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How Do Virtue Ethics Arise From Metaphysics?

Continuing to think about Shannon Vallor's Technology and the Virtues.

July 14, 2018Filed under Theology#buddhism#christianity#confucianism#shannon vallor#virtue ethicsMarkdown source

Context: I’ve just picked back up Shannon Vallor’s Technology and the Virtues about a month away from it (since my last post about it). And in light of a number of things I’ve been thinking about over the last month,1 I’m trying to publish short thoughts on things like this as they come up. Blogging as gardening, if you will.

Vallor argues (relatively persuasively, but I confess my relative ignorance of these traditions) that Aristotelian, Confucian, and Buddhist ethics all have deep commonalities in the actual virtues they espouse and practices they endorse for the formation of those virtues, despite their sharp differences in their metaphysical priors. But—and this is, to my eye, the book’s most significant weakness—Vallor seems uninterested in what is to me an extremely important question: how and why do such different frames of viewing the world come to such (relatively!) similar conclusions about how we ought to live in it?

Why, in other words, does wisdom have a particular shape? Is there indeed such a thing as human nature—and if so, what is it and where does it come from? (As a Christian, I have thoughts on this, of course. I think there’s a good reason the wisdom/virtue traditions end up landing in similar places, and it’s because there is an order to the world and to human beings. But more on that later.)

Vallor presupposes some of this, and of course I can’t fault her for not tracing out every single one of her priors. But in a book arguing that there is indeed a basis for a shared virtue ethic we can use to work together across these traditions when confronting specific questions about technology, this particular omissions seems curious indeed.

  1. including an ironically unpublished blog post