Furthering the sceptical case against virtue ethics in nursing ethics
ABSTRACT In a recent article in this journal I presented a sceptical argument about the current prominence of virtue ethics in nursing ethics. Daniel Putman has responded with a defence of the relevance of virtue in nursing. The present article continues this discussion by clarifying, defending, and expanding the sceptical argument. I start by emphasizing some features of the sceptical case, including assumptions about the nature of sceptical arguments, and about the character of both virtue ethics and nursing ethics. Then I respond to objections of Putman's such as that, according to virtue ethics, virtue is relevant to the whole of a human life, including one's behaviour in a professional context; and that eudaimonia should be central in explaining and motivating a nurse's decision to enter the profession. Having argued that these objections are not compelling, I go on to discuss an interesting recent attempt to reassert the role of virtue ethics in the ethics of professions, including nursing. This centres on whether role-specific obligations - e.g. the obligations that arise for a moral agent qua lawyer or mother - can be accommodated in a virtue ethics approach. Sean Cordell has argued that the difficulty of accommodating role-specific obligations results in an 'institution-shaped gap' in virtue ethics. He suggests a way of meeting this difficulty that appeals to the ergon of institutions. I endorse the negative point that role-specific obligations elude virtue ethics, but argue that the appeal to the ergon of institutions is unsuccessful. The upshot is further support for scepticism about the virtue ethics approach to nursing ethics. I end by gesturing to some of the advantages of a sceptical view of virtue ethics in nursing ethics.
Nursing Philosophy 04/2012; 13(2):142-5. DOI:10.1111/j.1466-769X.2011.00513.x · 0.64 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Nursing ethics centres on how nurses ought to respond to the moral situations that arise in their professional contexts. Nursing ethicists invoke normative approaches from moral philosophy. Specifically, it is increasingly common for nursing ethicists to apply virtue ethics to moral problems encountered by nurses. The point of this article is to argue for scepticism about this approach. First, the research question is motivated by showing that requirements on nurses such as to be kind, do not suffice to establish virtue ethics in nursing because normative rivals (such as utilitarians) can say as much; and the teleology distinctive of virtue ethics does not transpose to a professional context, such as nursing. Next, scepticism is argued for by responding to various attempts to secure a role for virtue ethics in nursing. The upshot is that virtue ethics is best left where it belongs - in personal moral life, not professional ethics - and nursing ethics is best done by taking other approaches.Nursing Philosophy 07/2010; 11(3):151-8. DOI:10.1111/j.1466-769X.2010.00433.x · 0.64 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Virtue is the most perdurable concept in the history of ethics, which is understandable given the ineradicability of the moral agent in the events of the moral life. Historically, virtue enjoyed normative force as long as the philosophical anthropology and the metaphysics of the good that grounded virtue were viable. That grounding has eroded in both general and medical ethics. If virtue is to be restored to a normative status, its philosophical underpinnings must be reconstructed. Such reconstruction seems unlikely in general ethics, where the possibility of agreement on the good for humans is remote. However, it is a realistic possibility in the professional ethics fo the health professions where agreement on the telos of the healing relationship is more likely to arise. Nevertheless, virtue-based ethics must be related conceptually and normatively to other ethical theories in a comprehensive moral philosophy of the health professions. If he really does think there is no distinction between virtue and vice, why, sir, when he leaves our house, let us count our spoons. Samuel JohnsonKennedy Institute of Ethics journal 10/1995; 5(3):253-77. DOI:10.1353/ken.0.0044 · 1.21 Impact Factor