmental Virtue Ethics with Martha Stewart

Renewed philosophical discourse about virtue ethics motivates the search for examples to inform and extend our thinking. In the case of environmental virtue ethics, I have decided to consult “America’s Lifestyle Expert,” Martha Stewart. Oft dismissed as a pop icon or model of domesticity, Martha’s business success is arguably a result of her claimed authority on what the good life entails and how we get it. Reviewing over 60 signed “Letters From Martha” from her monthly magazine Martha Stewart Living. (MSL) I explored her presentations of current environmental topics including biodiversity, obligations to animals, gardening, global warming, and reliance on technology. I find that her work ultimately makes managing a household interesting, and encourages her public to take personal pride in everyday tasks done well. These are trademark Martha Stewart “good things.” Moreover, by connecting with a large audience few philosophers or scientists ever court, she is poised to help us manage our larger planetary household (sensu Gr. “oikos”) and frame a quality of life for future generations.