Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Shifting Ethics: Act Centered to Virtue Centered

Rosemary Flanigan
April 22, 2009

Over the week-end I was thinking of another article I had read—Richard Gula, a moral theologian who has written in the bioethics field for years. In it, the author sees moral theology shifting from act-centered to virtue-centered.

“When virtue ethics shifts the attention from acting to being, it does not do away with moral theology’s interest in action. Moral problems will not go away. After we have pulled the plug or dropped the bomb, what happens to the decision-maker? Virtue ethics takes seriously the proposition that who we are affects what we do, and what we do affects who we become.” (Richard M. Gula. 2009. (Richard M. Gula. 2009. “The Shifting Landscape of Moral Theology.” National Pastoral Life Center.)

And I thought: the same holds true with young people in medicine or in law or in teaching or wherever! They have been taught how to do whatever it is they do—but what they need, and continue to need, is the virtuous mentor showing them the “character” of medicine or law.
Idealism doesn’t have to die; moral fatigue is not a given. But without the example of good people trying to act well, virtuous practitioners, their splendid knowledge might have little effect on who they become.

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