Eudaimonism about Virtue and Qualified Agent Right Action: Some Prospects for Environmental Virtue Ethics
In this thesis, I aim to show that virtue oriented approaches to environmental ethics are in a position to provide satisfying answers to two central ethical questions: “What kind of person should I be?”, and “What should I do?” I argue that two such approaches – Rosalind Hursthouse’s environmental virtue ethics and Philip Cafaro’s account of environmental vice – provide insights about how we ought to be with regard to the environment, in terms of character and attitudes. I then defend Hursthouse’s account of right action against several objections. First, I respond to the worry that a shortage of environmental exemplars might count against Hursthouse, by showing that non-virtuous agents can conceive of what to do by seeking to avoid acting from environmental vices. Second, I respond the worry that her account of right action fails to generate the right result for non-virtuous agents in some cases, by showing that such cases can be accounted for by appeal to the distinction between action guidance and action assessment. Third, I consider the worry that her theory will fail to provide concrete action guidance. Theories which seek to provide concrete action guidance in all contexts face serious problems of their own, I respond. Further, I maintain that Hursthouse is not ruled out from providing the sort of action guidance her critics are interested in.