Virtue Ethics, Technology, and Sustainability

  • William CornwellEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Science, Technology & Innovation book series (ASTI)


Virtue ethics in the West received its first extensive elaboration and defense in ancient Greek philosophy. Requiring the cultivation of true character, both of the ethical and intellectual kind, virtue ethics emphasizes developing character traits such as courage, honesty, and practical wisdom over deploying abstract theoretical principles as a way of contributing to individual happiness and social harmony. With rapid changes in social structures and technologies, ancient and medieval virtues may seem quaint and irrelevant today. Is virtue ethics suitable only for the sort of premodern societies in which great virtue ethicists like Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas lived or does the theory have something essential to contribute to pressing contemporary debates?. This paper argues the situational form of virtue ethics: Some essential virtues are applicable in most times and societies, including our own, but they necessarily are expressed in a variety of ways in different circumstances. I then briefly explore contemporary versions of the virtues that would help us navigate a world of rapidly evolving technology that threatens to undermine environmental and social sustainability. These virtues, suitably updated, are as badly needed today as they were thousands of years ago.


Virtue ethics Philosophy Technology 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.American University in the EmiratesDubaiUnited Arab Emirates

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