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Ethicists often approach our task by thinking about the norms that apply to act types. We ask, for example, what it means to punish, to make amends, or to forgive, and what conditions govern the appropriate performance of actions that fall within these types. However, actions often do not fall neatly into only one action type. This chapter discusses two cases that can be interpreted both as acts of protest and as acts of what Linda Radzik calls “informal social punishment.” Since the norms that govern these two types diverge, the fact that a particular action can be interpreted in either of these ways poses a challenge for anyone who might be seeking moral guidance from the type to which the action belongs. The cases highlight a theoretical gap that needs to be filled not only by accounts of social punishment or protest but also by ethicists who would use this approach to think about actions of other overlapping types.
How do we punish others socially, and should we do so? In her 2018 Descartes Lectures for Tilburg University, Linda Radzik explores the informal methods ordinary people use to enforce moral norms, such as telling people off, boycotting businesses, and publicly shaming wrongdoers on social media. Over three lectures, Radzik develops an account of what social punishment is, why it is sometimes permissible, and when it must be withheld. She argues that the proper aim of social punishment is to put moral pressure on wrongdoers to make amends. Yet the permissibility of applying such pressure turns on the tension between individual desert and social good, as well as the possession of an authority to punish. Responses from Christopher Bennett, George Sher and Glen Pettigrove challenge Radzik's account of social punishment while also offering alternative perspectives on the possible meanings of our responses to wrongdoing. Radzik replies in the closing essay.
The virtues have long played a central role in Christian moral teaching. It is not surprising, then, that over the centuries theologians have produced a number of interesting versions of an ethics of virtue. Although they hearken back to and are profoundly shaped by a shared set of canonical texts, theological commitments, and ritual observances, many of these virtue-focused accounts of ethics differ quite markedly from one another. The perfectionism of Wesley's A Plain Account of Christian Perfection is as different from the agapism of Edwards's The Nature of True Virtue as it is like it. And neither of them could easily be confused with the works of Josef Pieper, who was one of the most important contributors to twentieth-century Thomistic ethics. Given the length, breadth and sophistication of this tradition, Christian moral theology offers a wealth of resources for contemporary virtue ethicists, whether they are working within a Christian theological framework or not. This chapter will highlight four strands within recent theologically informed work on virtue ethics, each of which is directly relevant to current controversies in moral philosophy: (a) Thomistic virtue ethics, (b) narrativist virtue ethics, (c) neo-Augustinian virtue ethics and (d) divine motivation theory. Along the way it will shed light on what it means to offer a virtue ethic, as opposed to a virtue theory.
THOMISTIC VIRTUE ETHICS
The second part of Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologiae is devoted to questions relating to ethics and comprises approximately three-fifths of the total work.
The dilemma of divine forgiveness suggests it is unreasonable to be comforted by the thought that God forgives acts that injure human victims. A plausible response to the dilemma claims that the comfort derives from the belief that God's forgiveness releases the wrongdoer from punishment for her misdeed. This response is shown to be flawed. A more adequate response is then developed out of the connection between forgiveness and reconciliation.
Are torture and torturers unforgivable? The article examines this question in the light of a Humean account of forgiveness. Initially, the Humean account appears to suggest that torturers are unforgivable. However, in the end, I argue it provides us with good reasons to think that even torturers may be forgiven.
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